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October 20, 2003

Arlene Wohlgemuth to Run Against Chet Edwards

By Byron LaMasters

If the new map holds up in court, State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth (R-Burleson) plans to run for Congress in the new 17th district which includes her home base in Johnson County as well as Edwards' base in McLennan County. The district is heavily Republican and would favor a Republican over Edwards. Wohlgemuth is perhaps the most right-wing partisan Republican in the House. In 1999 she was named one of the worst 10 legislators for her right-wing hack job in 1997 where she killed a slew of unrelated bills in the "Memorial Day Massacre" over a fit with an abortion related bill. More on her from the 1999 Texas Monthly article:

Arlene, of course, is Arlene Wohlgemuth, whose name is enshrined in the legislative hall of infamy as the symbol of wanton, pointless destruction. It was she who, in a flare of anger over Democratic efforts to kill an anti-abortion bill, perpetrated the Memorial Day Massacre of 1997, using a parliamentary device to wipe out an entire calendar of bills. That was then, and this is now, but such actions are not quickly forgotten or forgiven.


She is a worthy and fearless debater who can take on anyone in the House and hold her own, but her ideology and partisanship are so extreme that, in the words of a fellow Republican, "If you solve her problem, she creates another one; if you meet her halfway, she backs up a step."

Or sometimes ten steps. A conservative Democrat wanted to co-sponsor a Wohlgemuth proposal that would have made it more difficult for the Legislature to raise taxes, but she rebuffed him; the Fort Worth Star-Telegram subsequently reported that a GOP political consultant had advised her that only Republicans should be allowed to sign onto the bill. Just as in 1997, she violated the spirit of civility of the Legislature. She yearns to lead—she lost a race for the vice chair of the House Republican Caucus—and will be heard from again, but she remains a marked woman, an ambitious Lady Macbeth, who, try as she might, cannot wash the blood of the Memorial Day Massacre from her hands. Out, damned spot.

So, if Republicans have their way, she'd be representing Waco in Congress, and as you can imagine, the Waco Tribune Herald isn't happy about it. They've leveled repeated attacks on their editorial pages against State Sen. Kip Averitt (R-McGregor), who represents Waco and voted for the redistricting map. Check out their attacks here, here, here, here and here. The final headline puts it best: "A symphony of thuggery". That's what this is folks... plain and simple.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at October 20, 2003 01:27 PM | TrackBack


You have the same opinion, I'm sure, about the 1991 gerrymander done by the Dems? Or is it only thuggery when done by Republicans?

Posted by: Beldar at October 20, 2003 03:11 PM

DeLay's shill speaks.

The issue here, simple Beldar, is not a Democratic gerrymander (that strangely produced a majority of districts with a majority of Republicans) but rather that Averitt knowingly screwed his Waco constituents.

Posted by: Blue at October 20, 2003 03:21 PM

I, for one, wasn't living in Texas at the time. I wouldn't have approved, just as I don't approve of the 25 years that we didn't have redistricting.

The implication of this question is that we should not criticize current actions since they occurred in the past. At least, you are admitting that it is gerrymandering.

Posted by: Tx Bubba at October 20, 2003 03:24 PM

The Waco paper gets it absolutely right, below. If you were a Texan first and a Republican second, Beldar, you would see this:

"* Jeers — To Republicans including Greater Waco's State Sen. Kip Averitt who chose to demolish long-standing communities of interest, including Averitt's own, to no end other than partisan advantage. If the GOP succeeds and its wishes are granted in November 2004, six Republican freshmen go to Washington in 2005 and Texas will lose 146 years of seniority in Congress, plus major committee clout. "

Posted by: Blue at October 20, 2003 03:27 PM

In all fairness to Arlene, she was named one of Texas Monthly's Ten Best Legislators in two subsequent sessions. Much of TexMo's take on her in 2001 and 2003 was glowing - and I think appeared right about at the [...] in your original post. Of course, this probably says more about Texas Monthly's method of selection than it does about Wohlgemuth suddenly increasing her capabilities as a legislator. Edwards can take her.

Posted by: Eduardo J. Klein at October 20, 2003 09:32 PM

Bedlar - I think that gerrymandering is bad whether done by Democrats or Republicans. I think that the two worst gerrymanders done in the 2001 cycle suck equally by Georgia Democrats and Pennsylvania Republicans.

Still, the Democratic "gerrymander" of 1991 wasn't nearly as bad as Republicans make it out to be. First off, it targetted ZERO Republican incumbents, and was drawn as an incumbent protection map, helping to preserve the influence held by senior Texas Congressmen. Second, it wasn't drawn that well, because Republicans won a good number of the so-called "gerrymandered" seats in 1992, 1994 and 1996. While Republicans claim that the 2001 map was merely an "extention of the 1991 gerrymander", on paper 20 of the 32 seats favored Republicans in 2002. Third, and what really sets the current map apart as sheer thuggary compared to simple gerrymandering is the fact that Republicans took the unprecedented step of mid-decade, unmandated redistricting. That's why the term "thuggary" is more than apt in describing the behavior of the GOP majority.

Posted by: ByronUT at October 20, 2003 11:17 PM

Edwards will have a shot aginst Wolgemuth. I had predicted long ago that Arlene would run for Congress if Johnson county was out of Joe Barton's district.

The fact that he lost medium sized counties like Bell and Coryell will hurt him. Arlene will do well in Brazos. Chet's got some work to do, but he's not out of it.

Posted by: pc at October 21, 2003 07:39 PM

It's only "unmandated" if you ignore the fact that the US Constitution assigns redistricting to state legislatures, not to unelected panels of federal judges.

Gerrymandering is ugly politics, but it's small-d democratic politics -- majority rule at its most brutal. I can see how someone could describe it as "thuggary" and it's pretty hard for anyone to put a noble spin on it. It's political hardball. I respect people who admit that both parties are equally guilty of it.

Thanks for the civil response, Byron. :-)

Posted by: Beldar at October 24, 2003 01:04 PM

Well Bedlar, you know that i'd argue that the legislature abdicated its responsibility in 2001 (as did Rick Perry who could have called a special session but didn't) on redistricting. Because of that, the courts were forced to intervene. If Republicans were so concerned about "unelected panels of federal judges" deciding redistricting for this decade, they really should have talked to Rick Perry. He could have easily prevented redistricting from getting to a federal judicial panel in the first place.

Bedlar "I respect people who admit that both parties are equally guilty of it." - Me too, but Republicans have taken this to a new level. It's sheer thuggary.

Posted by: ByronUT at October 27, 2003 03:04 AM
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