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October 11, 2003

Fortson: "The Queen Lives"

By Byron LaMasters

ABC News reports more details from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis)'s legislative counsel, Joby Fortson's email hailing redistricting:

Barton's legislative counsel, Joby Fortson, sent the e-mail from his personal computer, Barton's office said Friday. It was forwarded to Democrats in Austin and in Washington and to members of the news media.

"As much as we despise her, she cannot be drawn out ... the Queen lives!!!!" Fortson wrote about Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, whose Houston district remains Democratic. He also made jabs at two other Democrats and a fellow Republican.


Posted by Byron LaMasters at October 11, 2003 06:24 PM | TrackBack



From the Austin American Statesman.

"Democrats are confident the redistricting map that passed the House but stalled in the Senate on Friday violates the federal Voting Rights Act by reducing the number of minority-opportunity districts — where black and Hispanic voters can control the outcome — from 11 to 10. "

I'm not sure how the Democrats got this. I have districts 9, 15, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 27-30 as minority districts. By my count, that is 11. Truthfully, I think that blacks in south Fort Worth get screwed, but minorities do fine overall.

As much as I like my current district and hate my new one, I think the Republicans threaded the minority needle.

In fact, I posted this in an earlier thread.

I think that the Republicans are right about the legal challenges, and actually I am suspicious whether this map is as conservative as people think it is. First, for a disclosure, I am a TX Democrat who lives in Martin Frost’s district. I am about to be districted into Joe Barton’s district (aka a white supremacist district). I recently compared the new map (01374C) versus the current map (01151C), and honestly I do NOT believe it is as bad as I initially thought. Compare the number of minority districts:

VAP %B+H: 01151C versus 01374C
50%-60%: 2 versus 1
60%-70%: 4 versus 4
>70%: 5 versus 6

It looks like the number of minority districts is pretty much the same with a slight edge to the new map. However, that does not mean that the Republicans did not do the job they set out to do, which was disenfranchising democrats. Here is the comparison of the number of Republican districts:

ST % REP: 01151C versus 01374C
>50%: 20 versus 22
>60%: 16 versus 21
>70%: 5 versus 2

It looks like they took a lot of Republican leaning districts and made them strong Republican districts. Now for some optimism. I have the Democrats likely winning 10 districts--9, 15, 16, 18, 20, 25, and 27-30. I also think that Sandlin, Lampson, Hall, and Edwards can win districts 1, 2, 4, and 17, respectively. Each of these representatives won Republican districts in 2002 when Bush was very popular, so perhaps they could win Republican districts again. Stenholm is in trouble because now he will face Neugebauer in district 19, but perhaps he could pull off an upset. Finally, Democrats should certainly go after Bonilla in district 23. This is a lot of optimism, but the Democrats could escape with losing only one seat. If there is some part of my analysis that is wrong, could you please let me know? Thanks.

Posted by: blank at October 11, 2003 07:19 PM

I think that district 23 is the biggest problem here. While Hispanics will have a majority (55%) in the new district, I think a strong arguement could be made that Hispanics do not "control the outcome" in the district in the way that they do now with 66% of the VAP.

Posted by: ByronUT at October 11, 2003 09:13 PM

It could almost be argued that Hispanics don't control the outcome now in the 23rd because there are usually enough votes in NW Bexar county to offset big gaines in the other parts. Just look at 2002. Henry Cuellar was winning until we in Bexar county finished counting our votes. Although last time Henry Bonilla probably had his closest win.

Posted by: Jacob M. at October 11, 2003 10:19 PM

While gloating is counterproductive and impolitic, the aide's e-mail is not exactly "disgusting." Unfortunately, the ABC story leaves out some important context.

The email's reference to royalty reflects a quote attributed to Jackson-Lee herself by one of her own (former) staffers. Upon failing to be chauffered to a civil rights-related event, she apparently exclaimed: "You don't understand. I am a queen, and I demand to be treated like a queen." And this is hardly her sole failing. See, e.g., this, this, and this. Jackson-Lee is an embarrassment to Texas.

It would be a blessing if Jackson-Lee were redistricted out of a job. Indeed, her survival says something about the incumbent protection racket that is political districting. In a competitive district, she would never survive.

Posted by: The Curmudgeonly Clerk at October 11, 2003 10:19 PM

The problem with using Hispanic VAP as a guide is that Hispanic registration runs substantially below Hispanic VAP, both absolutely and as compared to Anglo percentage, so a 55% Hispanic VAP becomes a (maybe)45% Hispanic registration and a 40% Hispanic vote. This has consistently been recognized in the definition of Hispanic districts (read the fine print in the decisions), so District 23, when the "totality" is considered, no longer qualifies as a Hispanic-opportunity district.

Further, the newly created Austin-to-McAllen district is quite clearly built on Hispanic racial grounds, which is illegal. As the guidelines say, "don't confuse political with racial divisions", and this is a clear example.

Finally, one of the rules of an acceptable map is that BOTH SIDES have to be involved, and the Democrats were shut out of the process. The map was designed in a series of closed meetings, there was only a single D on the conference committee (who was not even in those meetings).

Read the Minnesota rules, which were written before SCOTUS became interested in political gerrymandering in addition to racial, and you'll see that this map violates even the old rules, let alone the Georgia and Pennsylvania (assumed) ones.

A deciding factor in the Georgia case was whether the affected (potentially aggrieved) parties agreed with the map. That is not the case here.

Posted by: precinct1233 at October 11, 2003 10:33 PM

Blank, I disagree with your theory that minorities fared ok. Tell that to hispanics who will never see Pete Sessions come to North Oak Cliff part of Dallas.

I think Sandlin can win his new district, but that will be a DCCC/RCCC fight. They have drawn this district with former Tyler Mayor Kevin Eltife in mind. Sandlin needs to clean up in the rural counties plus heavily black North Tyler.

Edwards will have a tough race. Adding Johnson, and Brazos made this district more Republican and unfriendly. As a former Aggie, needs to get some Aggie crossovers to survive.

Neither Lampson nor Gene Green will win district 2. It was drawn for a Republican in Spring or Humble-Kingwood. Lampson may be able to turn out Jefferson, but it won't be enough.

Posted by: pc at October 13, 2003 11:39 AM

My kingdom for the complete transcript of the email!

I know it was read in full on the floor of the House, but the daily journals online are only updated through the 8th as of today.

The SJL commentary, in my mind, isn't the disgusting part ... there are more parts of it that are, however. In sports parlance, this is chalkboard material if there ever was such a thing.

Posted by: Greg Wythe at October 13, 2003 11:49 AM

Wanting Sheila Jackson-Lee drawn out is no more disgusting than the Democrats own pandering to minority groups while doing very little actual work on their behalf...or claiming that Republicans don't represent minorities (what happened to color-blindness?), and assuming that minorities are in the pockets of Democrats to be used at will...or assuming that Joe Barton's district is a "white supremist" district. Generalizations and stereotypical racism are tools most utilized by Democrats lately.

Posted by: Adam at October 13, 2003 02:33 PM

The infamous Fortson email in its entirety:


Posted by: SRL at October 13, 2003 02:48 PM

Adam what are you trying to say? Glad you live in Dallas. I can be a little more specific with you. Do you really think Pete Sessions will spend time getting to know constituents in old Oak Cliff off Jefferson Blvd, compared to Preston Rd?

Posted by: pc at October 14, 2003 07:37 PM
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