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September 10, 2003

Texas Ten Return to Texas

By Byron LaMasters

They're back. As expected, the ten Democratic state senators still in New Mexico returned to Texas today. The Houston Chronicle has the AP story:

Ten Texas Democratic senators returned to the state today vowing to take the fight against redistricting to the Senate floor.

With supporters cheering and waving signs, the senators who fled to New Mexico six weeks ago arrived in Laredo where a federal court hearing is set for Thursday in their lawsuit to fight the Republican-backed congressional redistricting.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said that if fellow Democrat Sen. John Whitmire of Houston shows up at the Capitol on Monday to make a quorum, the other 10 Democrats will come later. She didn't elaborate as she spoke from a podium. Whitmire returned to Texas last week, effectively breaking the quorum busting abilities.

Gov. Rick Perry called a third special session on redistricting to begin Monday.

"All that's changing is the arena," Zaffirini said. "We will fight every day and in every way until we win."

One by one the senators spoke to the crowd, outlining their reasons for opposing redistricting.

"It's about keeping people from rolling back the clock to the bad old days when our voices could not be heard," said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

Nine of the 11 senators who fled to Albuquerque, N.M., are minorities.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte called the Republicans's efforts a "power grab that Texans do not want and that Texans do no need."

Several dozen people were on hand to welcome the senators home to Texas. Some held signs saying: "Just Say No to Gov. Perry" and "Welcome Home, Texas Ten."

The Dallas Morning News had more on the rally in Laredo and the Democrats plans for tomorrow:

The holdout Democrats from Texas came home Wednesday, arriving on friendly turf to rally in advance of an expected, less-sympathetic reception in Austin next week.

"It's good to be home! Viva Laredo!" Sen. Judith Zaffirini told a hometown crowd gathered in an airplane hangar, moments after a school band and drill team heralded the returning senators with a thumping toreador march. "I can't tell you how many sacrifices the senators you see today have made."

Each of the senators addressed a welcome party of about 100 people, delivering political punchlines honed over six weeks of news conferences in Albuquerque and promising to continue – and win – the redistricting fight.

"The resolve that we left here is the same resolve that we bring back to the state of Texas," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. "You can be assured that we will fight for our constituents, we will fight for the principals of democracy."
Blending in at the back of the crowd – occasionally clapping along – the chief spokesman for the state Republican Party disputed the Democrats' victory prediction and shook his head at the various placards hailing the AWOL group as heroes.

Of course, Republicans had a different take on the return.

"We are happy that the Democrats returned to Texas. We hope they are ready to get back to work and this marks the end of their extreme obstructionist acts," said GOP spokesman Ted Royer, in Laredo for a Republican State Party executive committee meeting.

"I think that people should probably pull out a dictionary and check the definition of 'heroic,' " he said.

The ten Democratic Senators are spending the night in Laredo where they will be in court tomorrow.

The senators chose to make Laredo their point of entry partly because it is a Democratic stronghold and Ms. Zaffirini's hometown. But they also came to attend a federal court hearing Thursday in their suit that contends that the GOP-backed redistricting effort violates the Voting Rights Act.
Before leaving New Mexico by private jet to meet two senators who returned earlier, the eight remaining senators thanked their hosts. In Albuquerque, more so than later in Laredo, they admitted that they face long odds in their lawsuit and when a third special session on redistricting convenes Monday.

"It has been a saga," Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, told supporters and hotel employees at a farewell news conference ending the 44-day boycott. "What it's all been about is democracy."

Finally, the Texas Democratic congressional delegation, obviously hailed the Texas Ten as heroes.

In Washington, a dozen of the state's 17 House Democrats met with reporters to praise the returning Texas senators as heroes, denouncing Mr. Whitmire's "betrayal," and urging the public to turn out in force at the state Capitol next week to show lawmakers how strongly they oppose redistricting.

Several spoke of the legislative "dictatorship" they said Gov. Rick Perry and the GOP are trying to impose.

"This battle is not over, it's just beginning," said Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene.

In other news around the state, the constitutional amendment election is coming up on Saturday. Kos wrote on it yesterday, and I wrote an election guide post. And guess which newspaper has the most scathing critisism of the controversial Prop 12? You guessed it.

George W. Bush's adopted hometown, and favorite vacation spot, the Crawford Lone Star Iconoclast:

The Icon of the Week is the Rightists who took over the 78th Legislature and tried to sneak an abolition of the jury system past the people of Texas.

Setting an unprecedented Sept. 13 constitutional amendment election was a clear attempt to deceive the electorate.

It is an attack on our rights as Americans; it is an attack on our basic freedoms unprecedented since the collapse of Communism.

It is a proposal worthy of Saddam Hussein.

The Rightists, serving as shills for insurance companies who don’t want to pay legitimate claims and big businesses that want to foist unsafe products off on the public without being held responsible, propose to stop juries from deciding damages in civil lawsuits.

If Amendment 12 passes, you will lose your right to a jury trial when you are the victim of medical malpractice, when you or your family is injured by a drunk truck driver, when a manufacturer kills your children by knowingly making faulty school bus tires or poisonous medicine.

Instead, a bureaucrat in Austin will tell you how much the loss of your arm or leg, the death of your family, is worth.

Of course what the Rightists really want is for Texans who sit on juries to stop punishing their big bucks contributors.

Right now, only juries stand between you and dangerous products such as spoiled meat, shotguns with weak actions that explode, overpasses that collapse due to sloppy construction, fire extinguishers that don’t work, or baby food carelessly doused with insecticide.

The Rightists want you to give up the right to punish those who would be free to risk injuring you and your children just to make a profit.

Limit the jury awards for pain and suffering, and you guarantee sloppy manufacture of dangerous products.

These Rightist politicians have already taken medical care away from sick children, robbed our public schools, and handed us the largest tax increase in the history of Texas.

Don’t let their big money bosses kill you and get away with it.

Stop this sneak attack on your rights.

Vote against all Amendments on Sept. 13, but especially vote against Amendment 12.

Over the top, but entertaining, to say the least.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at September 10, 2003 10:28 PM | TrackBack


Entertaining indeed, but "over the top" in the sense of being "out of touch with reality" or "factually wrong." Not worth the trouble of fisking, actually, since I'm on my way out to douse baby food with insecticide.

Posted by: Beldar at September 10, 2003 11:25 PM

Over the top? Well it's the truth. The ones who think it is wrong are the ones out of touch.

Posted by: andrea at September 15, 2003 10:37 PM
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