"Conscience of the Senate" Announces Retirement

A massive change in the East Texas political landscape -- as longtime State Senator Bill Ratliff calls it quits.

He represents much of East Texas in Austin, and was at the forefront of the debate on redistricting. He has been called the "Conscience of the Senate."

He quoted from the book of Ecclesiastes: "To everything there is a season, and a time for a purpose under Heaven."

"After 15 exciting, rewarding years in the Texas Senate, I've decided this is my time for going out," Ratliff said.

Friends say he'll leave a huge void in the Senate...a leader who sometimes defied the Republican Party, voting his conscience.

"That freedom has allowed me to vote my convictions, and ignore the pressures of political partisanship."

This summer, he said he believed the redistricting battle to be destroying the Senate. Then, was the talk of leaving.

"I dearly hope the Texas Senate can return to an era of civility."

Pittsburg constiutuent Jim Nickerson said, "It made no difference whether it was Republican or Democrat, he always stood up to do the right thing everytime."

Former Democratic Rep. Bob Glaze said, "Though we were on the opposite sides of the fence as far as parties went, a partisan issue was never an issue between us."

Ratliff will leave in January, a special election to follow to find a replacement. Through the years, Ratliff says having his wife by his side was the most important thing.

"My wife Sally has been my partner from day one.  We leave my career as a public servant with wonderful memoiries of my time in the Texas Senate."

Senator Ratliff says his first goal after leaving office is to win a few more rounds against his golfing buddies.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.