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February 16, 2005

Where do you draw the line?

By Byron LaMasters

A question worth exploring came up in the comment thread of my post yesterday on a possible primary challenege to State Rep. Vilma Luna. I stated that I would support a primary challenge to Vilma Luna based on her vote for the redistricting bill in the 2003 session. Luna, along with Ron Wilson were the only House Democrats to support the Tom DeLay re-redistricting scheme. Luna is also a member of the Craddick House leadership team. She represents a reliably Democratic district, where a generic Democrat can expect to get at least 55-60% of the vote.

Some commenters argue that she should be given no more of a pass than those Democrats who voted on other Republican bills such as the CHIP-cutting bill, etc. I argued that Luna voted for bills that cut CHIP as well - I disagree with her vote, and that of other Democrats on that issue, but I don't see that as grounds for defeat in a Democratic primary. Her position on the redistricting issue, however, is something that I find unforgivable. That vote not only ended the careers of SEVEN Democratic congressmen, but also chopped up my neighborhood in central Austin into three congressional districts, deprived the state of Texas of decades of seniority in Congress, and most likely will make it impossible for Democrats to regain a majority in Congress until the next redistricting cycle. That led commenter JW to ask this question:

Should an ideological outsider (a) play the game, gain influence and make a real difference, even if it's just at the margins; or (b) play the role of loyal opposition and fight every fight, even if your cause may be harmed in the long run? There are two schools of thought and both have some merit. Let's see what your readers think.

Personally, I'm typically a proponent of the latter approach, because I find that usually - particularly considering the leadership tactics of the modern day Republican Party - those who "play the game" end up doing more to legitimize the opposition (Republicans) than they do in affecting positive legislation. Thus, in my opinion, the negative effects outweigh the positive ones.

I would say that approach (a) offers a short term gain (i.e. crumbs of positive legislation), but a long-term loss (enabling and legitimizing a governing party that is not in our best interets). Whereas I would say approach (b) offers short term loss (less pork for your district or positive legislation), but is a long-term gain - as it allows to opposition to point out the abuses of power and corruption of the governing party in order to win elections - the tool that will ultimately change the equation.

Anyway, I got to run, but let me know what you think...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at February 16, 2005 05:56 PM | TrackBack


I disagree with choice A, you start giving in here and there trying to gain some influence, you will find yourself chipping away at what you believe in until you have nothing left and are just in Austin or Washington taking up space. I would be more in the realm of choice B. You have stand up and fight in what you believe in. In the case of Rep. Luna, I disagree with her decision to support redistricting. At the time when the Texas House Democrats broke quorum by going to Oklahoma, I was proud that they stood up and caused forced the Republicans to take the extra steps to pass the mid-decade redistricting. I remember reading about my representative Craig Eiland (at the time) leaving his wife in the hospital with I think twins. gov. perry then sent Texas State Troopers to that hospital looking for him. The Texas House Democrats went through a lot and all Democratic members of the Texas legislature should have stood together as one. I now live in rep. luna’s district, and I do hope that there is another democrat that will challenge her in a primary, and forces her to explain why she did support the redistricting.

Posted by: TC at February 17, 2005 01:34 AM

Don't forget that Vilma had her employer give thousands of dollars to Talmadge Heflin instead of Hubert Vo.

Posted by: RB at February 17, 2005 09:39 AM

Say bye bye Vilma. You're toast.

Posted by: LG at February 17, 2005 03:33 PM

I can forgive an occasional lapse by a Democratic legislator. But this was in my opinion out and out treachery. As you pointed out, this was not just about alligning herself with republicans on an issue, this was The issue. This made it possible to district out 7 Dems. This not only hurt both the state and the distirct she represents, but Democrats on a National level.
If she believed in the concept of redistricting, then she obviously is lacking in either intellect or integrity or both.
If she allowed herself to be bullied into this decision, then she doesn't have what it takes to be a Democratic rep in these troubled times. We need people with the fortitude to stand up to Delay and his schemers at any cost. Never back down to those who would destroy you and the representation of your constituency. You owe the people you represent at least that much.

As far as I'm concerned that goes double for Wilson.

Posted by: comeon at February 18, 2005 08:55 AM

TC should note that Representative Eiland is now a chairman and part of the leadership team. Which either proves (1) that the redistricting vote was not a litmus test for the leadership or (2)that Craig's legislative accomplishments and bi-partisanship in the post-Ardmore session convinced the Speaker that Craig deserved a chairmanship. Whether is was an olive branch or simply smart politics, Speaker Craddick made a wise decision.

Posted by: JW at February 18, 2005 06:02 PM
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