This post doesn’t have anything to do with science, but I felt the need to pay tribute to former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who passed away Wednesday. Elected in 1990, Richards led a bold wave of progressive reforms statewide, capitalizing on the Democrats’ continued electoral support in Texas despite the state sliding further to the right ideologically. Her defeat in 1994 by a then relatively unknown George W. Bush marked the beginning of the end for the Democrats in Texas and ushered in a new era of regressive conservative policies for Texas and eventually for the nation as a whole. If Richards had won that election, Texas could have remained a much more progressive place than it is today, the face of national politics would be drastically different, and in light of the wide influence of the Bush presidency, the nature of current world politics could have taken a much different direction. She didn’t win that election, though, so we’re stuck with the world we live in. However, before Richards left office, she certainly left her mark on the state by pumping new life into the state economy, securing support for drug treatment programs, pushing for a more equal distribution of funds for public schools, and, most significantly, changing the visible face of the Texas government by promoting a variety of women and minority officials into positions traditionally held primarily by white males. In the process, she also became a dynamic national figure, one who will be sorely missed, especially by this Democrat who has been on the front lines in the heart of conservative Texas.