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June 13, 2005

Redistricting Goes to Washington

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Via Quorum Report

Scholars split on how Supremes will break

Democrats promptly appealed last week's redistricting decision to the US Supreme Court, leading to much speculation among those who follow such cases.

Republicans would like to close the case, noting that every objection was struck down by the court not just once, but twice. Democrats look forward to the next hearing. Austin Attorney Renea Hicks, who represented the City of Austin and Travis County in the court case, said he appreciated the fact that the court took up the "one person one vote" issue of mid-decade redistricting off older census numbers.

I'm not all that confident that the Supremes will decide any differently on this, but I'm not a lawyer. Any insight dear readers?

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January 24, 2005

Texas, Georgia and Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

Over the weekend, University of Oklahoma Professor Keith Gaddie of Sooner Politics sent me his thoughts on the latest case involving Texas redistricting. Professor Gaddie was an expert for the state of Texas on the 2003 redistricting case, but now has some different thoughts based on the recent decision regarding Georgia redistricting. Here are Professor Gaddie's thoughts, unedited:

I’m sending this along as a little guest blurb. You’ll recall that I worked as a state’s expert in the Texas redistricting. At that point in time, I noted that the new Texas districts did not violate the Voting Rights Act (true), that they did seek partisan advantage relative to the status quo map (true), and that the maps would translate a majority of votes into a majority of seats, unlike the old map (also true).

Now, I’m going to suggest that all of you go and read the dissents in Veith, and also the concurrent opinion from the Georgia case (Larios). In the Larios case, which tossed the Georgia state legislative districts, unjustified population deviations were defined by the effort to seek partisan advantage. Writing in a rare concurrence to an affirmation of a lower court ruling, Breyer and Stevens observed that:

"It bears emphasis however, that had the Court in Veith adopted a standard for adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims, the standard would have been satisfied in this case [...] the District Court’s detailed factual findings regarding appellees’ equal protection claim confirm that an impermissible partisan gerrymander is visible to the judicial eye and subject to judicially-manageable standards [...]

"drawing district lines that have no neutral justification in order to place two incumbents of the opposite party in the same district is probative of the same impermissible intent as the ‘uncouth twenty-eight-sided figure’ that defined the boundary of Tuskegee, Alabama in Gomillion."

In other words, the factual presentation of the pairing of incumbents, the unequal continuity of representation through district cores for incumbents of different parties, and the odd shapes and lowered compactness all indicated evidence of an illegal partisan gerrymander under the standard adopted by the majority.

Every justice except Scalia voted to uphold the Georgia case without a hearing. And, in Texas, we can only assume that the majority sending the case back down is Kennedy plus the Gang of Four from Veith. The question is, if the district court looks into the Texas maps and sees the same kind of evidence that was presented in Georgia, then they might be positioned to overturn the Texas maps, or at least create enough of an appeal point to have the new majority take a look at the districts and make a determination on their own.

There might be enough evidence to overturn those districts, except for one critical difference between Texas and Georgia: In Texas, the old maps made a minority of votes into a majority of seats, whereas the new districts do not. In Georgia, the illegal map that was thrown out made a minority of votes into a majority of seats. Otherwise, these are circumstantially identical redistrictings, and they exhibit similar traits and attributes and motivations.

Go look at the Georgia case.

Keith Gaddie
Professor of Political Science
The University of Oklahoma

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January 23, 2005

Oh, God, I thought redistricting was... absolutely dreadful

By Jim Dallas

Kuff fills us in on the status of the re-hearing of Jackson in the shadow of the Supreme Court's ruling in Vieth.

Of course, that wasn't the only re-hear-ing to make waves this weekend:

TV viewers couldn’t wait for their American Idol fix, turning out 33.5 million strong for its season debut.

No other show this season has attracted so large an audience, and it represented the third-highest ratings night of entertainment programming in the Fox network’s history, Nielsen Media Research said Wednesday. The 33.5 million was a preliminary estimate.

“I’m as awe-struck as anybody,” Fox entertainment president Gail Berman said. “We thought we would do well, but nothing like this.”

Without further adieu, the official Burnt Orange American Idol/Jackson v. Perry comparison chart!


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January 13, 2005

Don't Cry For Me California

By Jim Dallas

Pandagon's Ezra Klein says California shouldn't adopt common-sense redistricting reforms because it would be tantamount to "unilateral disarmament:"

Arnold's proposals for government reform have a lot of problems, but they're absolutely positive on the whole. Such a shame, them, that I can't support them. Ending partisan redistricting is the centerpiece of his package and, rightfully, the most crucial one. But so long as DeLay is redrawing Texas for the benefit of his party, I can't support redrawing California for the benefit of both. It's sad to oppose good reforms because your opponents are unethical, but it's necessary to refuse unilateral disarmament.

California's Democrats have a slight advantage under the current district (32 of the 52 districts). Assuming that in a neutral environment, Democrats have a roughly 55-60 percent to 40-45 advantage over Republicans (Kerry won California 54-45, though lost the national election by 3 percentage points; Democratic congressional candidates won 54 percent of the two party vote in 2002, which the Democrats lost nationally by 4 percentage points), completely "fair" redistricting would mean a loss of a couple of seats by Democrats (one lesson of the Texas redistricting debacle is that the statewide DPI/RPI is the definition of "fair").

So, yes, being fair would probably mean a minor victory for DeLay, in the short term.

But would that really be so bad? A number of California's House members are dinosaurs or worse. On the Republican side, goober-heads like Bill Thomas, Darrell Issa, etc. could end up vulnerable. On our side, we might finally be able to put some of our most-out-of-touch careerists out to pasture (both of the lame-o centrist variety and the moonbat-left variety).

But why should this solely dictate what we as Democrats support? If this reform were adopted nationally, Democrats stand a better shot at taking back Congress. And regardless which party wins, it's a sure bet that the American people will be better served, and that's the bottom line.

Americans look to California as a source of progressive reforms, and it's no coincidence that many ideas that start in the Golden State end up going national (sadly, this includes such nonsense as Prop 13 and term limits).

I think California should do what California has always done - serve as the gold-standard laboratory of democracy that Texas (usually) is not and cannot be.

Coupled with kos's prescription (also made earlier by Kuff) for Congressional reapportionment, writing the abolition of gerrymandering into a bill to renew the Voting Rights Act would greatly enhance our nation's democratic experiment. If Californians embrace Gov. Schwarzenegger's plan, it will help to drag the rest of the country along.

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December 23, 2004

Re-redistricting in Georgia?

By Byron LaMasters

Blog for America says it's being considered as Republicans took control of the Georgia legislature in this year's elections. I'll be the first to admit the Georgia was the worst Democratic gerrymander of this decade, but what Republicans did in Pennsylvania and Michigan (not to mention Texas) was just as bad. So my message to them is to just deal with it (they still hold one seat that was drawn for a Democrat (Gingrey GA-11)), and redistrict in 2011 - that's what Democrats in Illinois will do despite the temptation of following Tom DeLay's precedent.

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November 23, 2004

Texas Re-redistricting

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Read the DCCC report.

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October 18, 2004

SCOTUS rules; Should we be prepared for re-re-re-districting in 2005?

By Jim Dallas

The Supreme Court of the United States has revived the Texas redistricting lawsuit, forcing a partisan re-match in federal court.

The ruling won't affect this year's map, but might result in changes for 2006.

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March 20, 2004

Who's the Real Republican in TX-10?

By Byron LaMasters

In the new congressional district 10 where Austin is linked to Katy in a snake of a district, you might be confused (especially if you're seeing the ads in the Austin and Houston media markets) that there's two Democrats running in the Republican run-off for the open seat. Ben Streusand is attacking Michael McCaul of working for Democrats in the past, and McCaul is attacking Streusand for giving money to Democrats in the past. Personally, I don't care who wins. Despite the attack ads, both seem to be equally right-wing in their philosophy, and I'd be shocked if either would answer to anyone but Tom DeLay while in Congress (after all, he's the reason one of them will be my next congressman). The Austin American Statesman reports on the latest:

Streusand's new 15-second commercials are aimed at questioning McCaul's Republican credentials, despite the fact that McCaul is backed by Bush and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"Mike McCaul worked for liberal Democrat, Attorney General Jim Mattox," one of the ads says.

McCaul, then a recent law school graduate, worked in the Texas attorney general's office as a nonpolitical hire from 1987 to 1990.


Streusand defended the commercial, saying, "I think when you've spent half your career working for Democrats, it's hard to escape a logical conclusion that the time you spend working for Democrats indicates an affiliation with the philosophy of the Democrat Party."

Another new Streusand ad, in a reference to McCaul's stint as a federal prosecutor, says, "McCaul worked for Bill Clinton and Janet Reno for six years, and Reno picked McCaul to defend her actions at Waco."

As a federal prosecutor, McCaul was a nonpolitical hire who worked under two Republican and one Democratic president.


A third new Streusand ad shows a photo of Johnny Chung, who pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Democrats, including the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996.

The ad says, "This Chinese agent illegally funneled $30,000 to Clinton's campaign. McCaul got him off with just five years' probation."

Chung also pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

McCaul said the ad makes it look as if he was Chung's defense lawyer when he was the lead prosecutor in the case.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Chung faced 12 to 18 months in prison. McCaul said he made no sentencing recommendation in the case.

McCaul said Chung earned the reduced sentence because he provided crucial information linking top Chinese intelligence officials to contributions to Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign.


A new McCaul commercial questions Streusand's GOP credentials by noting his contributions to former U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen, D-Houston, ($500) and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Krueger ($1,750), who was defeated in a 1993 special election by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The ad, which does not mention the more than $500,000 Streusand has given to Republicans, says Streusand gave money to "liberal Democrat Bob Krueger to help Ted Kennedy control the U.S. Senate."

Streusand said Friday that his donations to Bentsen and Krueger "were business-related at the time."

Sigh. At least Lloyd Doggett's district is only a block away. If I need anything from a congressman, I'll still send my letters his way.

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January 06, 2004

Panel upholds GOP Map.

By Jim Dallas


I'm curious why the Democratic legal team is talking about going straight to the Supreme Court with this, instead of trying to get a hearing or an en banc hearing at the appellate-court level. It seems to me the more steps the Democrats go through, the longer you can delay the map. And if we lose at the Supreme Court, we've lost it all. It seems like a dangerous gamble to me.

Perhaps en banc hearings are not in order for Voting Rights Act cases. Maybe it's a strategic decision in light of the Pennsylvania case. Maybe it's a strategic assessment that they think they'd lose if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case. I don't know.

Is there a lawyer in the house?

UPDATES: Off the Kuff has his take... the Dallas Morning News clarifies why it goes to the Supreme Court (in short, because it has to).

The most interesting question to me is... what sort of dynamic would this cause with the Pennsylvania redistricting case the SCOTUS has already taken up. Both cases would seem to revolve around the partisanship of gerrymandering. While for the time being it appears that the Republicans will be in the drivers' seat, the Pennsylvania and Texas cases could end up being pivotal cases that redefine the legality of gerrymandering.

Or not. But while the victors today clearly were the Republican map-drawers, this is only a beginning, not an end.

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December 19, 2003

Ashcroft DOJ Preclears Map

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I'm disappointed, but not surprised by this decision:

The Justice Department approved a GOP-backed congressional redistricting map for Texas today, leaving only the federal courts as the last barrier to holding elections next year under a plan pushed by Republicans.

The Justice Department found that the plan complies with the federal Voting Rights Act, which was passed by Congress to guard against changes in state laws that might harm minority voting rights.

In a letter to Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey S. Connor, the Justice Department wrote that "the attorney general does not interpose any objection" to the new congressional district boundaries set by the Legislature in October.

The letter, written by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sheldon T. Bradshaw, noted that even though the Justice Department found no reason to object, the redistricting plan still could be blocked by a federal court.

Obviously, I had hoped that the Justice Department would find that the map violated the Voting Rights Act, as I believe that it does, but John Ashcroft is the last person that would help Democrats in a redistricting fight.

Here's some reaction of Democrats via the Quorum Report:

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting:

"This highly partisan justice department puts political and partisan interests ahead of the interests of Texas voters. The political agenda at the DOJ obviously overruled the professional Voting Rights staff who would have thrown out this illegal redistricting power grab. It is no surprise that John Ashcroft's Department of Injustice has rubber stamped a map that cancels out the ballots of more than 3.6 million Texans after charging taxpayers $10 million for the privilege.

"The entire redistricting process has been corrupt from start to finish. Rick Perry's recent prediction that ‘a year from now, no one except political partisans are even going to remember redistricting’ may prove even more misguided than his failed leadership. More and more Texans are rebelling against the arrogance reflected in this legally flawed and morally unsound decision. Texas Democrats will never give up the fight to protect the rights of all Texas voters.

Martin Frost

"Until today, no Justice Department had ever approved a plan eliminating a majority-minority Congressional district. But the Bush Justice Department has made itself infamous by approving a plan to eliminate 2 majority-minority districts - disenfranchising over 400,000 Hispanics in the 23rd district and over 400,000 African Americans and Hispanics in the 24th district. Why? Because, as newspapers have documented, political operatives control the Bush Justice Department, and they chose to disenfranchise the minority voters the Justice Department is charged with protecting."

"In order to overlook clear retrogression in the 15th District, the Bush Justice Department also had to reverse itself on Hispanic voting strength in South Texas. That's because this new Congressional plan actually makes the 15th District less Hispanic than a nearby state House district rejected just two years ago by this same Justice Department.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett:

"I have never doubted that John Ashcroft would rubber-stamp Tom DeLay's political power-grab. That is why I am in South Texas for most of December, visiting old friends and meeting new ones. If the federal courts do not toss out this outrageous map, it is important that South Texans know that I can be as effective in representing them as I have been for my hometown."

Congressman Chet Edwards

"This is no surprise because everyone knew that John Ashcroft could not act impartially in this matter. This preclearance does not, in any way, stop the federal court from opposing the proposed map on the basis of violations of the Voting Rights Act.

Attorney General Ashcroft should be open and honest with the people of Texas and admit publicly whether he overturned recommendations from his non-political, professional staff. If Mr. Ashcroft isn't willing to provide that info to the public, then it is proof that he made a political decision, not a legal one."

Representatives Jim Dunnam and Garnet Coleman:

The federal courts will decide the fate of this unprecedented assault on minority voting rights, not Aschroft/DeLay Republican operatives in the Justice Department," said Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco). "The Department of Justice made dubious history today when for the first time in its history it granted pre-clearance to a redistricting plan that actually eliminates minority congressional districts. In an effort to elect seven more Republican Congressman, the DOJ approved a map that will rob up to 3.6 million minority Texans of their voice in Congress. DOJ's opinion only address section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and is not binding on the federal courts. Objections raised by civil rights groups and Democrats in court under Section 2 of the act and the United States Constitution are not affected by the DOJ action."

Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News is talking up a potential race between Joe Barton and Martin Frost.

Here's a link to the Texas Democratic Party press release.

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December 18, 2003

NAACP: Remap Destroys Voting Rights Act

By Byron LaMasters

For the latest on the redistricting trial, check out my post over on the Yellow Dog Blog today.

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December 17, 2003

Sing it, Doc!

By Jim Dallas

I remember saying something just like this to Byron on the phone last summer while I was waiting in line for the Bolivar Peninsula-Galveston Island ferry:

"I'm a firm proponent of Republicans getting the majority of seats in Texas," said Dr. John Alford, a political science professor at Rice University. "This goes beyond that ... into a territory where the nature of the system itself determines the outcome, rather than the will of the voters."

He said that the old map still in use – under which Republicans hold 15 of 32 seats – actually favors the GOP. Republicans could grab a majority of the seats, he predicted, if the party would campaign effectively against Democratic incumbents elected in districts with large numbers of crossover Republicans.

As much as I hate to say it, we'd be delusional to think that the Republicans don't have a slight edge in Texas right now. This much goes without saying.

And given that, all Texans deserve a redistricting map that allows the election of representatives who, you know, represent their views (which, admittedly, are often favorable to the Republican leadership).

And you know what? The court-ordered map that was put in place during 2001 allows that. A majority of the Texas delegation have conservative voting records (all 15 Republicans plus Charlie Stenholm and Ralph Hall have greater-than-50 percent scores from the American Conservative Union).

And there'd be even more solid conservatives in the Texas delegation if the people who voted for George W. Bush and Rick Perry voted against good Democrats like Max Sandlin, Chet Edwards, and Nick Lampson.

But they don't - and that is their right, to be represented.

We're Texas, by golly, and we don't need partisan extremists like Tom DeLay and Tom Craddick telling us how to vote.

But it gets worse --

Alford, who has analyzed voting trends since 1992 that show Texas becoming increasingly dominated by Republican voters, said that the court-drawn map currently in use strikes a balance between minority voting rights and the continuing GOP tide. But Texas Republicans are far from satisfied with the existing map because several entrenched Democrats continue to win Republican-leaning districts, in part because credible GOP candidates are reluctant to take on incumbents.


"I'm a firm proponent of Republicans getting a majority of the seats in Texas. I want them to win a majority," Alford said. "There are plenty of districts that Republicans could win if they simply did it the old-fashioned way," he said, referring to the current map.

Shorter Alford - "The Republicans re- redistricted because they were too lazy and incompetent to compete with Democrats."

That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

Charles has all the gritty details.

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December 12, 2003

Redistricting Trial Begins

By Byron LaMasters

The Houston Chronicle reports:

A three-judge federal panel Thursday declined to block a Republican-crafted congressional redistricting map and began a trial to determine the legality of the new districts.

Amid allegations of gerrymandering and minority voter discrimination, the trial could determine the partisan makeup of the Texas congressional delegation and influence control of the U.S. House.

So basically the judges refused to block the map without a trial, so we'll see what happens with the trial and with the Jusice Department.

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December 07, 2003

District 25 Musical Chairs

By Jim Dallas

Ken Herman of the Austin-American Statesman wrote on Friday:

Kino's out. Gonzo's close to getting in.

The moves by state Rep. Kino Flores and state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos put a new face on U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett's effort to remain in Congress.

Flores, D-Mission, who got in the Democratic primary race in October, said Thursday that he is out. No money, Flores said, adding that it would be a disgrace if Doggett wound up representing a new, heavily Hispanic district that stretches from Austin to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Barrientos, D-Austin, said Thursday that he is "leaning toward running because I have gotten calls from different organizations and different lobby groups saying they would support me and put up money."

Doggett said he would consider Barrientos' entry into the race a surprising development.

"It would be ironic and then some if there were those who fought so hard against (U.S. House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay's plans to divide and pit us against each other were out trying to deny my re-election," Doggett said.

Not every Austin Democrat has always been pleased with Doggett; it's often argued that he spends too much time in Washington and doesn't support the local party organization enough. Until redistricting, there really wasn't any reason, since his was a safe seat.

I had some compunctions about supporting Doggett in a district that is going to be dominated by South Texas, since they've got at least as much of a right to have a "hometown" congressman as Austin does. When Kino Flores was the prospective challenger, I was inclined to consider voting for him.

I don't particularly like the idea of Gonzalo Barrientos running, though. While on one hand, Sen. Barrientos has been extremely supportive of local Democratic organizations, I just don't see what he'd bring to the table, professionally and geographically speaking, that Doggett doesn't.

(I am excepting the obvious fact that Gonzalo would be the latino candidate in a latino-majority district).

At any rate, a Barrientos-Doggett fight could be just about the most polarizing thing to happen in Austin politics in a long time.

It is possible, though, that there could be another challenger from the Valley -- State District Judge Leticia Hinojosa, of Edinburg.

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December 01, 2003

Judges: DeLay testimony "not essential"

By Jim Dallas

WFAA: Federal panel quashes subpoena of DeLay and Barton

A three-judge federal panel on Monday rejected attempts to force House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Joe Barton to testify in a lawsuit over Texas' new congressional districts.

The two Republicans had been issued subpoenas for deposition testimony, letters, e-mails and other materials in a lawsuit that seeks to block the new congressional maps.

The federal panel agreed with the lawmakers' attorney that only under exceptional circumstances, such as having unique information in a case, could they be subject to a subpoena.

Unless evidence is shown that DeLay and Barton might fall under that description, their testimony is not essential, the panel ruled. It did, however, leave open the possibility of reconsidering its decision during trial, which is set to begin on Dec. 11.

The judicial panel heard arguments over the subpoenas during a 40-minute conference call Monday morning.

"We had hoped we'd be able to take the testimony from both members," said Gerry Hebert, a lawyer for congressional Democrats who want to learn more about the role DeLay and Barton played in the redistricting process.

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Colorado Redistricting Struck Down

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Good news this morning from Colorado where the State Supreme Court has just issued a 5-2 ruling striking down the General Assembly's Re-Redistricting plan as well as their "reapportionment anytime" interpretation of the State Constitution.

Case Announcement The first two links are the opinions.

Via Off the Kuff and dKos

In its ruling, the full court decided that a Republican redistricting plan, pushed through the state General Assembly in the closing days of this year's session, was unconstitutional because Colorado's congressional districts had already been redrawn in 2002 by a Denver judge after lawmakers could not agree.

The Supreme Court decided that under Colorado's 1876 constitution, new congressional boundaries could be drawn only once a decade, following the federal census.

"The plain language of this constitutional provision not only requires redistricting after a federal census and before the ensuing general election, but also restricts the legislature from redistricting at any other time," said an opinion delivered by Mary J. Mullarkey, chief justice of the seven-member court. "In short, the state constitution limits redistricting to once per census, and nothing in state or federal law negates this limitation. Having failed to redistrict when it should have, the General Assembly has lost its chance to redistrict until after the 2010 federal census."

Two justices issued dissenting opinions in the case, which Mullarkey said pitted "two strongly opposed views of the Colorado constitution" against each other.

Remember, this ruling was based on the Colorado State Constitution which of course applies just to that state so its effects on Texas legal efforts are marginal, considering we are in federal court. There was a federal court challenge in Colorado but it chose to wait on the state ruling. So unless that legal avenue restarts and goes to the US Supreme Court, Texas Democrats have been handed a moral victory at best.

Not that I'm going to complain about that.

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November 12, 2003

Dewhurst: No more Redistricting this Decade

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst vowed Tuesday never to allow congressional redistricting to revisit the Texas Senate this decade, even if the freshly redrawn boundaries fail to survive legal challenges.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has told GOP leaders that the new boundaries are sound and will not buckle under legal scrutiny.

But Mr. Dewhurst, a Republican who presides over the state Senate, allowed for the possibility of defeat Tuesday in addressing the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News.

"He says it's defensible," Mr. Dewhurst said. "It's difficult for me to argue. ... I know I'm going to take some criticism of this, but if it's not defensible, we are not going to take this up again this decade."

A three-judge panel is expected to decide the legality of the map, designed to bolster Republican strength in the Texas congressional delegation by up to seven seats, by Christmas. The plan also is undergoing review by the Justice Department.

Mr. Dewhurst said Tuesday that he had preferred a safer Senate proposal over the more aggressive House approach that was adopted by the Legislature.

Democrats now hold a 17-15 majority in the delegation. The new map could boost GOP strength by seven seats, as compared with the Senate-backed plan, which might have gained the Republicans five new seats.

The Senate proposal would have left intact the 24th District represented by Martin Frost, D-Arlington. But under new boundaries, Mr. Frost's district was dismantled and many of his minority voters parceled to nearby suburban areas.

Democrats argue that such action violated the voting rights of minorities.

"I preferred the map that came out of the Senate, in which we [Republicans] would have elected the same numbers in Congress as we do in the Senate right now, 19 or 20, and not touched any of our minority districts," he said. "I think that's better public policy and, quite frankly, better politics.".

Dewhurst also said that there wouldn't be redistricting without broad support in the senate and that it wasn't a priority. I'm sure that after a few visits from Tom DeLay, if necessary, David Dewhurst would change his mind.

And for anyone who doubts the involvement of Tom DeLay, read on...

Mr. Dewhurst said congressional leaders played a key role in persuading state lawmakers to choose the more aggressive proposal.

"We were besieged by visits from members of Congress," he said. "We had a groundswell in the House that carried over into the Senate to go to a map favored by a lot of members in Congress."

The article also goes on to mention that another special session will be called. There's been some speculation that a special session will be called next month, but Dewhurst is expecting it in April:

Mr. Dewhurst said civility in the Senate is important because he expects Mr. Perry to call a special session to address school finance and tax reform in April.

Mr. Dewhurst said he would be working with Senate and House leaders to forge a compromise proposal, which he hopes to have in place by the end of February.

He said he favors a tax-reform plan for school finance that would reduce property taxes and raise sales taxes in the service industry.

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October 31, 2003


By Byron LaMasters

Over Redistricting. Duh:

The League of United Latin American Citizens today sued the state over redistricting, claiming that the newly adopted congressional districts violate voting rights of the state's Latino population.

According to the lawsuit filed in Tyler, the plan approved by the Legislature in October weakens the Dallas Hispanic community by splitting the population into five congressional districts. Similar splits divide Hispanic communities in Travis, Bexar and Webb counties, according to LULAC.

Pile it on. The map is illegal.

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October 28, 2003

Washington Post on Re-Redistricting Legality

By Byron LaMasters

Via The Lasso is a good article from the Washington Post on the legal issues and historical precedents raised by the Republican re-redistricting efforts in Colorado and Texas:

By enacting a new congressional redistricting plan this month that replaced a court-ordered plan used in the 2002 elections, the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature did more than demonstrate a willingness to play political hardball against its Democratic opponents. It waded into uncharted legal and constitutional territory, raising a question to which there is no clear answer.

The Texas Republicans redistricted their state even more aggressively than Colorado Republicans did earlier in the year.

According to experts in the field, there is no precedent in modern U.S. politics for what the Texas and Colorado Republicans did: voluntarily redraw congressional district lines a year after lawmakers were elected from districts that had already been redrawn once in this decade.

In both cases, divided state legislatures could not agree on redistricting plans in 2001, after the 2000 Census. Courts stepped in to draw new district lines, the normal procedure in such circumstances. But in 2002, Republicans gained complete control of the legislative process in both states. This year, the GOP has moved aggressively to exploit that advantage, hoping to solidify the party's control of the U.S. House of Representatives through the end of this decade.


The key constitutional issue raised by the cases is whether a state legislature is free to redraw congressional boundaries a second time in a decade after an election has been held using district lines that were legally implemented, either by the legislature or by a court.

"There are no court cases" dealing with that issue, said Tim Storey, the redistricting specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures. "It's essentially a new question."

There is nothing new about using the redistricting process to hammer political opponents. It has often been an exercise in raw political power by both parties. Some 19th-century instances make today's Texas Republicans look restrained by comparison.

According to a paper by Erik Engstrom, an assistant professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 1878 House Speaker Samuel Randall (D-Pa.) was so concerned about his party's shaky hold on the House that he implored Ohio Democratic leaders to redraw their state's congressional districts to make it easier to elect Democrats. The Ohio Democrats responded by redistricting seven times between 1878 and 1892, Engstrom reported.

But during much of the 20th century, states often did not redraw congressional boundaries even once a decade. The only times they were compelled to redistrict was when, as a result of the decennial census, they gained or lost seats in the House. Washington state did this in the 1950s, creating an "at large" House seat in 1951 and converting it into a traditional district covering only part of the state in 1957.

The states' casual approach to redistricting ended in 1962 with Baker v. Carr, the landmark Supreme Court decision that laid the foundation for the "one person, one vote" doctrine. From then on, states were to redraw House districts to keep their populations about equal after each once-a-decade census. There have been numerous instances of multiple redistrictings during the same decade, but always under pressure or order from a court to comply with constitutional mandates or laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Except in those cases, states have regularly redrawn congressional districts only once a decade.

Storey said about a dozen states have constitutional provisions prohibiting multiple redistricting in the same decade, but Texas is not one of them. Nor do the U.S. Constitution or federal court precedents prohibit the practice.

"There is nothing that says you can't do this as often as you want," said Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University.

But Texas Democrats say the practice is unconstitutional and contrary to the Founding Fathers' intentions. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Tyler, Tex., they note that the Constitution requires that House seats be reapportioned among the states after each 10-year Census. An "implicit assumption" of that reapportionment mandate, the Democrats argue, is that the redrawing of district lines within states will take place on the same schedule.

They say that changing district lines after an election has been held "cuts the links" between voters and their representative by shifting voters into new territory represented by someone else.

"All we're saying is that implicit in decennial reapportionment is decennial redistricting," said Sam Hirsch, a lawyer for the Texas Democrats. "American constitutional law is full of implicit assumptions. The idea that reapportionment and redistricting are tied together is a small inferential leap. The reason is that reshuffling districts every two years undermines democratic accountability. People should be able to vote for representatives who served them well and against those who have not served them well."

Texas Republicans have not yet replied to the lawsuit, but in an April opinion Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) laid out their likely arguments. He said that when a panel of federal judges imposed the redistricting plan used for the 2002 elections, it did not foreclose the possibility of the legislature enacting its own plan for the rest of the decade.

"No language in the [federal court] plan mandates application of the plan through 2010, and no court order properly could bar a legislature from performing the legislative task of redrawing lines and enacting a constitutionally acceptable plan for future elections," Abbott wrote. "Absent restraints imposed by state law, a state may redraw its congressional districts more often than every 10 years."

Grofman, a widely recognized redistricting expert, said there is no question that the Texas Legislature could have enacted its own redistricting plan in place of the court plan before the 2002 elections. But, he added, "Is it legally relevant that the [court] plan has taken effect for a year and therefore is it going to prohibit the state from further action? The case law just isn't clear."

Whatever the answers, Thomas E. Mann, a senior scholar at the Brookings Institution, said that the Texas and Colorado experiments in multiple redistricting could have profound political consequences.

"If this is sustained, what we will have is a form of arms race where there is no restraint on keeping the game going on throughout a decade," Mann said. "You ask, who wins in this process? This is a process designed not for citizens or voters but for politicians. It will lead politicians to say there are no limits. I think it threatens the legitimacy of democracy."

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October 24, 2003

Republicans See Killer D's as Boy Band

By Byron LaMasters

Well, here's what the Republicans think of our Killer D heroes, here. Sheesh, I'm not sure how to take it, but it's funny in a stupid sort of way.

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October 22, 2003

Justice Dept. Lawyer Reviewing Texas Map may be member of Bush's 2000 Recount Team in FL

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, we can trust John Ashcroft's department to fairly review the new GOP map. Two lawyers in the department have already recused themselves, and the next lawyer in line to review the map was a member of the 2000 Bush Florida recount team. I'm sure that he's not biased. The Dallas Morning News reports:

Two top Justice Department lawyers have recused themselves from the pre-clearance review of Texas' new congressional districts, spokesman Jorge Martinez said Tuesday.

Mr. Martinez declined to explain any real or potential conflicts of interest that would force such a move. He did not cite a policy or law that bars explanation.

The officials are R. Alexander Acosta, the first Hispanic to lead the Civil Rights Division, and the division's No. 2 lawyer, J. Michael Wiggins. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund honored Mr. Acosta in June for his role in implementing a Clinton-era executive order to help people with limited English skills get access to federal programs; MALDEF is one of the groups challenging the Texas redistricting plan.

A lawyer for Democrats in the redistricting cases, Gerald Hebert, said he's concerned that the next lawyer in line to review the legality of the Texas plan was on the GOP's presidential recount team in Florida. "Frankly, I think the whole Justice Department should be disqualified," Mr. Hebert said, and the matter left in the hand of federal judges.

Not that the Supreme Court isn't biased (Bush v. Gore), but at least we've got a fighting chance with them when the map gets there.

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October 21, 2003

A Legal View of Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

A lawyer friend of mine wrote to me about the Texas Democrats lawsuit regarding redistricting. Here's his take on the situation:

I read the Motion that the Dems filed in Tyler in Re-redistricting. You can find it on the State Party's website. It looks promising. It is not a new suit. The three judge panel that drew the current map issued an injunction to use that map. To change the map requires a modification of the injunction, which means that the State cannot "force" a new map without the three judge panel agreeing. The burden is high to modify an injunction. The Motion is entitled something like "Motion to prevent Defendants from modifying Injunction."

The Motion cites authority square on point that you cannot dismantle an minority opporunity district under the rationale of creating a different one in another part of the State. Thus you cannot swap the 25th for the 24th. The Motion also demostrates well why the proposed 23rd is unconstitutional.

Ironically, the case cites "reverse discrimination" precedent as to why the proposed 25th is unconstitutional. In a NC and LA case from the last reapportionment, those States created new black districts by taking isolated pockets of black population centers in far flung corners of the state and stringing them together with thin slivers, often the width of a state highway. The SCOTUS held them illegal, saying you cannot, in the name of creating a minority district, link otherwise unrelated, far-flung minority clusters together. That is exactly what the proposed 25th does (and the proposed 15th for that matter too). The Motion does a good job with the data to show that is what happened. Then, if the 25th goes, you cannot possibly use it to offset the 24th (even if you could do an offset).

I think one of the strongest arguments against redistricting (which was addressed in the Motion - but it was not as developed as I would have liked) is a variation of the "one man - one vote" principal. As you know "one man - one vote" says that districts must have (more or less) equal population. Mid-decade redistricting is based on already obsolete census data, so there is no way to verify if the districts, WHEN CREATED, fulfill the "one man - one vote" criteria. If this prevails, then no mid-decade redistricting period, end of story.

Devil's argument is that "one man - one vote" makes it better to redistrict mid-decade because as population changes, the districts become unequal in population. The response is that yes, BUT, that population shifts are going to happen and you cannot feasibly redistrict every 2 years (or year, or month, or week for that matter - popuklation changes every second) to keep track of population shifts. The point is that we only have reliable population data for the census year. The further we get away from the census year to redistrict, the more likely it is that districts violate "one man - one vote," and there is NO WAY to confirm if re-redistricting even comes close to "one man - one vote" because the data is outdated when the district is even drawn.

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October 17, 2003

White House Gala Celebrating Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

Via WhiteHouse.org:


THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Thank you all for showing up to my little impromptu shindig to celebrate our glorious victory over those squirrelly Dummycraps down home in Texas, or as my current favorite minority voting block would say, "Tay-haaas."


You know it's not every day we get to celebrate the political equivalent of an armored car heist in broad daylight. Usually it's just on inauguration day.


But before I introduce our guest of honor, I just want to say that I'm happier than a buzzard with a mouthful of guts to be standing here with y'all passel of real, salt-of-the-Earth Texans, Yankee bluebloods masquerading as rawhide Texans, and their respective, demure, and utterly subservient womenfolk. It's been a darned good victory party so far, and I haven't even shotgunned my tenth Buckler yet.

But hell, why am I yakking? We're all here to congratulate my man Tommy "The Hammer" Delay, without whom us milk-skinned, born-again GOP millionaires could never have managed to lasso democracy like the troublemaking calf it is and do what generations of lonely frontier cowpokes have: fuck it but good. So take it away, Hammerino!

(Thunderous Applause.)

CONGRESSMAN DeLAY: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you. As you all know, I am a man of few words, so I will keep this short.

Earlier this summer, Democrats in the Texas legislature – most of them colored – fled my great state in an act of desperate cowardice, selfishly trying to prevent their inevitable political lynching by refusing to allow a quorum that would enable me and Governor Pretty Boy Not-Bush to erase all those whiny, excessively pigmented voting districts and serve up the gift of five or six new Republican seats to the U.S. House of Representatives.

It was disgusting. Why, I had to use Federal tax dollars and multiple Federal security agencies like the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to hunt those outlaws down. And when they finally came back, do you know that they had the gall to be unrepentant?!


It's true. They said that redistricting should be left to the incompetent and depressingly non-partisan US Census every ten years, and that my new map would "disenfranchise minorities." Well excuse me, but if the good Lord wanted for poor dirt savages and decent people like my dear, departed Momma to mix – much less vote in the same district – then he would have made Mexicans blondes, Negroes thin-lipped, and my Momma a drug-addicted, illegitimate-baby-spewing layabout sex fiend. But that's NOT what the Lord wants, and that's why once again, we Republicans have prevailed.


Yes, we succeeded, dammit. It took a lot of arm twisting, nipple pinching, and anonymous late night phones calls from yours truly threatening so-and-so liberal twat bag a one-way ride on the tar baby Ford F150 asphalt express, but we did it. We managed, yet again, to seize power by using our democracy's obscure parliamentary rules and failsafes against itself – because you can only get a bucketful of moo juice by grabbing ALL the teats at once, folks. And if that means cracking open some low class farmer's skull with the milkin' stool, then God's will be done.

Now I may have started out as just a lowly exterminator who was always being hospitalized for recreational huffing of Raid® Crack 'N Crevice HolocaustTM, but I still know a thing or two between seizures. I know that America may have been built on law – but it rests on the golden rule: those with gold, rule. So it was in the beginning, so it shall be now. If God didn't intend us to rule, he wouldn't have given our ancestors this gold, as well as a stronger immunity to Smallpox.

Our victory in Texas assures us that none of the transparent laws that govern this empire apply to those above the law. We are above the law. We are angels gentleman! We live in the clouds and dictate the fates of the bugs. The pests.

Gentlemen – a toast! Raise your glasses of bug juice! Raise them! And repeat after me:

To Texas, our third legalistic coup!


Next up... Illinois!


Well, that's what they would like to say if they could. WhiteHouse.org, for those of you not aware is a parody site, so no one get hysterical.

It comes as no surprise, however, that the White House doesn't think it's funny. It's amazing how sensative the right gets sometimes...

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My Community

By Byron LaMasters

Here's my block in the new redistricting map:

Modified photo via the Austin Chronicle.

Here's their caption (I live in the Gables Apartment complex in district 10 to the right):

The venerable Marimont Cafeteria at 38th and Guadalupe is now the center of the Austin political landscape -- it's the point where the city's three congressional districts meet. The Marimont itself is in District 25, stretching south to McAllen. Go one block west, across Ronson Street, and you're in District 21, stretching to San Antonio. And cross 38th Street to the Gables apartments and Central Market, and you're in District 10, stretching to Katy and Tomball.

Crazy. Republicans think that my "community of interest" is with Katy as opposed to my neighbors across the street.

Tim Thompson has more of the infamous Marimont Cafetaria at 38th and Ronson.

Here's another view of my apartment complex:

Check out the entire slide show. It gives you a great idea of just how Republicans just obliterated any chance of representation of Austin in Congress.

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October 15, 2003

Texas GOP "Blog"

By Byron LaMasters

Via Slightly Rough.

This is an amusing read...

It's really quite funny, if not sad. First, it's not really a blog, it's sort of a hastily put together log of events. Second, its a really lame attempt to label Democrats as "obstructionists".

Here's one example of how Republicans try to spin Speaker Craddick's flagrant violation of the House rules (Here and Here) into an example of Democratic obstruction:

Democrats mounted a cheap and sneaky attempt to adjourn the state House and end the current special session without a redistricting plan being passed. Speaker Craddick convened the House on Sunday in order to abide by legislative rules requiring that each chamber meet at least every three days during a session. Since no business was scheduled, the Speaker’s intent was to convene and then immediately adjourn – a process that lasted about 30 seconds. There were less than 20 members present on the floor, mostly Democrats. As Craddick banged the gavel to adjourn, the Democrats started shouting that they wanted to make a motion to adjourn sine die (and with so few members present, they would have had the votes to do so). But alas, the gavel had sounded and it was too late. Nice try, obstructionists.

Riiight. Democrats objected before the session was gaveled to adjourn. Craddick didn't recognize them. Craddick broke the rules. Period, end.

It'll be in the lawsuit.

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MALDEF, Black Leaders Sue, Barton Gloats

By Byron LaMasters

One day after the Texas Democratic Party announced their lawsuit against redistricting in federal court in Tyler, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a lawsuit in federal court in Victoria claiming that the recently passed map does not reflect Latino voting strength in the state. The Austin American Statesman reports:

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has jumped into the court fight over the newly enacted Republican congressional redistricting map.

MALDEF filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in Victoria on behalf of the American GI Forum of Texas, a group devoted to securing equal rights for Hispanics. The lawsuit contends the new redistricting plan does not create another Hispanic district.

"The newly-enacted congressional redistricting plan for Texas does not accurately reflect Latino voting strength in the year 2003," said Nina Perales, MALDEF regional counsel and lead attorney in the court case.

Although the Republican plan "purports to create an additional Latino majority district in South Texas, in fact it eliminates one district and adds another, with no net increase in electoral opportunity," Perales said.

If Texas is going to redistrict, Perales said, the result should be an increase in the number of Hispanic districts, particularly in South Texas and Dallas.

Two other lawsuits have been filed against redistricting so far. The one filed by the Texas Democratic Party has drawn the most media attention, but a group of African-American leaders have also filed a lawsuit in district court in Marshall claiming that Black representation would be lost under the new map:

At least two other legal challenges have been filed since the Legislature gave final approval Sunday to the new congressional districts.

Democrats are asking a federal court in Tyler to stop the state from implementing the new plan for the 2004 election cycle. That court challenge — a motion filed in a previous redistricting lawsuit — alleges that using the new map would be disruptive because it moves more than 8.1 million Texans into new districts and that there are strong arguments that the map violates federal law.

Also, a group of Democrats has asked U.S. District Judge John T. Ward in Marshall to issue a temporary restraining order to prohibit changing the districts. Rusk City Councilman Walter Session, one of the plaintiffs, said he believes black representation would be lost under the Legislature's new plan.

In other redistricting news, the office of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) continues their shameless gloating. Barton is throwing a Redistricting Victory Party Celebration Fundraiser! How exciting!

The party invitation says it all: Victory Celebration for Republican Re-districting.

But Rep. Joe Barton's fund-raiser Monday in Arlington has Democrats seeing red.

Democrats are hoping to be party poopers by getting the new pro-GOP congressional districts thrown out by the courts. And the invitation's gleeful theme and promise of games for the kids -- "pin the boot on the donkey" -- has them upset.

"This is a fittingly shameful way to celebrate," said Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The Republicans better get their partying in quickly because the courts are going to spoil their fun."

Well, it would be fun to go crash, or at least picket from the outside.... Hmm.. If anyone wants to, "The fund-raiser, at $150 per couple, will take place at the home of Gary and Judi Martin". Heh. I think, however, we'll just have to wait for our day in court. I'm just quite disgusted by it all, though. Especially after the revolting email sent by Barton aide, Joby Fortson. I guess I can just count my blessings that I'm represented by Lloyd Doggett, for now...

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October 14, 2003

And the Court Fight Begins...

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Democrats have announced that they "filed a motion in federal court in Tyler seeking to prohibit the state from implementing the new Republican-backed congressional redistricting map". The motion was actually filed on Sunday night after Senate approval of the new congressional lines. A copy of the motion is available on the Texas Democratic Party Website.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

The motion, filed in federal court in Tyler on Sunday night, alleges that the map is illegal, Hebert said.

Democratic lawmakers have argued that the map violates the voting rights of minorities.

The motion was filed in Tyler because that court in 2001 drew the congressional redistricting map that is now in effect, Hebert said.

"We think that any proposal to change the court's map ought to be dealt with by that court," said Hebert, who represents Democrats in the Texas Legislature and Texas' congressional delegation.


The contest now turns to the state and federal courts. Democrats had said they would ask the courts to halt the plan from being used in 2004, arguing that there will not be enough time to try the case before the March primaries.


The new congressional district map now will be submitted to the U.S. Justice Department for review under the federal Voting Rights Act. For the map to be used, the department must first determine that it does not dilute minority voting strength.

The map also will be subject to legal challenges in both state and federal courts.

If used in 2004, the map mostly likely will replace a 17-15 Democratic majority in the congressional delegation with a 22-10 Republican majority.


"We're going to continue the fight in the courts of the United States of America to make sure the people of the state are represented fairly and well," [State Rep. Garnett] Coleman [D-Houston] said.

The legislative redistricting sponsors -- Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine -- insisted their goals were simply political, to replace Democratic districts with Republican districts.

The upcoming court battle will be fought over minority voting rights as protected by the federal Voting Rights Act. The act prohibits the dilution of power and influence of minority voters by either packing them into as few districts as possible or by splitting minority communities into multiple districts to diminish their influence.

Democrats claim the Republican map does both. They say at present there are seven Hispanic districts, two black districts and two districts where the election's outcome is influenced by black voters.

Republicans claim their map creates eight Hispanic districts and three black districts.

Democrats dispute that because the 23rd District of U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, replaces much of its Hispanic population with Anglos. So while the district has a Hispanic congressman, Democrats argue it no longer is a district in which minority voters determine the outcome of an election.

The court battle will occur first in a state district court, but ultimately it will be decided by a three-judge federal court panel.

John Alford is a Rice University professor who has been hired as an expert witness by the Texas Democratic congressional delegation. He believes the federal court will stay the case and not bring it to trial until well after the primaries next March.

"There is no reason the court will feel compelled to move as quickly as the Legislature would like," Alford said.

Alford said in most redistricting cases courts are obligated to act quickly because the existing map is unconstitutional because of national reapportionment following a census. But Texas currently has a congressional district map that has been upheld as legal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jim Ellis, a political aide to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said he does not believe the current map matters. Ellis said once the Justice Department approves the Legislature's work, "we have a new law. It's the law of the land."

Ellis said the Democrats then will have the challenge of halting the use of a legal map.

"They have a very, very difficult row to hoe," Ellis said.

Alford said the key to the case will be a U.S. Supreme Court decision that came down in June called Georgia v. Ashcroft. That case said states have the right to determine how best to draw legislative and congressional districts to protect minority voters.

"Not to say that it will be struck down by a court, but there are some real legal liabilities that you can get your hooks into," Alford said.

Alford said he believes the Texas case will plow new legal ground before it is finally decided by the Supreme Court.

Ellis defended the map's minority voting patterns.

"In the end the map will hold up because it is legally sound," Ellis said. "We had the best redistricting attorneys in Texas and the nation advising us on this."

So there we have it.

Meanwhile, Rep. Martin Frost (D-Arlington) is confident that the map will be struck down. Shocker, I know... The Dallas Morning News reports:

The dean of Texas' Democratic congressional delegation predicted Tuesday that he and his colleagues would run their 2004 campaigns in the same districts they did last year.

U.S. Rep Martin Frost's statement comes on a day when Democrats announced they had filed a motion in federal court Sunday night in Tyler seeking to bar the Texas government from implementing the new Republican-backed congressional redistricting map. The Texas Legislature passed the map earlier this month over the protest of Democratic lawmakers, and Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law Monday.

"I will be running in the exact same district I was running in two years ago," said Mr. Frost, a Democrat from Arlington now serving in his 13th term. "This is an illegal map. This map will fail for a variety of reasons."


He cited the new District 32 as particularly egregious: Low-income Latino voters in the North Oak Cliff section of Dallas are grouped with wealthy residents of Highland Park and University Park. The new redistricting plan reduces the number of "effective minority" districts from 11 to 10, Congressman Frost said.

And in another shocker, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) disagrees:

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, said Mr. Frost is only trying to save his job.

"He's dreaming. He's living in a fantasy world," Mr. Barton said. "The map will stand up in court."

Mr. Frost, who with his Democratic colleagues cling to a 17-to-15 majority over House Republicans, says the approved redistricting plan violated the federal Voting Rights Act by breaking up congressional districts where racial minorities constitute the majority of citizens.


Nothing about the new plan violates federal law, Mr. Barton said. While it does break up districts such as Mr. Frost's, it creates one new primarily black and another primarily Hispanic district, giving minority voters in Texas more political influence than before, Mr. Barton said.

Mr. Frost's current District 24 is unrecognizable compared to the new one, in which Republicans make up 63 percent of voters.

"He can move, he can run against me, he can run against [Democrat] Eddie Bernice Johnson, he can run against [Republican] Kay Granger. He has a lot of options," Mr. Barton said. "Martin Frost and his cronies can file lawsuit after lawsuit. The new lines are going to be the lines we all run in."

Regardless, like Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), Frost has pledged to run for re-election regardless of the district lines. For the new 63% Republican 24th district, Dallas Republicans are talking up current State Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton):

Now that the Legislature has finally passed a congressional redistricting bill, it's time for potential candidates to search for the best path to Washington.

In the Dallas area, the road appears to be paved for state Rep. Ken Marchant, R-Coppell.

Mr. Marchant is eyeing the reconstituted 24th District now represented by influential Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington. Political observers say a Frost-Marchant matchup will be one of the most-watched races in the country.

"I'm going to wait for the governor to sign the bill before I say anything," Mr. Marchant said. "But it looks like a very good opportunity for me."

If the new lines hold up, Frost vs. Marchant would be an interesting race, with Marchant having an advantage, but still, Frost has several decades of roots in representing the DFW area and even in a new district would be tough to beat.

In other races, the Abilene Reporter News profiles the likely race between paired west Texas Reps. Neugebauer (R-Lubbock) and Stenholm (D-Abilene).

In editorials today, the Waco Tribune Herald lamented the loss of representation for Waco. In a much more nationally significant editorial, the Washington Post compared the tactics of the Texas GOP leadership to tactics used in Soviet Russia.

And finally, President Bush has weighed in on redistricting now that it's over:

But President Bush, a former Texas governor, said Monday that all redistricting disputes in Texas have been divisive. "I mean if you look back, I can remember the battles in the '90s and '80s and people who perceived they didn't do well would complain about the partisanship, and hopefully they can get this issue behind them, they being both parties, and move forward with good policy for Texas," Bush said.

Right. Lets just move on and forget this happened. Uh-huh, dream on. Bipartisanship is dead in the Texas legislature. Like it or not, it's dead.

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Send Republicans a Thank You!

By Byron LaMasters


But you can tell them what you think about redistricting here. Oh, but wait, it's already filled in... I guess there's the comments section.

Rick Perry's also doing his job to fabricate artificial widespread support for redistricting, asking people to send him a thank you:

Also on Monday, Perry's political arm, Texans for Rick Perry, distributed an "Urgent Request for Action," urging citizens to send Perry and other Republican lawmakers thank-you letters for their redistricting effort.

The e-mail includes a fill-in-the-blank form letter saying that the state of Texas owes a "debt of gratitude" to Republicans.

Arg. Too bad I'm not on Rick Perry's email list and I'd post what they're putting out there. Is anyone on it?

What a bunch of self-promoting assholes....

Oh, and Bush wants everyone to just put redistricting behind them. Uh-huh. Why didn't he tell that to Republicans two years ago? That's what we're supposed to do after we redistrict the first time for another ten years:

But President Bush, a former Texas governor, said Monday that all redistricting disputes in Texas have been divisive. "I mean if you look back, I can remember the battles in the '90s and '80s and people who perceived they didn't do well would complain about the partisanship, and hopefully they can get this issue behind them, they being both parties, and move forward with good policy for Texas," Bush said.

"Move forward with good policy for Texas"? Again, why didn't you tell the GOP leadership to do that six months ago? I must be confused...

To the courts we go...

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Texas GOP = Communists

By Byron LaMasters

Ok, not really, but check out today's Washington Post Editorial:

The Soviet Republic of Texas

YOU MIGHT THINK America's rigged system of congressional elections couldn't get much worse. Self-serving redistricting schemes nationwide already have left an overwhelming number of seats in the House of Representatives so uncompetitive that election results are practically as preordained as in the old Soviet Union. In the last election, for example, 98 percent of incumbents were reelected, and the average winning candidate got more than 70 percent of the vote. More candidates ran without any major-party opposition than won by a margin of less than 20 percent. Yet even given this record, the just-completed Texas congressional redistricting plan represents a new low.

The plan grabbed headlines as a consequence of the flight by Democrats -- twice -- from the state to prevent its adoption. The Democrats, whose only hope, being in the minority in both houses, was to prevent a quorum, eventually gave in; the legislature has adopted the plan. It's abhorrent on two counts. Texas Republicans, egged on by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, violated a longstanding tradition by redrawing the map in the middle of a census cycle. Their new rule seems to be, why wait 10 years if you can cram something down your opponents' throats today? And their plan is designed to wipe out moderate and white Democrats from the Texas congressional delegation. We don't know whether the plan violates the Voting Rights Act or will survive legal challenge. What is clear, however, is that it will aggravate the triumph of extremes in Washington while further sovietizing America's already-fixed electoral game.

The map Republicans have produced is a remarkable feat of gerrymandering. The 19th District, once confined to the western side of the state, now snakes halfway across it to scavenge voters from the current district of Democratic Rep. Charles Stenholm. Beneath it now sprawls the once-compact 11th District of Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards, which has been completely redrawn to help a friend of George W. Bush get elected to Congress. The south of the state now looks like a pinstripe suit, with narrow districts snaking from north to south in order to pack Hispanic-majority voters in just a few districts, including a new one. Dallas liberal Martin Frost, meanwhile, suddenly has a new district, 63 percent of whose voters are Republican. The goal here is not subtle. As Republican state Rep. Phil King, who helped draw the map, put it to the Austin American Statesman, "I would suspect that [any Democrat] who is not in a minority district would have a very competitive race."

The current Texas House delegation includes 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. This balance, no doubt, is a residue of a time when Democrats were more powerful in the state than they are today and reflects deliberate incumbent protection by past legislatures. It also, however, reflects the fact that some Democratic members have effectively represented their increasingly conservative districts and remained popular. The pernicious effect of partisan redistricting in general is the weakening of the center with the creation of "safe" seats for both parties -- which encourages the election of people considerably to the left or right of the state's political center of gravity. Do Texans really want a polarized delegation of 22 conservative Republicans and 10 liberal Democrats, as the current plan envisions? Do they really want a state with a white party and a minority party? Republican politicians are engineering it that way, whatever voters may want. For redistricting -- quite the inverse of elections -- is a process in which politicians get to choose their voters. It is a process that a healthy democracy would seek to reform.

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Entire Fortson Email HERE

By Byron LaMasters

Via Dacha Dude Weblog is a copy of an email sent by Joby Fortson (aide to Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis). Yeah, this is the email that Jim and I have alluded to here and here.

Read on for a copy of the entire email...

Begin forwarded message:


Date: Mon Oct 13, 2003 07:53:36 US/Central

Subject: FW: Redistricting: leak from a disgruntled Republican?

----- Original Message -----

Sent: 10/13/2003 1:22:06 AM
Subject: FW: Redistricting: leak from a disgruntled Republican?
-----Original Message-----
From: xxxxxxxxxx

Sent: Saturday, October 11, 2003 10:54 PM
Subject: Redistricting: leak from a disgruntled Republican?
This was sent to me Saturday morning by a friend who said it is a Republican staffer's memo on redistricting. If genuine, it should be part of the redistricting lawsuit.
--Original Message-----
From: Joby Fortson [ mailto:jobydc@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2003 12:55 PM
To: Joby.Fortson@mail.house.gov;jeinertson@yahoo.com;
scb123@hotmail.com; greg.Facchiano@mail.house.gov; Turner, Robert
(Allen); andy.Halataei@mail.house.gov;Andy.Napoli@mail.house.gov;
cmday@guradaylaw.com; drucifer666@hotmail.com;jboling@nssga.org;
Thomas, Ryan (Appropriations); boulangerT@gtlaw.com;
dhorowitz@digmedia.org; baker_20850@yahoo.com;
Jeff.Janas@mail.house.gov; MillerAG@state.gov;
Subject: R's will pick up 6-7 seats now in Texas
The maps are now official. I have studied them and this is the most agressive map I have ever seen. This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House
no matter the national mood.
A quick rundown
1 - Sandlin - it gets more republican by throwing Tyler into the district. The heart of Turner's district goes to this distrioct. A solid state rep or senator could bat Sandlin/Turner in a tight race. The district is over 60% GOP but Sandlin has roots. (prediction lean staying Dem)
2- Turner - the distrcit is moved to the Houston area in an open Republican seat in northeat Harris County. It is new territory made of Brady, Lampson and a little Turner land.=
but over 60% Republican (switches to Republican)
3 - Johnson - this Plano based diestrict stays the same (remains R)
4 - Hall - Hall will win this distrcit again IF he runs. However, having the area around Texarkana instead of Tyler ight discourage him. If he retires (as inidcations are he will) this will flip. (switches to R)
5- Hensarling - the district is shrunk and becomes more urban picking up East Dallas and becomes more republican (stays R)
6 - Barton - my boss actually was drawn into a district with both Frost's and Turner's homes however, if they would like to commit political suicide, be my guest. The district has gone from 57% R to 63% adding more Republican territory in Tarrant County. (remains R)
7 - Culberson - the Houston Memorial "old money" dsitrict remains the same (remains R)
8 - Brady - Brady keeps staunch Republican Montgomery County as his base north of Houston and goes north tyo chop off the other half of Turner's rural district that the 1st gobbled
up. Montgomery County keeps this VERY republican (remains R)
9 - Lampson - This is a new majority minority african American district drawn for Rep Wilson around Houston Hobby Airport. Lampson is not in it and Bell is effectively drawn out
in favor of Wilson (Remains D)
10 - Doggett - ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - The district goes from North central Austin (NOT liberal Hyde Park but more north conservative Plugerville area) and stretches to Katy Texas outside of Houston. Robert called this the 290 district. It is very Republican
and will be where my friend Brian Walters will be likely running. Littelfield already is a consultant. (sweitches to R)
11 - Edwards - This is the "new" Midland seat drawn for Speaker Craddick protege Connaway who lost a close one of Neugebauer in the Combest open seat. This is very Republican.
(Switches to R)
12 - Granger - Granger's district continues to be a dafe Ft. Worth R seat (remains R)
13 - Thornberry - Thornberry remains pretty muich the smae but the map is very wacky at points to appease Speaker Craddick and State Senator Duncan. (remains R)
14 - Paul - Ron Paul and Nick Lampson are drawn together in a republican district. This could be trickier than thought given Paul's unusual behavior. It IS republican
though centered around Lake Jackson south of Houston, but Brandon can attest that Galveston is a lean D area. Lake Jackson and points south though are HEAVY R. Tus, the district is 60% R. (remains R)
15 - Hinojosa - I do not know if if Hinojosa will take this one or another of the "stripe" districts. One of these is new and part of the voting rights protection element. They run
from Austin area to the border side by side. (remains D)
16 - Reyes - this El Paso seat remains relatively unchanged (remains D)
17 - Stenholm - Really its the one Chet Edwards will run in and . . . bye Chet. Chet loses his Killeen-Ft. Hood Base in exchange for conservative Johnson County. They will not
like the fact he kills babies, prevents kids from praying and wants to take their guns. State Rep Arlene Wohlgemuth come on down, you are the next Congressman from Texas. To be fair, while Edwards will likely lose, at least he has a fighting chance as Waco is the population center (but hasn't he been LOSING Waco lately - yep!) (switches to R)
18 - Jackson-Lee - as much as we despise her, she cannot be drawn out. She still has the 5th ward and downtown Houston. The Queen lives!!!! (remains D)
19 - Neugebauer - thsi is easily the wackiest district and evidently was the last one drawn. It places Stenholm and Neugebauer in the same seat but most of it is Neugebauer's
Lubbock based territory. Stenholm has a chnace because it is very Ag oriented. Abilene just simply replaces Midland as the other population center. Once you see the map, you will shake your head at this one. The overwhelming R nature of it gives the freshman the edge, but Tim Holden in Pennsylvania showed that is not necessarily all it takes. (remains R in a close member-member battle)
20 - Gonzalez - The Alamo still will keep its rep in a similar district. Tony Zafirini's boss is safe (Remains D)
21 - Lamar Smith - this district still has Alamo Heights (rich San Antonio), Westlake (rich west Austin) and San Marcos - (remains R)
22 - Tom DeLay - DeLay, the supposed architect of this map according to Dems, still has his strong R base in Sugarland but gives away enough R's to give Paul and even greater edge
in the 14th. (remains R)
23 - Bonilla - half of Webb County (laredo) goes to Hispanic districts and he gets more of Bexar Copunty (north San Antonio) in return to shore up this slowly more Dem growing
seat. (remains R)
24 - Frost - ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Hello Congressman Marchant (a state Senator). His distrcit disappeared as Burgess takes inner city Ft. Worth, Eddie Bernice Johnson takes his
part of inner city Dallas, Sessions takes his hispanic voters in central Dallas and Barton takes his home in north Arlington. It simply disappears in a Coppell centered district in the VERY republican mid-cities area between Dallas and Ft. Worth. This is the D's best legal challenge as inner city Ft. Worth will now be outnumbered in a Rpublican suburban
district (see CD 26). However, the creation of a new african american seat in Houston so that new map should pass the challenge. (switches to R)
25 - Bell - this seat is removed from the Houston area (in its place is the new african american district) and this is one of the new "stripe" districts running from Austin to the
border. It takes hispanic east Austin and runs to the border. (remains D)
26 - Burgess - the old Armey seat takes on 150,000 inner city Ft. Worth residents but is paired with 450,000 fervent republicans in Denton County. Lewisville, Denton and
other VERY republican areas north make it, over 60% R despite the presence of inner city Ft. Worth. (remains R)
27 - Ortiz - This district still has the Texas coastline from Corpus Christi to Brownsville in the beginning of the strpie districts. (remains D)
28 - Ciro Rodriguez likely will still run in the final "stripe" district that runs from Chinagrove (the little town outside of San Antone from Doobie Brothers fame) all the way
to the border. (remains D)
29 - Gene Green - this is still a hispanic seat that gets even more hispanic in Houston. I expect Gene Green to keep it but watch for the primary challenge (remains D)
30 - Eddie Bernice Johnson - she takes Frost's african American population in Dallas and lets her republican precincts (like las colinas) go. Her district finally for the first time make perfect sense geographically.
(remains D)
31 - Sessions - still has the Park Cities (rich Dallas) and north Dallas. However, he pciks up some hispanic voters from the old Frost district. This is still a VERY republcian seat as people from the Park Cities vote in great numbers. remember this is the infamous 75225 zip
code which raise alomst 20% of Bush's presidential money and voted in the largets precinct 97% Bush-3% Dukakis. This district does not just have people who vote republican but people who ARE republican. (remains R)
32- Carrter - the final district is another gem. Edwards loses the republicans that suppiort him and they now are with John Carter in a Williamson County centered district. This is made for Carter and is still very safe republcian territory. (remains R)

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October 13, 2003

To the Courts, Strayhorn and Perry Feud.

By Byron LaMasters

Rick Perry signed the new map this evening making it law. Now, to the courts where lawsuits should be filed within days to stop the plan from taking effect.

Perry also signed the government reorganization bill, HB 7, which will take powers away from the Comptroller, Carole Strayhorn. In a speech today, Strayhorn blasted Perry and hinted that she would run against Perry in 2006:

A day after the Legislature passed a bill that would strip two high-profile programs from Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's office, she racheted up her verbal attack on Gov. Rick Perry and said today she wouldn't rule out challenging him in 2006.

"I am 24-7 the Texas Comptroller and I will be 24-7 the Texas Comptroller," Strayhorn said referring to a possible gubernatorial bid after she spoke to the Greater Houston Partnership, which is composed of representatives from more than 1,900 Houston businesses. "I never say never. I want to be where I can make the most difference."

Strayhorn told the luncheon crowd at a downtown Houston hotel that she was disappointed in Perry's decision to take her stance on the state's budget shortfall and inability to balance it in June as something "personal."

"Texas taxpayers and Texas school children and the Texas Comptroller's Office are being punished for me telling the truth," she said. "I was telling the truth when I said we had a budget shortfall. I was telling the truth when I said the budget did not balance. ...

"Last Friday, behind closed doors in the Pink Granite Building, the Governor told the House Republican Caucus he wanted these programs stripped from the Comptroller's Office because 'it was personal.' ... My telling the truth is apparently what the governor takes as 'personal.'"

Strayhorn said what she sees as personal is the 160,000 school children without health insurance, the thousands of jobs that have evaporated, higher property tax rates and insurance and "the unacceptable inequality in our public education system that leaves too many children behind." She said the problems, which also include the state's transportation crisis and decreased higher education expenditures, all have come "under this governor's administration."

"What is most personal to me is the lost civility, the lost dignity, the lost honor, the lost effectiveness, and the lost spirit of bi-partisanship championed by then Governor and now President George W. Bush," said Strayhorn, whose son is Bush press secretary Scott McClellan.

I, of course would love to see a nice big internal GOP bloodbath, but we'll see. It's still three years. A lot can happen, and who knows what Kay Bailey Hutchison will do...

Posted at 07:49 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 12, 2003

Senate Passes Map 17-14

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

The Senate voted 17-14 Sunday on a Republican-backed plan to redraw the map for the state's congressional districts.

The vote, delayed since Friday while the House debated an unrelated bill, ends the legislative fight on redistricting that has been waged for six months. Democrats blocked redistricting three times, including a boycott from the House and a boycott from the Senate.

In the third special session called on the subject, Republicans found themselves fighting each other. Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, won his battle to create a district that could be won by someone from his hometown. That effort was opposed by other West Texas lawmakers, including Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.

Creating the district Craddick wanted, however, caused a ripple effect through other districts and dire opposition from as many as four Senate Republicans on Friday. With that opposition, Senate Republican leaders began debate on the final map one vote shy of the 16 votes needed to pass it.

In the end, Sens. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, and Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, voted for the map.

In the end all 12 Democrats voted against this map along with two Republican Sens. Fraiser and Ratliff.

Posted at 08:09 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

House Does its part of the Deal

By Byron LaMasters

The House has done it's part of the deal by passing a government reorganization bill as requested by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (in return for his cooperation later this evening in guiding through redistricting). The Senate will meet at 6 PM to vote on redistricting:

The Texas House approved a sweeping government reorganization measure Sunday, acquiescing to Senate terms for giving final approval to a congressional redistricting map.

The House approved the measure by a 79-35 vote, then adjourned the third special session.

Final passage of the Republican-backed redistricting map now rests with the Senate.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst previously said the Senate would not approve the map until the House passed the unrelated bill intended to reorganize state government.

"I'm personally ready to call their bluff in the Senate," said Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, arguing against the government reorganization bill.

The Senate was scheduled to convene at 6 p.m.

Dewhurst said senators can only vote on redistricting Sunday, not filibuster, because he has closed down debate.

There was limited debate on the government reorganization bill in the House. Most Democrats were absent:

Rep. John Mabry, D-Waco, tried to thwart the government reorganization bill, raising a legislative objection that the conference committee did not convene in public and no record was kept of the proceedings.

House Speaker Tom Craddick overruled the objection.

Other lawmakers argued that they were assured the bill adopted last month by the House would stay in tact. However, dozens of amendments were added by the Senate and adopted by the conference committee.

"I do not want to be held hostage by the Senate," Carter Casteel, R-New Braunfels, one of the original authors of the bill. "I am sad that I'm standing here today asking you to vote against a bill that I helped author."

Debate on the bill was cut off after about 20 minutes, angering lawmakers who still had questions about some of the measures in the bill.

"I haven't gotten the answers to my questions because there's been no testimony, but we're fixing to make it happen so we better be right," said Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston.


The government reorganization bill has been at the center of a Republican feud between Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and some senators and Dewhurst.

The fellow party members have fought all year over state spending.

The conference committee adopted Senate changes that would strip Strayhorn of her performance review and school district audit programs, transferring the duties to the Legislative Budget Board.

Keel called the move a "political shot at the comptroller."

Strayhorn has been critical of provisions that remove from her office's oversight school performance reviews and the e-Texas report, a biennial list of cost saving proposals. She has said lawmakers were taking the action to punish her for speaking out.

"There are things in here that I support," Eiland said. "A lot of this is good government. But a lot of this is just about political fights and not necessarily about good government and reorganizing government."

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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.


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Redistricting Football

By Byron LaMasters

Football won out over redistricting yesterday, as Republicans punted an opportunity to send the latest redistricting map to Governor Perry yesterday. The House passed a map in the early afternoon, but Democrats stalled a House vote on a government reorganization bill until enough Republicans had left for the Texas / OU game in Dallas, so that remaining House Democrats could scatter, preventing a quorum as only 88 of 150 members were present by Friday evening. Meanwhile, the Senate held off on voting on the redistricting map until the House passed the government reorganization bill, and also tried to resolve the objections to the map from four Senate Republicans.

Some of this post is repeated from other posts. This post is a summary of the events of the past day or two for the Political State Report.

The latest redistricting map would give the GOP the advantage in 22 of 32 districts. It would eliminate the minority majority 24th district held by Martin Frost (and turn it into a GOP seat likely to be won by State Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton)). It would eliminate Lloyd Doggett's 10th district and split Travis County into three districts, one represented by Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), one by a McAllen Democrat and one by an Austin or Houston Republican. Take a look at how it carves up central Austin. The map would also likely lead to the defeat of Reps. Charlie Stenholm, Ralph Hall, Chet Edwards, Max Sandlin, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson. Personally, I believe that this map flagrantly violates the Voting Rights Act. While it creates a new Black plurality 9th district in Houston and a new Hispanic Majority 25th district (Austin to the McAllen), it's only a net increase of one majority minority district, as the 25th is currently a majority minority district in Houston. On the other hand, Laredo is split in half and the Hispanic population of district 23, represented by Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio) drops by 11%. Furthermore, district 24, held by Martin Frost (D-Arlington) is retrogressed from a majority minority district to a white majority district. District 10, held by Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) also shows a significant drop in minority influence. A number of other districts also have similar problems, but the ones mentioned above are the ones that I consider the most obvious. If anyone wants to analyse the districts to see if the plan would hold up in court, take a look at the guidebook from the Minnesota legislature on how to draw defensible redistricting maps.

Greg's Opinion offers another, simpler case for the illegality of the current map. He says that the map's author, Rep. Phil King's comment that his goal was to "defeat as many Democratic incumbents" as possible is the definition a gerrymander by the Supreme Court, which says that a redistricting gerrymander violates the Equal Protection Clause when there is "an intent to discriminate against a political group". That is clearly the case here.

The Austin American Statesman had the best headline today:

The Legislature did its best to keep Austin weird Friday.

The story goes on to recap the events of the day:

After fighting Democrats for six months, the state's Republican leadership began the day without enough Senate Republicans to pass the new congressional map. Then, after hours of delay and more intraparty fighting, the House GOP leadership locked its doors and ordered absent members rounded up because there weren't enough members to consider an unrelated bill that the Senate insisted be passed before it would vote on redistricting.

Just before 11 p.m., the House gave up on finding enough members and adjourned until Sunday afternoon. A little later, the Senate also adjourned until Sunday.

"This is a cat-and-mouse game," Rep. John Mabry, D-Waco, said of his Republican colleagues trying to navigate their own differences.

The Democrats had been the ones holding up a new map, but on Friday the Republicans found the last-minute obstacles within their own party.

The House approved the new congressional boundaries 76-58. And after a daylong debate, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst rallied enough Senate Republicans to support the map.

Then the redistricting flap, already the victim of two Democratic walkouts over the past six months, took another detour.

Although both chambers voted to delay next year's primaries by a week, moving them to March 9, Senate Republicans postponed a vote on redistricting for several hours until the House members could vote on House Bill 7, a government reorganization proposal that strips key powers from Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

The standoff underscored the level of mistrust between the Senate and House and the two Republicans who direct them.

Dewhurst said Speaker Tom Craddick had repeatedly given him his word that the House would pass House Bill 7.

"As Ronald Reagan used to say, 'Trust, but verify,' " Dewhurst said.

The House couldn't take a vote on the reorganization bill until 8 p.m. because of internal legislative rules. By that time, there were only 88 members there, not enough to conduct business. Unlike the last time the House didn't have enough members, the ranks of the absent included Democrats and Republicans.

Craddick already had doubted he could keep a quorum because of the University of Texas-University of Oklahoma football weekend in Dallas. Several lawmakers schedule fund-raisers as part of the football weekend.

Nonetheless, about 5 p.m. the Senate and House were forced to begin a three-hour wait to see whether the House would have enough members by 8 p.m. to conduct business.

Told of the reasons for the delay, Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, said, "Unbelievable."

The Republicans couldn't resist blaming one another.

Dewhurst said he had urged Craddick to "put a call" — requiring all members to be present — at the beginning of Friday's debate.

"It's a long weekend. Folks are trying to, in some cases, get up to Dallas for the Texas-OU game, and I was concerned that, with all of our members here, the speaker might have a hard time maintaining a quorum," Dewhurst said. "I was disappointed we lost that opportunity to get all of our business done this evening."

The proposed map would probably increase GOP membership in the congressional delegation by four to seven seats. Democrats hold a 17-15 advantage under a map drawn by federal judges when the Legislature failed to act in 2001.

But Republicans had more problems than football and mutral distrust between House and Senate leaders. Four GOP Senators had reservations about the final map. With a 19-12 majority in the Senate, Republicans were one vote short early Friday (although it looks now as if they have the votes to pass the map):

Yet Thursday's release of the final map, the result of closed-door negotiations between a handful of House and Senate negotiators, caused several Senate Republicans and one Democrat to reconsider their support.

Sen. Ken Armbrister, the lone Democrat who had supported redistricting, opposed the map because of what it did to his Senate district.

With all 12 Democrats opposed and at least four Republicans leaning against, Dewhurst found himself one vote short of the 16 needed to pass the bill.

That drew Gov. Rick Perry in, lobbying members for their support. He called in his childhood friend, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, to drop his opposition. But Fraser insisted he remained "a solid no" because of what the map did to his Senate district.

Even so, between Perry and Dewhurst, the Republicans finally seemed to have rallied enough votes for the map when they regained support from Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte.

The Statesman also has the roll call from the House vote on the map which passed 76-58. Two Democrats, Vilma Luna, D-Corpus Christi and Ron Wilson, D-Houston voted for passage. Republicans Mike Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, Bob Hunter, R-Abilene, Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria and John Smithee, R-Amarillo voted against the map.

The heated debate also turned to the inevitable court fight. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

"This map will establish balance and fairness to congressional districts by properly reflecting current voting trends," said Rep. Phil King, the Weatherford Republican shepherding the bill.

But Rep. Glenn Lewis, D-Fort Worth, said the plan could run afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act. He said the House leadership ignored advice from their own redistricting attorneys.

"It seems to me that it does not make good common sense. I thought we were smarter than that in Texas," Lewis said.

During one particularly heated exchange, King complained of harassment by Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco.

"I'm not on trial here -- I'm not going to be a badgered witness," King said.

The debate on the Senate side was no less heated. Democrats accused Republicans of ignoring minority voting rights, repeatedly pointing out that many of the African-Americans and Hispanics in Fort Worth and Dallas who united behind U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, an Anglo Democrat from Arlington, would be lumped into districts dominated by conservative Anglo suburbanites.

But the Senate sponsor of the plan put up a vigorous defense.

"I would not have brought this plan forward if I had not truly believed that is a fair plan," said state Todd Staples, R-Palestine. "I do believe it respects communities of interests. I do believe it respects minority representation, that it protects rural interests and reflects the voting trends of Texas."

Democrats in both chambers, who will probably see their party lose its 17-15 edge in the Texas congressional delegation, objected strenuously to the unusual mid-decade redistricting effort and vowed to take the matter to federal judges. They predicted it will not hold up under the 1964 Voting Rights Act.

"See you in court," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.

Sen. Steve Ogden, a Bryan Republican, sharply disputed the notion that only Democrats can represent blacks and Hispanics in Congress.

"Is it fair to stereotype all minorities as Democrats?" said Ogden, reciting the names of several Republican statewide elected officials who are minorities.

The Austin American Statesman outlines the process of the upcoming court fight once a map is passed:

Once the Legislature finishes with congressional redistricting, the fight will shift to the courts — where the precedents are murky and the issues are muddled by the intersection of race and politics.

One outcome is certain, however. There will be an appeal.

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. Further, they argue, the map illegally divides minority communities in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.

"There's not a snowball's chance in hell that it is legal," said U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington, who is targeted for defeat by the new map. "All together, this could disenfranchise as many as 3.6 million minority Texans."

Republicans, taking advantage of sophisticated map-making computer programs and their own cadre of experts, are confident the districts will stand legal scrutiny.

"For Texas, we have advanced minority representation in this state," said state Sen. Todd Staples, one of the map's creators. "I think that's good for Texas."

The Republicans argue that they have either increased the strength of minority districts or created new ones to offset any setbacks. Taken overall, the GOP says, the state will give minorities a greater opportunity to elect the candidates of their choosing.

Once passed and signed into law by the governor, the map will have its first stop at the U.S. Justice Department. The agency will have 60 days to certify that Texas has not reduced the number of minority-opportunity districts.

Michael McDonald, who has studied redistricting as assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason University, predicts Justice Department approval.

"They have a lot of guidance from Justice on what they'll accept or not," he said.

Democrats have voiced skepticism that the agency, run by President Bush appointee John Ashcroft, will seriously study the GOP-drawn map. But an agency spokesman said career attorneys, not political appointees, will review the districts.

"We are a law enforcement agency, and we are not beholden to anybody's politics," spokesman Jorge Martinez said.

Far more uncertain will be the map's fate in federal court, where experts for hire and complex statistical analyses help determine the winner. This is where the hot rhetoric will be cooled by a dry recitation of percentages and population comparisons.

"Who knows what the actual end result will be, and perhaps it's why the Democrats feel they have a chance," McDonald said. "A lot of it depends on the court, so I'm sure they're going to be doing some court shopping."

A Democratic congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the lawsuit will be filed in federal court in Tyler, where a three-judge panel drew up the map used in the 2002 elections.

Still, redistricting cases are notoriously difficult to predict, said Mark Rush, a professor of politics at Washington and Lee University who co-wrote the book "Fair and Effective Representation? Debating Electoral Reform and Minority Rights."

This summer's Supreme Court decision in Georgia v. Ashcroft changed a decade of Voting Rights Act precedent by allowing districts to have lower minority populations if minority-choice candidates can still be elected, Rush said.

"It seems the Supreme Court standards allow any map to pass constitutional muster — or so you would think. But the standards are so vague and contradictory that anybody can try," he said. "It's a hornet's nest because of the political stakes involved."

Elsewhere, there's already talk about who's running for congress. Republicans in Central Texas are eager to take on Rep. Chet Edwards in a new district dividing Edward's bases of Waco and Temple:

The new map also prompted a flurry of rumors regarding candidates thinking of running against Edwards, and changed the plans of those already mounting a campaign.

Former state Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, who was challenging Edwards for his District 11 seat, said he will now run in District 31.

Another challenger, Republican Dot Snyder, said that in order to run against Edwards, she will move from Coryell County to McLennan County.

"I've been campaigning in some of the wrong counties, clearly, but I'm going to begin campaigning in the new district," Snyder said.

State Reps. Fred Brown, R-College Station, and Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, along with state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, were also rumored to be considering a run for Edwards' seat. On Thursday, Brown spokeswoman Melissa Nickolas said he had no current plans to run for a congressional seat.

Ogden spokesman Rich Wright would only say "it's a rumor."

And Wohlgemuth spokesman Alan Burrows said the representative has been receiving phone calls asking her to run for Congress and is "not ready with an answer."

Wohlgemuth has been at odds with Waco leaders in recent years over efforts to control pollution that flows from upstream dairies into Lake Waco, where residents get most of their water.

The Waco Tribune-Herald also weighs in with their editorial urging Sen. Kip Averitt (R-McGreggor) to vote "no". Averitt is considered a solid "yes" vote at this point. Back in Austin, even though the reconfigured district 10 would favor a Republican, Lloyd Doggett has pledged to run for re-election wherever his district may be.

In other editorials, the San Antonio Express-News says that Republicans reached too far. The Beaumont Enterprise slams Tom DeLay's involvement in the redistricting fight.

Finally, the Washington Post is running a story on an internal GOP report on the redistricting battle with some gloating by a legislative aide to Rep. Joe Barton:

The analysis of the plan, written by the legislative counsel to U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), provides a rare public glimpse into the inner workings of the congressional redistricting process, which both political parties use to advance their own cause and hurt the opposition.

In the case of the Texas GOP plan, the analysis described how steps were taken to try to protect the plan from legal challenge under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but also how minority voters would be shifted into Republican-dominated suburban districts and how a new district in West Texas was crafted to meet the aspirations of a friend of President Bush.

"This is the most aggressive map I have ever seen," Joby Fortson wrote in the analysis, which he e-mailed to congressional aides. "This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood."

Fortson predicted that Texas Republicans would pick up six to seven new House seats in next year's congressional elections if the plan withstands the expected legal challenge by Democrats. His analysis tracks closely with an analysis by the staff of U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), which said the new district lines would endanger the reelection chances of at least seven Democratic incumbents.

It is not known whether Fortson played any role in drafting the redistricting plan, but his views about its probable impact closely parallel those of Democratic and independent political analysts.

Referring to new districts that would stretch from around the state capital of Austin to the border with Mexico, Fortson said they were "part of the voting rights protection element" in the plan. The districts are designed to be dominated by minority voters even as Republicans would make gains elsewhere.

Fortson appeared to take special delight in writing about what he predicted would be the fate of two Texas Democrats, Frost and Rep. Lloyd Doggett. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha . . .," he wrote before describing how the plan would affect their districts.

Discussing Frost's district, which runs between Fort Worth and Dallas, Fortson said, "It simply disappears." He said black voters in Fort Worth would be shifted into a Republican-dominated district, black voters in Dallas would be sent to a nearby district that is already heavily black, and Hispanic voters would be moved into another GOP district.

"This is the D's best legal challenge as inner city Fort Worth will now be outnumbered in a Republican suburban district," Fortson wrote. However, he added, because the plan would also create a new African American district in Houston, it should withstand a challenge under the Voting Rights Act.

Doggett represents the liberal bastion of Austin and, according to the analysis, his district would be dismembered. His new territory would run from a conservative section in north central Austin to the outskirts of Houston and is "very Republican," Fortson wrote.


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Kung-Fu Perrymander!

By Jim Dallas

The Washington Post reports today on internal Republican documents which perfectly illustrates what a JUDO CHOP! the Thursday Morning Massacre Map is.

The analysis of the plan, written by the legislative counsel to U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), provides a rare public glimpse into the inner workings of the congressional redistricting process, which both political parties use to advance their own cause and hurt the opposition.

In the case of the Texas GOP plan, the analysis described how steps were taken to try to protect the plan from legal challenge under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but also how minority voters would be shifted into Republican-dominated suburban districts and how a new district in West Texas was crafted to meet the aspirations of a friend of President Bush.

"This is the most aggressive map I have ever seen," Joby Fortson wrote in the analysis, which he e-mailed to congressional aides. "This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood."

"Assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood?" So much for the House of Representatives being the voice of the people in Washington.

Such is the ruthless villainy of redistricting. Heck, they've even got the official "villain laugh" down pat.

Fortson appeared to take special delight in writing about what he predicted would be the fate of two Texas Democrats, Frost and Rep. Lloyd Doggett. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha . . .," he wrote before describing how the plan would affect their districts.

Yeah, it's so funny I can barely contain myself.

Anyhow, the GOP memo is not just a partisan circle-jerk. The Post notes that the report closely follows (in analysis, obviously, but not in tone) as a report put out by Martin Frost (whose district "simply disappears"), who predicts Democrats will lose at least seven seats.

(My prediction was for a loss of five or six seats, but I was apparently overoptimistic).

Moreover, Barton's aide goes on to express confidence that the map will survive any legal ju-jitsu the Democrats try and throw at it:

"This is the D's best legal challenge as inner city Fort Worth will now be outnumbered in a Republican suburban district," Fortson wrote. However, he added, because the plan would also create a new African American district in Houston, it should withstand a challenge under the Voting Rights Act.

Despite the fact that he goes on to write --

Computer technology has made redistricting highly precise, a point illustrated by Fortson's analysis. It said Hispanic voters, who vote heavily Democratic, would be shifted from Frost's old district into a district represented by Rep. Pete Sessions (R), but that Sessions's territory would remain dominated by "rich Dallas and North Dallas."

I wonder what relationship Fortson has with the Kool-Aid Kids who drew the current redistricting map. If he's speaking for himself, then it doesn't mean much. On the other hand, if he's got insider knowledge, this ought to be People's Exhibit Number One that this "fair" redistricting map is an illegal partisan gerrymander.

UPDATE: A little googling informs me that Fortson is formerly an aide to Van Hilleary and:

Joby Fortson, 32, is the new legislative counsel for Barton. The Dallas native graduated from the University of Virginia, where he received his bachelor’s in government and foreign affairs. He also holds a law degree from the University of Texas.

Although I can't tell he'd have much insider business presently in Austin. Somebody (perhaps someone who hangs around the capitol more than I do) --prove me wrong.

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October 10, 2003

Redistricting held hostage?

By Jim Dallas

The plot thickens...

Quorum Report suggests that Lite Guv Dewhurst is holding up a vote on redistricting (HB3) until the House passes a government reorganization bill (HB7). QR notes that Sen. Staples has asked for a vote sometime after 8:15 pm.

To me, this seems a little odd, especially since we've been hearing all day that 4 Republican senators need "persuasion."

Regadless, something odd is going down....

We may find out in about an hour.

UPDATE: It's 9:10, and the Senate is still standing at ease pending a quorum in the House (Lite Guv Dewhurst got up and announced at about 8:20 that the House was seven members short of a quorum). It would be surprising to me if anything else happened for a while.

UPDATE 2: The lead graf in this morning's Statesman reads --

The Legislature did its best to keep Austin weird Friday."

Ain't that the truth! The article also claims that Sen. Mike Jackson, R - La Porte, is back on the redistricting bandwagon. So there is a good chance that the votes will be there for passage late Sunday.

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Doggett's hat in ring, no matter what.

By Jim Dallas

So sayeth the Statesman.

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My 14 Block Trip to Campus...

By Byron LaMasters

Would be a journey through 3 congressional districts under the HB3 - Conference Committee Report 10-9-03. I would reside in district 10, represented by a Republican from Austin (if I'm lucky *cringe*) or from the Houston / Katy area. The campus of the University of Texas would be located in a district represented by Lamar Smith of San Antonio, and in between I'd have the opportunity to travel three blocks through a district likely to be represented by a McAllen Democrat:

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House passes redistricting map

By Jim Dallas

The vote was 77 to 59 in favor.

The Houston Chronicle , San Antonio Express News, and Fort Worth Star Telegram have more.

Quorum Report notes that the House is currently taking up HB1, moving the primary date back a week, and that the first lawsuits are already flying.

The Austin American Statesman reports that 4 GOP Senators are skeptical about the map -- enough to kill the map if they hold firm.

Senator Troy Fraser of Horsehoe Bay says he is a solid "no". Sen. Bill Ratliff of Mt. Pleasant has been opposed to redistricting all along. The other dissenting Republicans are Sen. Mike Jackson (La Porte), and Sen. Teel Bivins (Amarillo).

Debate in the Senate continues, with the outcome suddenly uncertain.

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October 09, 2003

Reaction to the Thursday Morning Massacre

By Jim Dallas

Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) says that Gov. Perry has reneged on his promise to protect Hispanic voters (who are probably the biggest losers in the spate of proposed districts which would merge Central Texas with the Valley).

Rep. Barry Telford (D-DeKalb) calls it "thuggery"

(See the Quorum Report)

Meanwhile, Gov. Perry says the map was "worth the debate" and Rep. Phil King (R) says the map is "legally sound."

The biggest critics, undoubtedly, will be from Austin, which gets sliced-and-diced (or stabbed in the back, depending on which Ginsu knife metaphor you prefer more).

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin):

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D- Austin, said the new maps are "bad for Texas".

"The devastating thing is being, the capital city, is being torn into three congressional districts. This is the district that Lyndon Johnson and [Jake] Pickle represented is now going to be mostly in Houston ... 63 percent Republican,” Barrientos said.

Barrientos also said the new congressional districts leave no contested races between the two parties.

From looking at the TLC report (which wasn't available this morning), it looks like there's only 10 real Democratic districts in this map - one in Dallas, three in Houston, one in San Antonio, one in El Paso, and four which run parallel from Central Texas to the Valley.

Chris Bell is a goner. Chet Edwards and Nick Lampson are both in 60-40 Republican districts. I expect Sandlin and Turner to both be in significant trouble. Doggett is almost certainly toast. As is Stenholm.

Most likely this map will lead to a 20-12 or 21-11 split. This is way beyond the 56 percent threshold of "fairness" upon which this enterprise is founded upon. Of course, we knew that would happen.

Here's a color-coded map to simplify things. Red districts are those that went in Republican in 2002; Blue are Democratic districts.


A vote is scheduled for Friday.

SOME NOTES: pc thinks Martin Frost is OUT, and I'm inclined to agree due to the fact that the only Dem-leaning DFW district is probably not going to be his turf.

Incidentally, this map is a work-of-art in terms of one person, one vote. The smallest district has only one less person (at least according to the unadjusted census count; which probably means thousands of Texans are not actually counted, but c'est la vie) than the largest district. 651,619 people in the smallest compared to 651,620 people for the largest.That's not easy to do -- I'm impressed.

Someday I would like to be a gerrymander-er extraordinaire...

EDIT: Yes, I originally said "9 Democratic seats". It's 10. I screwed up the math, which should have been obvious (1+3+1+1+4).

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ATTN: Amateur Legal Scholars

By Jim Dallas

This is an interesting little guidebook from the Minnesota legislature on how to draw defensible redistricting maps.

As the saying goes, it takes a thief to catch a thief.

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Republicans Agree on Most Evil Map Ever(!)

By Jim Dallas

As Byron noted, the House-Senate conference committee approved a map early this morning, which ought to be christened the "Thursday Morning Massacre" for what it does to Central and East Texas.

Under the map, Lloyd Doggett is toast (there can be no debate about that). Austin is split three ways into a district that runs from North Austin to Houston, a district that runs from Southeast Austin to the Rio Grande, and a district which lumps San Marcos, South Austin, West Austin, New Braunfels, and Northern San Antonio together.

On the upside, Chet Edwards may yet survive in the proposed 17th. It seems to me that Martin Frost is in trouble. Nick Lampson might pull a victory out in the new 2nd district. Stenholm is most likely a goner.

In a much-needed change, Galveston, Lake Jackson, and Victoria were finally put together into a new, coastal-bend-based 14th district that will put the Island in Ron Paul's district (hey, I might still follow up on my threat to run there in 2008, but it's a pretty reasonable district). Overall I think this will improve the coastal bend's influence in Congress, and I've for that.

The very oddly-shaped West Texas districts have "gerrymander" written all over them, and I

But other than that - and the off possibility that Eddie Rodriguez might want to run for Congress (to put it gently, his chances in the proposed 25th District are very good) - this map is a complete disaster.

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New Map

By Byron LaMasters

It's Here. I'm sure that there will be a lot of redistricting related news over the next 24 hours, but I'm afraid that my posting will be limited due to school, studying, work, etc. Andrew or Jim might be able to fill in with redistricting news, otherwise, check out Off the Kuff.

Update: I see that Charles will be taking off for Europe later today (Have a fun/safe trip). I'll probably have time to post some headlines tonight, but I'll have to hold off to tomorrow or Saturday for analysis, etc.

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Time for Another Trip...

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it looks like the GOP has a deal. I'd love to see the Democrats disappear to Louisiana or somewhere, but I doubt that it'll happen. The Dallas Morning News reports: (Other accounts in the Austin American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Fort Worth Star Telegram and San Antonio Express-News):

After nearly six months of give, take, punch and counterpunch, exhausted House and Senate negotiators said they finally reached a deal Wednesday on redrawing congressional boundaries so Republicans can win more seats next year.

The breakthrough – termed "an agreement in principle" – came after personal intervention by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as lawmakers settled the nettlesome question of how to remap West Texas.

The plan appeared to meet the one overriding desire of all the Republicans involved: It probably has the votes to pass, over the angry opposition of Democrats, who stand to lose control of the state's congressional delegation.

"We're counting [votes among House members], we're making calls and trying to count right now," said House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland. "We're very hopeful that we'll have an agreement."

The new district map, which was not immediately made public, could net the GOP an additional six or seven seats among the 32-member Texas delegation – and that could solidify the Republicans' hold on the U.S. House. At present, Texas Democrats hold a 17-15 advantage.

Republicans believe they can pick off seven Democratic congressmen: Chet Edwards of Waco, Martin Frost of Arlington, Ralph Hall of Rockwall, Nick Lampson of Beaumont, Max Sandlin of Marshall, Charles Stenholm of Abilene and Jim Turner of Crockett.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, Mr. Frost's congressional district was redrawn to give state Rep. Ken Marchant, R-Coppell, a clear shot at going to Washington.

With most negotiators saying that only minute details remain to be worked out, a slight lingering doubt about the "doneness" of the deal in the Legislature's third special session persisted among participants Wednesday evening.

State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, warned that the supposed resolution of the West Texas question came in a form that might be rejected by three Panhandle Republicans.

According to a person involved in the talks, the resolution followed a closed-door meeting among Republican senators at which it was made clear to one of the key negotiators, Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, that the map finally agreed upon was the best the Senate could get.

Formal announcement of the deal was expected Thursday. The House and Senate could take it up Friday, a legally required 24 hours after the expected Thursday morning printing and distribution of the map. During that wait, the plan will also be checked by staff members and lawyers.

For Republicans, disagreement among their own party members proved stubbornly deep-seated after the return of Democratic senators who had fled Texas to block a vote. In grueling horse-trading, night after night, they were reminded anew of how hometown interests – the essence of congressional mapmaking – can erase the ties that normally bind.

Under terms of the deal, Mr. Duncan agreed that his home district would include GOP-dominated Deaf Smith County – which he wanted – as a condition for accepting Eastland County – which he did not, said a person involved in the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Eastland County also is a Republican stronghold, but one that has favored Mr. Stenholm, an influential member of the House Agriculture Committee. Mr. Duncan had resisted including that county and other Stenholm bases to avoid forcing Lubbock-area voters to choose between Mr. Stenholm and Rep. Randy Neugebauer, the freshman congressman from Mr. Duncan's district.

House and Senate negotiators were planning a joint appearance Thursday to outline details of the new map.

"All of this is a credit to the leadership of the House and the Senate," said Mr. DeLay, who has been in Austin since Monday, meeting in marathon sessions with legislative leaders.

Mr. DeLay appeared to have overcome the longstanding chilliness – at times hostility – between Mr. Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

"It was a good process," Mr. Dewhurst said.

If a deal were formalized Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry's office believes it still is possible to hold the state's primary using the new map March 2 as scheduled, said Mike Toomey, the governor's chief of staff.
The pressure to avoid postponing the primary – which would include the presidential contest – was not the only hatchet hanging over negotiators' heads.

If delays persisted, the negotiating might have bumped into Saturday's big Texas-Oklahoma football game in Dallas.

After that, the end of the 30-day special session looms at midnight Tuesday. If filibustering Democrats in the Senate could delay a vote on redistricting past the end of the session, Mr. Perry would have to call a fourth special session to get a map passed, a move he pledged earlier he would not need to do.

For Democrats, any delay increases the chance that there will not be enough time before the election for the state to get required approval of the new map from the federal Justice Department.

It's expected that Democrats will file lawsuits in an attempt to invalidate the map, saying it illegally reduces minority voting power. The losing side in redistricting battles frequently files such challenges.

"In their political greed, the Republicans have overreached," said state Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "If we have anything other than partisanship out of the Justice Department, this map will not become law. And luckily we have a court to review it and say it's improper."

Mr. Dunnam cited, for example, the treatment of Travis County, where Democratic incumbent Lloyd Doggett of Austin would be forced to run in a heavily Hispanic district running to the Rio Grande.

Democrats also have complained that the Dallas and Houston suburbs will dominate rural areas in many of the redrawn congressional districts.

"We've said all along if a map passes, the true loser is the state of Texas, because we have a senior delegation that delivers a lot of results for the state," Mr. Dunnam said. "Just to get rid of our seniority in Congress just to benefit a few partisans is not putting Texas first."

Republicans have defended their efforts, saying the districts need to be shifted to reflect the increase in voter support of the GOP, which holds all statewide offices.

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October 08, 2003

There's a Deal! Wait, there's Not!

By Byron LaMasters

Another Snafu for Republicans, via the Quorum Report:

October 8, 2003 1:27 PM WE JUMPED THE GUN ON THE REDISTRICTING MAP No map yet. Confirmation is that House and Senate adjourned until Friday If there was a map, it would be laid out today on brought to the floor of both chambers tomorrow. While there has been some modest movement, as far as we can tell, it is marginal at best.

October 8, 2003 12:13 PM
Official announcement to be made early this afternoon

Republicans new found progress is largely due to Tom DeLay's visit to the capitol yesterday:

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay spent his second day at the Texas Capitol Tuesday, trying to hammer out a Republican deal on congressional redistricting.

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, declared victory near after a meeting with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, the lead Senate negotiator.

"It's very, very close. The lieutenant governor has laid out some very interesting maps. We're almost there," DeLay said. But late Tuesday, Staples said no agreement could be reached.

"I really thought we might have reached something tonight, but that escaped us," Staples said.

But Staples and Speaker Tom Craddick's spokesman, Bob Richter, indicated there still were problems in working out districts for West Texas -- problems that have halted a final deal on the map since last week.

"It's generally west of I-35 where we're trying to resolve the differences," Staples said.

DeLay is deeply invested in the Texas redistricting process. He prompted lawmakers to start the battle in April. And last year he founded Texans for a Republican Majority, which poured almost $1.5 million into capturing the Texas House majority for Republicans.

In other redistricting news, House Democrats released the following statement yesterday in a press conference:

Today, House Democrats cited three abusive examples of a redistricting process that seeks to cancel the votes and the voting rights of Texans at the expense of the state’s real priorities at a press conference today.

1. The actions of last Sunday on the House floor, when the Speaker refused to recognize the majority of members on the House floor who had the votes to adjourn sine die;
2. the effort to change the primary election date - a completely unnecessary and
unwarranted move that will take this abusive process from the halls of the Capitol to neighborhoods and a polling places across the state; and
3. the ultimate “bait and switch” Republican map trick - one that ignored Senate and House passed plans that left the existing minority opportunity districts intact and appears certain to produce a “new” and very different final plan that ignores the legal record made on the House and Senate floor to dramatically alter minority districts, illegally reducing the number of effective minority opportunity districts from 11 to 10.

“The press should cover redistricting like a crime instead of a sporting event - because the participants are not “players,” they are perpetrators of a historic and blatant abuse of power that has never been seen before in the halls of this Capitol,” said Rep. Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston).

“The victims of this abuse of power are the people of Texas who have seen their leaders spend $57,000 dollars a day, wasting millions of tax dollars on a partisan power grab while basic needs like health care and education go unmet,” said Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin). “Political power has taken priority over the people's business.”

“The Speaker’s actions on Sunday have put any bill adopted this session in jeopardy, because by all rights, the House should no longer be in session,” said Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont).

“Today, Democrats and minorities are being treated like an afterthought in a ‘bait and switch’ process that is stalled by a West Texas power melodrama, but the whole redistricting effort will come undone because it blatantly violates the Voting Rights Act,” concluded Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin).

Meanwhile, newspapers across the state have renewed their slaming of the redistricting effort on the editorial pages. Predictably, the Austin American Statesman denounced redistricting again, as does the San Antonio Express-News here and here. The Dallas Morning News editorializes against Republican plans to move the primary date, and the Amarillo Globe-News just wants the clowns sent home. The Fort Worth Star Telegram lists Redistricting Wrongs I, II and III. Even the conservative El Paso Times got into the act, urging Gov. Perry not to call a fourth special session on redistricting. Lastly, the Lufkin Daily News . aand the Abilene Reporter News lashed out at the Republicans lack of leadership. Wow. Links via Save Texas Reps.

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October 06, 2003

Craddick Breaks the Rules

By Byron LaMasters

And KVUE News has a record of it. More details in my earlier post.

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Primary Likely to be Delayed

By Byron LaMasters

Today is the deadline to pass a redistricting map that would be able to go into effect by the March 2nd primary as 90 days from now (the time it takes for a law to become effective) is the filing deadline for the primary. Only a two-thirds majority in both houses could shorten the 90 day wait (which won't happen becuase Democrats would oppose the move). Thus the only solution for Republicans after today would be to move the March 2nd primary back. The Houston Chronicle reports:

"Republican infighting over congressional redistricting Sunday apparently will cost Texas its spot in the "Super Tuesday" primaries that could decide who is the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.

The House and Senate had planned to come in Sunday to debate a final GOP congressional redistricting proposal. But after negotiations between Republican legislators broke down Saturday, both chambers met briefly, then adjourned until Wednesday.

Secretary of State Geoff Connor has said that if a plan is not adopted by midnight today he will not be able to conduct a primary as scheduled on March 2. Connor, the state's chief elections officer, said the primary would have to be moved to March 9.

"I know the Senate was very determined to get this done before we had to change any primary dates," said Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, one of the Senate negotiators. "We have, in essence, missed that deadline."

Duncan said that if a redistricting bill is passed, the primary date will have to be pushed back for the new congressional district lines to be used in the 2004 elections.

"Right now, we don't have any choice if we want to move a redistricting bill forward," said Duncan.


If a redistricting bill is passed, it would not take effect until 90 days after Gov. Rick Perry signs it. Connor's office then would need enough time to allow candidates to file for the races, print ballots and hold early voting.

Moving the primary might also cause problems among Republicans. Dan Branch is quoted here as opposing such a move:

The primary date was shifted from March 9 to March 2 under a bill approved during the regular legislative session. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said the primary was moved so it will not be held in the midst of the public school spring break.

Branch last week said he did not believe there were enough votes in the House to move the primary back to March 9.

King and House Speaker Tom Craddick said they have the votes to move the date. Duncan said he did not know whether the Senate could support the date change.

Of course, the change in the primary date would also have national implications:

By moving to March 2, Texas joined some of the nation's largest states in holding a presidential primary on the same day. The other states include California, New York and Ohio.

"If the primary is moved from March 2, Texas Democrats will have no voice in who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party," said state House Democratic Chairman Jim Dunnam of Waco.

Dunnam said most candidates will have been winnowed out of the race either before or on March 2.

"I'd like to have a voice in who is going to oppose George Bush," Dunnam said.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, described moving the primary as un-American.

"That's something that happens in other places," Coleman said. "We don't move elections in the United States of America to make room for power grabs."

The drama on Sunday was in the House, where a dozen Democrats attempted to shut down the session. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports:

While Republican legislative leaders continued to squabble among themselves over congressional redistricting, a band of Democratic lawmakers hatched a plan Sunday that could have killed the process, which they have been fighting since spring.

But the plan, which came on the day that legislative leaders needed to have an agreement on redistricting without moving the March 2 primaries, was scuttled by Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick, who was unaware of what the Democrats had been planning.

Here's how it happened:

With redistricting at an impasse, both legislative chambers had been out of action since Thursday. But they had to reconvene Sunday to avoid breaking a state constitutional requirement that prohibits either chamber from taking more than three consecutive days off during a legislative session.

So Craddick called the House to order to hear a motion to adjourn until Wednesday. But just as he was slamming down his gavel to make the adjournment official, about a dozen Democrats shouted their objections.

If Craddick had not ignored them, the Democrats would have offered an amended motion to call off the session and send House members home. And it might have worked because almost none of the Republican members had shown up to vote it down.

"Our intention was to move to adjourn sine die and put an end to all of this," said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, using the Latin phrase that translates roughly to "without a set date" and is legislative slang for calling it quits.

Democrats later accused Craddick of ignoring House rules and operating in a "dictatorial" fashion. Through a spokesman, Craddick, R-Midland, said that the Democrats were late in announcing their objection and that the gavel fell before their voices were raised.

"He didn't know what they were up to," said Bob Richter, the speaker's press secretary. "He knew there were certain troublemakers out on the House floor, and [House leaders] were expecting something, but they didn't know what it was."

Democrats were, of course, outraged:

"In the Texas House of Representatives, the rules have no meaning under Tom Craddick's leadership," said Rep. Paul Mabry, D-Waco. "He blatantly, blatantly defied the written letter of the law as set out by the House rules."

Craddick later issued a statement in which he said that because there was no quorum present, his only options were to recognize a motion to put a call on the House or adjourn.

And here:

"He called us Chicken D's," said Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, recalling Craddick's nickname for the 51 Democrats who fled to Oklahoma in May to stop a vote on congressional redistricting. "But I never saw anyone run as fast as he did. It was a complete act of cowardice."


Dunnam said the speaker's quick gavel was another example of an autocratic leader with a Republican majority overrunning the Democrats — even when the Republicans didn't show up. He said Sunday's brouhaha is likely to end up in litigation over a final map.

The drama continues.

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By Byron LaMasters

I'll post on it later today... I promise. Heh.

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October 02, 2003

Just Enjoy

By Byron LaMasters

I'm sure there will be more on this coming up, but for now, enjoy:

DEWHURST COMPARES CRADDICK REDISTRICTING TEAM TO IRANIAN CAB DRIVERS Impasse now over 8-3 plan, possible Marchant seat, and West Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has told House Speaker Tom Craddick and his redistricting conference conferees to stop playing "Iranian cab driver negotiations where you get what you want and you start adding two or three other requests."

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Deal Falls Apart, Perry Shrugs

By Byron LaMasters

Well, the Great Republican Redistricting Compromise lasted, well, less than a day. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The GOP tug-of-war dragged on Wednesday, as immovable Republican leaders defied the governor's prediction of a deal to end the standoff over congressional redistricting.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, swatted aside the Senate's version of an olive branch, a proposed plan his spokesman said "would not do any of the things that the speaker would want."

"They're absolutely apart" on the specifics of a plan to boost the number of Republicans in Congress, said Bob Richter, Mr. Craddick's press secretary.

Senate mapmakers, in announcing their offer of a compromise over West Texas districts, accused their House counterparts of stubbornness.

Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, the author of the Senate's map, said Mr. Craddick appears ready to block passage of any redistricting plan if he doesn't get his way on every detail of a Midland-dominated congressional district the Senate's already agreed to create.

"We believe that position is unreasonable," Mr. Staples said.

They also disagree on the timetable for a deal, and whether it's worth moving back the primary, costing taxpayers millions of dollars:

If a map is not approved soon, Republicans may have to pass another bill delaying the state's March primary to allow enough time for a federal review of the redistricting plan to assure it doesn't violate the Voting Rights Act.

Mr. Richter irritated senators when he said Tuesday that there's no rush to pass a map because the Legislature can delay the primary. The House's top mapmaker, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, echoed the sentiment late Wednesday.

"We're in no hurry. We'll take whatever time we need," Mr. King said.

But Mr. Staples said such a delay would be disrespectful to voters and candidates, and costly, especially if lawmakers opt for two primary elections – one in March for everything except congressional seats and one later for Congress using the new districts.

"We believe that cavalier statements about an issue as important as maintaining the election dates is counterproductive to negotiating in good faith," the senator said. "The deadline, the hour, draws near."

And now, Rick Perry has basically said that he was just kidding when he said that redistricting must be passed by next Monday:

Last week, Mr. Perry called next Monday a "drop-dead" date for passing a bill. As his timetable appeared in jeopardy Wednesday, the governor downplayed his opposition to shifting the primary date.

"If that is what's required, then that is what's required," he said. "When we have that election is not as important as having the election" using a map drawn by elected legislators instead of the current map, which was drawn by judges, Mr. Perry said.

"Now with that said, I would rather them not have to be changing primary dates," he added.

And the problem, once again is once again west Texas. No one wants Charlie Stenholm to run in their district.

The latest volley came at a noon news conference Wednesday.

Mr. Staples, Mr. Duncan and Mr. Hinojosa said the Senate would accept three West Texas districts as proposed by Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson. They challenged the House to negotiate the rest of the state with them later Wednesday.

"The Senate's met the deadline," Mr. Staples said. "We encourage the House to engage in this process."

But Mr. King, author of the House's map, said the House can't accept the senators' proposal. "It's not a template we can work from," he said.

And Ms. Wohlgemuth noted that senators had rejected a key portion of her proposed West Texas compromise – splitting Abilene, Mr. Stenholm's hometown, so that he would be in the most vulnerable position possible.

"The issue was that neither Midland nor Lubbock wanted to be running against incumbent Charlie Stenholm," Ms. Wohlgemuth said.

The Houston Chronicle is now reporting that Speaker Craddick has taken a position that there will be a Midland based district, or their will be no redistricting at all:

With House and Senate negotiators apparently stalled on how to draw a congressional district for Speaker Tom Craddick's hometown of Midland, passage of a redistricting bill seems endangered.

Senate conference committee members criticized the House for refusing to negotiate. They also seized on statements that likely Midland congressional candidate K. Michael Conaway made Tuesday to the Houston Chronicle that Craddick was committed to a Midland district or no redistricting plan at all.

That surprises me, personally. I thought that Craddick would eventually budge. And then now there's the San Antonio Express News reporting on the spat between Wohlgemuth and Craddick:

The senators argued that Wohlgemuth's map was identical to one favored by the Texas Republican congressional delegation, which could change the delegation to 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Currently, there are 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

"That being the case, and (Wohlgemuth) being a top member of the House leadership team, how could a top Republican leader offer a compromise on West Texas that the speaker has rejected?" Staples questioned.

But a Wohlgemuth aide countered that the legislator had no idea the senators were going to take just the West Texas part of her proposed map. It's not even the part she wanted changed.

"She had no indication they were going to take her map and graft it like they did, and she is a little surprised, needless to say," said Erica Phillips, Wohlgemuth's legislative director.

Craddick sought to distance himself from the Wohlgemuth map, which he said had not seen.

"Rep. Wohlgemuth is not a member of the House Redistricting Committee, has not participated to date in the House-Senate negotiations on redistricting, and did not speak to me or for me — or the House — in drawing her map," Craddick said in a prepared statement.

Finally, in a weird column, Dave McNeely warns David Dewhurst not to follow the mistakes of LBJ. I can see the connection, but the whole comparison is just quite a stretch in several ways. First, David Dewhurst is not LBJ. One was a President, the other is a first-year Lt. Governor. Second, the wave of compassion LBJ had in 1963 was because of JFK's death. Dewhurst's "wave of compassion" is over, and it was based simply on trust that he had built up over several months this spring. LBJ had built relationships on Capitol Hill for decades by 1963. Finally, I wouldn't compare the two-thirds rule in the Texas legislature to the Vietnam War. It's just a little out there, and it surprises me a bit.

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October 01, 2003

Is there a Deal?

By Byron LaMasters

School (the last week or two has been the first round of tests and papers) and work have kept me busy recently (yeah, I got a job here in Austin two weeks ago to help out with bills and spending money (that doesn't mean I still don't appreciate donations) and all since I didn't have one over the summer. I'd certainly appreciate visitors, but I'm not about to post where I work on here, so if you're interested feel free to email me and ask.). So, in case you all are wondering, that's why posting has been a little lighter recently. As for redistricting, Charles, as always, has been on top of things. Check out his post over on Political State Report today. I've also been a little quiet on redistricting, because well, there hasn't been much new news. The conference committee has been meeting with little success towards working out the west Texas and other conflicts between the House and the Senate. It seems as if there's a new twist each day, but the conflict remains the same.

However, today, it looks as if all that might be changing. The AP reports:

Senate negotiators hammering out a congressional redistricting plan today presented what they called a good solution to solve a dispute with the House over how to draw West Texas on the new map.

It was not immediately clear how the House viewed the proposal.

The plan by Sens. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, and Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, would create a district that includes the cities of Midland and Abilene. Another district would include San Angelo and Lubbock.

Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland has been pushing for a district that would make his hometown the base for a congressional seat. The existing map has Lubbock and Midland together in a district represented by U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a rookie Republican from Lubbock.

"This is a reasonable solution to this problem," Duncan said.

I'm not sure what Robert Duncan's definition of "reasonable" is, but here's the map. It was partially inspired by yesterday's map by State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth. Basically what the map does is put Midland/Odessa in a district with Abilene, and Lubbock in a district with San Angelo. Currently Lubbock is paired with Midland Odessa and is represented by Randy Neugebauer. Charlie Stenholm represents the 17th district with includes San Angelo and Abilene. Duncan opposed a district that paired Abilene and Lubbock, because he feared that Stenholm (with his Abilene base) would defeat Neugebauer. This map, however puts Stenholm into the new Midland / Odessa dominated district. The map is ugly, but it just might be a compromise that Republicans can agree on.

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September 28, 2003

Strayhorn Says Redistricting is Wrong Priority

By Byron LaMasters

The two major clashes in Texas politics this year have collided. Clash number one is redistricting. Clash number two is the internal GOP bickering between Carole Keyton Strayhorn and Governor Perry and the legislature. Now, they've hit head on:

In an escalating feud with fellow Republicans, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn chided Gov. Rick Perry and GOP leaders for pursuing back-to-back sessions on redistricting instead of school finance.

"The Legislature is spending their time climbing up hills when we have a mountain looming out there," said Mrs. Strayhorn in an interview to be televised Sunday. "And the mountain looming out there is school finance reform."

Mr. Perry, who has summoned lawmakers into three special sessions to redraw the state's 32 congressional boundaries, on Friday dismissed Mrs. Strayhorn's remarks.

"Everyone has their opinion," he said. "I disagree with it."

Mrs. Strayhorn has been critical of legislative spending and is seen by some analysts as a potential rival to Mr. Perry or Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the next statewide election.

In an interview for the news program Project Texas with Wayne Slater, to be aired Sunday on Texas Cable News (TXCN, Channel 38), Mrs. Strayhorn said she enjoys being comptroller, the state's chief fiscal officer. But she wouldn't rule out the possibility of challenging either of the state's top Republican leaders.

"To all those people across the state who ask me to serve, I never say never," she said.

A popular candidate who has billed herself "one tough grandma," Mrs. Strayhorn was the top vote-getter in last year's elections.
Mr. Perry on Friday stepped up his political squabble with Mrs. Strayhorn, saying he supports an effort to strip her office of two high-profile programs.

The Senate voted Thursday to transfer the comptroller's performance review and school district audit programs to the Legislative Budget Board. Backers say it will help streamline state government. Mrs. Strayhorn has said lawmakers were taking the action to punish her for speaking out.

As for redistricting, Mrs. Strayhorn said in the interview that GOP leaders have been so focused on finding a way to get more Republican seats in Congress that they have neglected the state's beleaguered system for funding public schools.

"The most important issue that this state needs to address right now is school finance," she said.

"The state has got to pick up more of the share. Homeowners have to have property tax relief, and we've got to have equity" of funding among school districts, she said. "That's a huge challenge. That's what in a real bipartisan way we've got to address and address now."

Mr. Perry said that if state leaders can reach a consensus on a new funding scheme for schools, he intends to call the Legislature back into special session early next year. Only the governor can set the agenda for special sessions.

The state's system of funding schools is under court challenge. Property-wealthy districts want to eliminate the "Robin Hood" formula that redistributes money to property-poor districts. At the same time, property-poor districts say the state needs to put more money into the system.

Texas schools are funded through a combination of property taxes, state tax dollars and some federal funds.

Some lawmakers say the extended fight over redistricting, during which House and Senate Democrats fled the state to delay adoption of a new map, has produced highly charged partisanship in the Legislature that could damage agreement on issues such as school finance.

"We definitely need to have a bipartisan arrangement," Mrs. Strayhorn said. "We need to all roll up our sleeves together and get to work on the big issue, and that's school finance."

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September 25, 2003

Perry's Map: "An Abomination on its face"

By Byron LaMasters

That's what today's Amarillo Globe-News editorial says:

West Texas had been losing its political clout in little bites over many years. That is, until Gov. Rick Perry unveiled a congressional redistricting map that demonstrates a sudden, and none too welcome, shift in the region's political fortunes. West Texas seems to be losing power in one giant swallow.

Perry's map splits the Panhandle in two. The 13th Congressional District, now represented by Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, would cover the eastern half, with the 19th District, now represented by Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, comprising the western portion.

The map is an abomination on its face.

Here is the map that Rick Perry proposed earlier this week:

Sources: Greg's Opinion and The Lasso.

Greg also has a good post comparing congressional returns in given precincts / counties for Charlie Stenholm and other Texas Democratic Congressmen in GOP districts as compared to Perry and Bush's performances in the same precinct / county. Take a look, here.

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September 24, 2003

Map Passes Senate, Republicans Fighting

By Byron LaMasters

The Texas Senate passed a new congressional map tonight by a vote of 18-13. The House and Senate Republicans still remain deadlocked over the west Texas question. Rick Perry said today that if the situation isn't resolved this session, he'll.... call another session. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Here is the map passed by the House.

Here is the map passed by the Senate.

As the Senate tentatively approved a Republican congressional redistricting plan after almost eight hours of debate Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry raised the specter of a fourth special session if the bill fails because of GOP infighting over West Texas.

The legislation passed on a mostly partisan 18-13 vote. The only Republican to vote against the map was Sen. Teel Bivins, of Amarillo, who favors creation of a new congressional district around Midland. The Senate map does not create such a district.

Democratic senators entered the debate admitting Republicans have the votes to pass legislation redrawing the state's congressional district boundaries. They spent the debate building a future federal court challenge to the legislation, accusing the Republicans of a partisan power grab that will harm rural and minority voters.

"The Republicans want to cancel our vote just because they didn't like who was elected," said Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, noting five congressional districts vote Republican in statewide elections but choose Democrats for the U.S. House.

"Changing the maps by merging rural Texas counties and districts dominated by straight-ticket Republican suburban voters literally steals the votes of the independent and minority voters who chose those five congressmen," Lucio said.

But Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, sponsor of the Republican plan, said his proposal preserves existing minority districts that are protected under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Staples said there are no proposed changes in seven predominantly Hispanic districts and one black district that already have been upheld as legal by the U.S. Supreme Court. He said it made minor changes in the predominantly black district of U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, and two minority-influenced districts held by Democratic U.S. Reps. Martin Frost of Dallas and Chris Bell of Houston.

I wonder if FOX News will sue Todd Staples now:

"I present this map to you today as a fair and balanced map," Staples said.

Staples' map would all but guarantee the Republicans three additional seats after next year's elections and would enhance the ability of GOP candidates to capture three others. A map approved last week by the state House would give the Republicans a 21-11 majority after next year's elections.

The article then goes on to explain further details of the Republican divide, including some more on Rick Perry's non-compromise "compromise:

The major roadblock to passage of a bill now is a dispute between West Texas senators and House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, over how their part of the state should be drawn. Craddick wants a congressional district for his hometown of Midland, but drawing that district could have a negative impact on congressional districts now built around Lubbock, Abilene and Amarillo.

Perry on Monday offered a proposed compromise that aligned him with Craddick in the debate. Tuesday, the governor said he would call a fourth special session if the Republicans failed to reach an agreement.

"The issue of drawing the maps, the specificity of drawing the lines, is the Legislature's responsibility," Perry said. "If we can help work through any hurdles that are out there, we're happy to do it."

In the Senate, the Democrats tried several times Tuesday to derail the debate by using Senate rules, but Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst turned them down.

In one attempt to use the rules to delay debate until today, Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, challenged Dewhurst's ruling, forcing a rare vote on the presiding officer's authority. Republicans voted to back up Dewhurst while Democrats voted to overturn his ruling.

"Are we being governed by the rules of engagement, or are we making it up as we go along?" West asked.

Dewhurst of course had time to leave his duties as presiding officer of the senate to raise money, as the rest of the debate turned to Democrats building their case for a court challenge to the eventual map:

After that, Dewhurst turned the Senate gavel over to a variety of senators so he could fly to Nacogdoches for a Farm Bureau speech and a fund-raiser.

Because federal court challenges on redistricting revolve around minority voting protections under the Voting Rights Act, much of the Senate debate focused on that issue.

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, rejected the notion that Democrats are playing "the race card." He said it is Republicans who are playing racial politics.

"Some would say they want the only remaining Democrats to be black or brown," Barrientos said.

He had hinted that he would filibuster the bill but did not.

The Democrats built a case that in seven districts, minority voters provided the margin of victory for Democratic candidates. They said those districts should be protected under a new Supreme Court ruling in Georgia v. Ashcroft.

One of those districts -- District 9 -- is held by U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont. West and Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said the 234,582 black and Hispanic residents in Jefferson County and Galveston have provided Lampson his margin of victory in past elections. But in Staples' map those minority residents would be split into two new Republican districts.

"Minority voters in that district are replaced by predominantly white voters from Clear Lake to make that district more conservative," West said.

Gallegos said the plan diluted minority voting strength. Staples said if that is true, it will be turned down when reviewed under the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram confirms Rick Perry's intention to call a fourth special session on redistricting if Republicans can't get their act together:

Gov. Rick Perry promised Tuesday to call lawmakers back to Austin for a fourth special legislative session if his own political party fails to reach agreement on congressional redistricting.

Meanwhile, a former SREC (Senate Republican Executive Committee member has called on Texas GOP chair Susan Weddington to resign:

A longtime Republican financial contributor, recently forced out of a party leadership post in a controversy over confidential phone calls, Tuesday called on Texas GOP Chairwoman Susan Weddington to resign.

Thomas Whaley, a businessman from Marshall who stepped down from the State Republican Executive Committee under pressure from Weddington, said the chairwoman's leadership was "hurting" the state party.

"I believe it is time for her to resign or be replaced," he said.

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September 22, 2003

Perry's Non-compromise "Compromise"

By Byron LaMasters

Can someone explain to me how this is a compromise? Or can someone explain to me how Rick Perry's brain works? First off, he has a meeting to discuss the west Texas district controversy. Yet, he only has a map with the seven west Texas districts (with nothing regarding the other 25 - how can you have a compromise on a map when you only draw 22% of it?). Second, the "compromise" was not a compromise. It still created a Midland based district, and presumably paired Randy Neugebauer and Charlie Stenholm, which Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) opposes. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Gov. Rick Perry weighed in on the congressional redistricting fight Monday, proposing a map that would solve a fight between Republicans in West Texas but leaving about two-thirds of the state in question.

The map, unveiled by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, would create a district that could be won by someone from Midland. It also creates a separate district for Lubbock.

Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has been fighting for a Midland-based district, but Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, opposes that idea.

King, the House's lead negotiator on congressional redistricting, said he and Craddick could accept the map if the Senate signs off on it.

It's not clear, however, that that will happen. No one from the Senate nor the governor's office attended a news conference where the plan was unveiled. The Senate is scheduled to debate its vastly different plan on Tuesday.

Left in question by the governor's proposal were districts representing a large portion of Central Texas, most of the Rio Grande Valley and all of East Texas. King said those areas remain open for negotiations and acknowledged that the proposed compromise in West Texas could have great effects on the rest of the state.

The Quorum Report basically says what I said. The Perry "compromise" is no compromise, and he's not getting any takers:

Averitt, Duncan, offer varying degrees of hostility
The deadline for amendments to the Committee Substitute for House Bill 3 - the congressional redistricting plan from Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine) - came and went at 5 p.m. today without any Republican senator building on the "compromise" offered for West Texas by Gov. Rick Perry.

There were no amendments featuring the changes proposed by Perry, and supported by Speaker Tom Craddick and House redistricting bill sponsor Phil King (R-Weatherford), to districts 11, 17, 19, 13, and 12.

However, there has been some comment. Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) reacted angrily to Perry's suggestion that Bell and Coryell counties be separated from McLennan County.

"The map that was presented at today’s press conference decimates the voice of Central Texas and I am firmly opposed," Averitt said.

Charles has more on Off the Kuff.

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Republican Leaders in Abilene Oppose Redistricting by 100 to 1 margin

By Byron LaMasters

Via Charles Kuffner's post over on the Political State Report is an interesting poll conducted by the Taylor County Republican Party. The Abilene Reporter News reports:

A poll by the Taylor County Republican Party found its supporters overwhelmingly prefer a congressional district that pairs Abilene and San Angelo.

According to an unscientific poll of party contributors, activists and business leaders, 1,276 preferred the district stay as is, 12 supported a district that pairs Abilene with Midland-Odessa and nine favored a district that contained Abilene and Lubbock.

"This is the only poll we have ever conducted that was nearly unanimous," party Chairman Paul Washburn said. "Republicans in Taylor County do not want the 17th Congressional District to change, and I am sure this feeling is even stronger in the smaller counties of our area."

Washburn praised state Rep. Bob Hunter and state Sen. Troy Fraser, both of whom represent Abilene, for opposing changes to the district pushed by House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland.

Charlie Stenholm represents the 17th District in Congress. The district covers San Angelo and Abilene. Republicans want to cut up the district so that the 19th district, held by Randy Neugebauer would pair Lubbock and Abilene (as opposed to Midland / Odessa and Lubbock as is currently), and a new district would be created where Midland would dominate. Charlie Stenholm's 17th district would be toast. But there's a problem. Charlie Stenholm's district is already 70% Republican. Independents and Republicans like him because he's a moderate / conservative and he's the ranking member on the Agriculture Committee and he fights to bring home the bacon for his district. The current map isn't gerrymandered. Republicans have 60% majorities in 19-20 of 32 congressional districts in Texas. If they want to win, they can run better candidates.

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September 20, 2003

Staples map heading to the floor

By Jim Dallas

The Senate jurisprudence committee approved a map Friday, setting up a floor vote for early next week (OfftheKuff | Dallas Morning News). The vote was 4 - 3 with all the Republicans (including Kip Averitt, whose concerns over the 11th District put other members of his party on notice) voting for it.

This modified Staples map seems to have a good chance of passing in the Senate, but while final passage may seem to be a fait accompli, there are still major issues to hash out.

Most importantly, the House and Senate maps are radically different in their treatments of the 9th, 11th, and 17th districts (to name a few of the discrepancies!). Under the Senate map, for example, the 9th District, which is currently represented by Nick Lampson (D-Beaumont) would be split apart roughly in half; under the House map it would contain most of its current core with the exception of my home town of Galveston, which would be appended to Tom DeLay's 22nd District.

(And, as a Galvestonian and a Democrat, I do hereby declare my intention to run for Congress from the 22nd Congressional District should this House version be passed. As soon as I'm legal, of coruse, which won't be until in 2008).

There are still a number of deadlines to clear as well, most importantly those related to DOJ preclearance. We are also getting to the point where it is forseeably possible that adoption of the redistricting plan could run into trouble with the Texas state Constitution (Article III, Section 39). If final passage, somehow, were delayed into a fourth or fifth session falling in late December or early January, it would make it virtually impossible to have a congressional primary in March. Unless of course, the bill somehow passes by a vote of greater than two-thirds. (Eyes Sens. Armbrister and Whitmire).

Not to mention the fact that - Senator Staples's proclamations that the map is virtually impenetrable notwithstanding - the court battle which will inevitably arise over any map that gets passed will probably make HB3 the functional equivalent of a full-employment act for lawyers.

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September 19, 2003

Texas 11 on "Probation"

By Byron LaMasters

I'm sorry, but this is just SOOO high school. The Texas 11 are on probation (Bad. Bad. Bad.) Of course, the rhetoric has turned to race, once again. The Houston Chronicle reports:

The Senate's ugly atmosphere darkened Thursday as Republicans suspended fines and placed their Democratic colleagues on probation through January 2005. The Democrats, mostly minorities, accused the Republicans of segregationist politics.

"We are not second-class senators. We don't represent second-class citizens," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

"This is a slap in the face to Hispanic and African-American Texans," she said.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst dismissed the Democratic senators' criticism as political rhetoric.

"This has nothing to do with race," Dewhurst said. "The mention of race all along has been a desperate attempt by the national Democrat party to hold onto a few seats" in the U.S. House.

"I want this matter behind us, and I want the Senate moving forward."


The special session began Monday, but the issue of the fines and sanctions has continued to divide the Senate throughout the week. Some Republican senators wanted to revoke the penalties while others wanted to force the Democrats to pay the fines.

Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, Thursday, in what he described as "an act of generosity," offered a motion to suspend the fines and sanctions but put the Democrats on probation until January 2005. If they break a quorum again before that time, they will have to pay the fines.

"I think it is important that we put the issue of enforcement of the sanctions behind us," Janek said.

But the Democrats balked at being put on probation. They contend the fines and sanctions were not legal because they were adopted originally by less than a Senate quorum with no specific power under the Senate rules.

The Senate tone then turned sour as Sen. Rodney Ellis,D-Houston, began preparing an amendment to Janek's resolution to simply eliminate all the fines and sanctions.

Before Ellis could offer that amendment, Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, used a parliamentary procedure to force a vote on Janek's motion. Harris later said he was unaware of Ellis' pending amendment.

Janek's motion passed 13-10, with eight senators absent. Republicans voted for it, and nine Democrats and one Republican voted against.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said he voted against the motion because "I think they should have paid the fines."

Dewhurst ordered Senate officials to remove barrels in the senators' parking spaces and restore all of their privileges and postage purchases.

The Democrats kept pushing to complain. Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, announced he wanted to make an extended speech.

While Barrientos left the Senate floor briefly, Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, tried to speak in his place.

That is when Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, came rushing out of the Senate lounge still chewing food and attempted to make a motion for the Senate to adjourn. Dewhurst turned him down.

Barrientos then announced he would not speak since several of the Republican senators had walked out. The Senate then adjourned until today.

Despite the acrimony, Dewhurst tried to portray the actions as a step toward a return to normalcy in the Senate.

"I was very, very, very interested in getting this matter of penalties and fines behind us. We did today," Dewhurst said.

The Democrats, however, held a news conference to portray the probation vote as an act by Anglo Republican senators to put down minority senators.

Sen. Frank Madla, D-SanAntonio, said he had not been treated this way since "I was a little Mexican boy who had his first taste of what white supremacy was like."

Ellis said redistricting has historically prompted fights between minorities and Anglos.

"We had to fight these battles against Democrats, and now we're fighting against people who happen to be Republican," Ellis said.

I guess that the day or two of civility was enough for everyone involved. I personally feel a little bit uneasy about the Democrats racial rhetoric, but then again, I think that it's justified. Republicans are trying to dilute the voice of minority voters across the state. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Nick Lampson, Gene Green, Chris Bell, Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm, Lloyd Doggett and Martin Frost win their congressional districts because minority voters join in coalitions with white Democrats to elect them. In every single redistricting map, Republicans divide minorities in some cases and pack them in others. Rodney Ellis is right. Redistricting is a racial issue. It was in the past, it is now, and it will be for generations to come.

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September 18, 2003

Redistricting Updates from Off the Kuff

By Byron LaMasters

I've used this title before, and I have a good reason for it. I've had a busy week, and I've been busy studying for a test tomorrow, taking care of some other stuff and getting ready to head to Dallas for the weekend. Thus, I haven't had too many redistricting updates since Monday. Basically, all the news has been Republican infighting and Charles has had all the updates here and here. So, check out his stuff, and stay tuned. I'm assuming that both Jim and Andrew have had a busy week as well. Anyway, I'll be sure to post when something important happens, but I do expect posting to be a little light this weekend as I'll be seeing friends and family in Dallas (although I do have a computer with a DSL line there, so I'll be posting some).

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September 16, 2003

Today's Redistricting News

By Byron LaMasters

Charles has most of it (go there for all the details). The House is currently debating this map by Phil King. The House will likely pass without amendment sometime tonight. Democrats are currently proposing amendment after amendment, all of which are being voted down.

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September 15, 2003

Map Passes House Committee

By Byron LaMasters

This map passed the State House Redistricting Committee today. Take a look at it. Republicans have gotten a little smarter. They're finally figured out that significantly tampering with Gene Green's district, Chris Bell's district, Martin Frost's district or Lloyd Doggett's district would likely violate the Voting Rights Act, so they pretty much left them alone. Endangered in the House Committee map are Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm, Jim Turner, Max Sandlin, Nick Lampson and Ralph Hall (it's nice to see how they treat him for voting with the GOP so much). My biggest concerns in this map relating to the voting rights act are the splits in McClennan and Jefferson Counties. McClennan is split between the the 17th and 31st, whereas Jefferson would be split between the the 4th and the 9th. I think that this would definitely create problems with the Voting Rights Act as the minority communities in McClennan and Jefferson Counties are currently represented by Chet Edwards and Nick Lampson in minority influence districts, would likely no longer have the opportunity to help elect the candidate of their choice.... but that's just my take.

I would doubt that Sens. Duncan, Fraiser or Averitt would vote for this map, seeing how it divides Waco and takes Midland / Odessa out of a Lubbock based congressional district and creates a new Midland / Odessa one.

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Special Session #3 Begins

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report gives it's analysis:

3RD CALLED SPECIAL SESSION KICKS OFF Dewhurst wants Senate to put fines and penalties "behind us" Hours before the third called special session of the Texas Legislature began, the Governor's office issued a slew of appointment announcements in order to avoid the confirmation process.

The Senate convened at noon, a quorum was acknowledged and then the body adjourned. Upon adjournment and once the quorum was established, the Texas 10 walked back on the floor to a ten minute standing ovation in the gallery. With TV cameras in tow, the walked to the center of the Senate chamber where they formed a circle with arms upraised acknowledging the thunderous applause.

The Democratic senators then walked over to the press table. The crowd was yelling "Quitmire" until they were hushed by the Senators. We will have some of the comments later this afternoon.

As we go to press, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is having a press conference. He said that while it is up to the full Senate, he supports "putting behind us" the fines and sanctions imposed on the Senate Democrats.

On the House side, the convening was uneventful. Thirty seven bills were referred to committee, four were not.

The Calendars Committee will meet upon adjournment to set HB3, the redistricting bill on the Major State Calendar. Rep. Barry Telford (D-DeKalb) rose with a parliamentary inquiry to make sure that the Calendars Committee was indeed setting a bill that had not yet come out of committee.

BOR commenter Laura, who was in the senate gallery made the following comments:

I just got back from the Senate Gallery. Quorum was called, and then the R + Whitmire crowd beat it. It took less than two minutes to call roll and then leave. All of them were booed out of the chamber the instant the gavel hit. The 10 D holdouts then entered the chamber, and were greeted like rock stars. They all gave speeches until the R+W's had the seargeant at arms turn the mic off-- the R's seem determined to be bad sports until the very last.

The Austin American Statesman reports that the chamber was adjourned before the Democrats arrived:

The third special session of the Texas Legislature was called to order Monday at noon. But an unprecedented spectacle unfolded in the Senate chamber a few minutes later, after the chamber members adjourned for the day.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called the Senate to order and announced "Members, a quorum is present."

It's the first time in more than a month that 21 senators have been in the chamber since 11 Democratic senators boycotted by leaving the state for New Mexico.

The Senate meeting lasted only a few minutes. Bills were referred to committees and Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, made a motion to adjourn before 10 of the boycotting Democrats could arrive.

The Republican motion to adjourn was met by loud hissing, booing, chanting and yelling from the gallery packed with redistricting opponents.

Minutes later the Democratic senators, led by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, entered the chamber, greeted by cheers and screams of support.

The returning senators formed a circle and joined hands, holding them up in the air while the crowd wildly greeted them.

The Houston Chronicle has more on the minutes between the session had a quorum and when the other ten Democratic Senators arrived:

The presence of Whitmire, D-Houston, cleared the path for Republicans to push a redistricting bill through the Senate. Eleven Democrats, including Whitmire, had blocked the bill through two special sessions by breaking the quorum.

Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw called the roll with Whitmire present. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst immediately announced: "A quorum is present."

The Senate atmosphere was highly charged as about 350 supporters of the Democratic boycott filled the gallery. They planned to cheer when the other boycotting senators returned.

The 10 other Democratic senators remained at the Westgate building near the Capitol as the session convened to see if Whitmire actually was going to be present.

They had planned to return to the Senate as a group once Whitmire established the quorum. But at three minutes past 12 p.m. Whitmire moved that the Senate stand adjourned until 10 a.m. Tuesday. The crowd in the gallery burst into boos and jeers of: "Nazis. You're acting like Nazis!"

The other boycotters walked into the empty chamber at 12:07 p.m. The crowd started cheering wildly.

Meanwhile, Republicans still haven't given the 'Texas 11' their parking spots left, including Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) who has a broken shoulder.

The Democrats remained angry that sanctions adopted by the Republican senators remained in place as the session began. Those sanctions included $57,000 in fines, denial of certain privileges and the removal of their parking spaces.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, one of the boycotters, parked her vehicle in her space near the East Wing of the Capitol because she broke her shoulder ice skating.

Later a notice appeared on her car warning that it would be towed: "This vehicle is in violation of a motion duly adopted by the Texas Senate under rule 5.04 on August 15th. If not removed immediately, appropriate measures will be taken."

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Session Starts Today, Dems Declare Victory on 12

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Special Session #3 starts today at noon, and I'm not quite sure what will happen. No question, the Senate chamber gallery will be packed. Sen. Barrientos and Rep. Lloyd Doggett have urged supporters to pack the senate gallery today at noon to show their support for the "Texas Eleven Minus One". The Austin American Statesman reports:

Texas senators reunite today like a squabbling couple who have tried a 45-day trial separation but decided not to get a divorce.

How does hubby move back into the house — or in this case, the Senate — as if nothing happened? And what to do with all those messy conditions — in this case, $57,000 in fines — the wife laid down?

Unlike most reconciliations, this one will take place in public. A packed public gallery and a long line of TV cameras are expected to see how the 20 senators who stayed behind greet their 11 colleagues who fled to New Mexico to boycott plans to redraw congressional boundaries.

And with the quote of the day, Todd Staples...

"We may need counseling," quipped Sen. Todd Staples of Palestine, leader of the Senate Republicans.


While still worlds apart on the issue of redistricting, both sides may be moving toward a reconciliation.

Last week, Staples said of the fines: "Actions have consequences."

Democrats continue to say they won't pay the fines.

Staples, however, is changing his message.

On Friday, Staples said that how the Senate deals with the fines could depend on how the returning Democrats conduct themselves.

"It's time to move away from political posturing," he said. "In part, it's going to depend on how our members come back and interact. I don't think there is a sense of urgency in dealing with the fines immediately."

Harold Cook is an adviser to the Senate Democrats who stayed with them for the 45-day boycott.

He predicted no problems from the Democrats.

"These people are dead set against redistricting, but they are still the same senators who left town," Cook said. "They will disagree without being disagreeable."

Still, Cook admits nothing much about this impasse has been predictable: "It's not every year that both houses break a quorum."

The Senate Republicans didn't just levy fines. They passed a resolution taking away the missing senators' parking, limiting their postage and barring their staff members from the Senate floor, among other privileges.

Asked where the returning Democrats should park, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said Friday, "I recommend they park as close as they can but outside the Capitol grounds."

Turning serious, Dewhurst added: "The problem doesn't have anything to do with parking. The problem is, our 11 Democratic colleagues broke state law, they broke a quorum, and they've been increasing the political rhetoric. It's over. We need to come together, move forward as we have in the past."

Dewhurst admitted it may take awhile.

"Realistically, I expect a little posturing," he said. "But I hope that dies now in hours or days."

Of course, the other big question is what will happen with the Republicans own internal squabble.

The Republicans might need that time to work out their own family fight.

Dewhurst said he thinks House and Senate Republicans are closer to resolving a dispute over a new district for West Texas.

Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, wants a congressional district for his hometown.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, has opposed a Midland district because his constituents don't want any change in the region. He traveled to Washington this week to discuss the problem with members of Congress from West Texas.

Staples said he would like an understanding between the House and Senate before passing a map. The House's mapmaker, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said that might not be possible. He thinks both chambers need to pass their own versions, then hammer out their differences in a conference committee.

The Republicans hope to increase their seats in Texas' 32-member congressional delegation to as many as 21. The Democrats hold 17 of the seats now.

Staples said he still wants input from his Democratic colleagues despite their boycott.

"I truthfully want to help (Democrats) where help can be given," Staples said. "I'm not polarized."

But he noted there is a limit on how much he can give.

"It's not a simple task. Every person's desires impacts the state map," he said. "No one can get all they want in this process."

Also in the Statesman today, Democrats are calling their 51-49% loss a victory of sorts:

There wasn't a name or a party on the ballot, but the partisan alignment was pretty clear in the high-dollar battle over Proposition 12.

Top Republicans, led by a big-push effort from Gov. Rick Perry, generally backed the proposed constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to place limits on some civil lawsuit awards.

Democrats, who have no major personality to rally behind, largely were against it, branding it as an unfair effort to handcuff juries and allow unethical businesses to avoid accountability.

Perry and the Republicans prevailed by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin, an outcome so surprisingly close — fewer than 30,000 votes out of 1.46 million cast — that it's possible to spin the result as the most successful statewide election Democrats have had in a long, long time.

"It was essentially an even split vote, a virtual tie, showing that Texas, like the nation, is a 50-50 proposition," said Democratic consultant Kelly Fero, who worked against Proposition 12.


Democrats in recent years rarely have come close to anything resembling a 50-50 split in statewide elections. With few exceptions, their candidates have been trounced.

"This underscores that the mainstream will be pushed only so far and that arrogant power-mongering will not be tolerated by a majority of mainstream Texans," said Fero, eager to talk about Saturday's defeat as a near-victory. "The Democratic Party, which has been given up for dead, almost managed to pull it out."

Texas Democratic Chair- woman Molly Beth Malcolm said the result stands as a "personal rebuke" against Perry.

"Rick Perry turned a blowout into a nail-biter," she said Sunday. "About two weeks before the election, public polls showed that Proposition 12 was ahead by 12 points. But that lead evaporated once TV spots featuring Perry went on the air."

Of course, Prop 12 backers don't agree with that analysis:

But Proposition 12 backers said it was nonsense to try to characterize the results as a rebuke of Perry.

"Clearly, without hard work and leadership from the governor and Mrs. Perry, who campaigned across Texas and appeared in the 'Yes on 12' TV ads, the measure would not have passed," said Ray Sullivan, a GOP consultant who worked for passage of the amendment. "We won big on traditionally Democratic turf, South Texas and the border, and won in stalwart GOP counties like Collin, Denton, Montgomery, Fort Bend and Williamson."

Though it's not possible to characterize the battle as played precisely along party lines — the major anti-Proposition 12 group was headed by two former Republican state Supreme Court justices — it is clear that Perry barely avoided what would have been a major political embarrassment.

Again, another big surprise was that while greater Dallas, greater Houston and Austin rejected Prop 12 by a large margin, Prop 12 won by its success in South Texas (amid a low turnout there).

Nevertheless, his aides found nothing but good news for him and his party in the outcome. The real story, according to Deirdre Delisi, Perry's deputy chief of staff, was in county-by-county results, not the statewide numbers.

The returns show that the GOP side ran very well in some traditionally Democratic strongholds, particularly heavily Hispanic South Texas.

Proposition 12 carried by a wide margin (65 percent to 35 percent) in Cameron County. Next door, in Hidalgo County, another Democratic enclave, the "againsts" prevailed by a mere 63 votes out of almost 19,000 cast.

Any GOP statewide candidate would be thrilled with a near-tie in Hidalgo County.

In Nueces County, another heavily Hispanic South Texas county, 71 percent of the voters said yes to Proposition 12.

"Here is the worst news for Democrats," Delisi said. "We won this race in South Texas."

In a candidateless, partyless election, she said, many traditionally Democratic South Texas Hispanics voted like Republicans.

"We have always said that Hispanics vote based on ideas," she said. "We brought them an issue on which they overwhelmingly agreed with us in places where the problem has been felt the most acutely.

"What the Democrats must be really concerned about is the support South Texas and Hispanics showed for this Republican concept of tort reform," Delisi said.

She said the best measure of the electorate's reaction to the proposal was found in early voting completed before anti-Proposition 12 forces, largely financed by trial lawyers, ran emotional ads in the final days, including a spot featuring a young girl who lost her legs in an automobile fire.

Though the final margin was a mere 51 percent to 49 percent, the early voting showed 57 percent support for the proposal.

From his perch in academia, University of Texas government professor Bruce Buchanan found merit in the spin that says Saturday was the Democrats' most successful statewide election day in a long time.

"I can't think of a recent good example that even comes close," he said.

Buchanan said the anti-Proposition 12 forces, including trial lawyers and consumer advocates, portrayed the other side as mounting an assault on Texans' right to their day in court. The appeal got Democrats "charged in a way you haven't seen in awhile," according to Buchanan.

"What's unusual about it was that it touched something near and dear to Democrats — constitutional protections and access to courts — that it got them going, and they did almost pull it out," he said.

"I think the lesson (for Republicans) is, don't hit (Democrats) where they live because they might turn into a more formidable opponent than recent elections would suggest," Buchanan said.

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September 13, 2003

Dems Lawsuit Decision

By Byron LaMasters

For a copy of the decision by the U.S. District court in Laredo ruling against the Senate Democrats claim that not using the 2/3rds rule is a violation of the Voting Rights act, click here (pdf file). The Austin American Statesman has more:

In the four-page ruling, the judges said the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights, does not extend to telling the Texas Senate how to conduct its internal business.

"We readily acknowledge, as did the Supreme Court, that 'in a real sense every decision taken by government implicates voting' . . .," the judges wrote. "Nevertheless, the Supreme Court insisted that a line must be drawn between events which directly affect the voters and events which, as here, affect the distribution of power between legislators of two different political parties."

Eleven Democratic senators refused to attend a special session on July 28, denying the Senate the necessary quorum to conduct business. The lawsuit was prompted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's decision to drop a tradition of requiring two-thirds of the Senate to agree before a bill is brought to the floor for debate. Under that tradition, 11 senators could kill redistricting.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Perry will call the Legislature into its third special session for redistricting this summer.

The boycotting senators have said they will attend.

The Senate Democrats had asked the judges to require the U.S. Justice Department to review Dewhurst's plans not to use the two-thirds tradition. They argued that changing the rules would lead to a redistricting map that could dilute the influence of minorities. The Justice Department had refused to review it; on Friday, the judges agreed.

Judges Patrick Higginbotham of Dallas, Lee Rosenthal of Houston and George Kazen of Laredo wrote that "what will directly affect the voters of this State is a redistricting bill, not the mere consideration of such a bill or the process by which it comes to the floor of the Texas Senate." Two of the three judges are appointees of Republican presidents, but the order was unanimous.

Dewhurst praised the decision.

"I'm pleased the federal court ruled today that the Senate Democrats' legal claims were meritless, and it appears to me they were just stalling for time," he said. "With all of the Democrats' legal options exhausted, it is now time to come together and address the important issues facing the Legislature."

At Thursday's hearing, the judges had expressed skepticism that a federal court should intervene in a political fight over the internal rules of the Senate.

Still, Austin lawyer Renea Hicks, who represented the Senate Democrats, said he was disappointed.

"We could anticipate this from the oral argument and the questions they asked," Hicks said. "I think it's wrong, but it doesn't surprise me."

He said he would discuss appealing directly to the U.S. Supreme Court with his clients.

The judges, however, left unresolved the issue of whether the Senate Republicans legally could fine the missing senators $57,000 each for boycotting.

At Thursday's hearings, the judges noted that they would prefer to hear from the state courts before weighing in. They wrote that they would decide later whether the Democrats can amend their lawsuit to challenge the fines.

During Thursday's hearings, Kazen said the prospect of senators fining one another under the current circumstances was an "abomination."

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September 12, 2003

Dems Lawsuit Rejected

By Byron LaMasters

Charles has the story via the Houston Chronicle. I think most of us pretty much expected this:

A three-judge federal panel in West Texas today dismissed a lawsuit filed by senate Democrats hoping to derail a new round of redistricting in Texas.

The Democrats argued that Senate rule changes by Republicans to further the redistricting effort violated federal law.

The judges, who listened to two hours of oral arguments Thursday in Laredo, dismissed those claims but withheld a decision on an amended complaint of threats to arrest Democrats and require them to pay fees for their failure to appear at a special legislative session on redistricting.

"The arrest issue likely will become moot," the judges wrote in their opinion. Democrats "fear of being coerced to appear at a legislative session is shifting to a fear of being prevented from appearing. For reasons discussed at the hearing, neither the facts nor the law on the issue of threatened monetary sanctions are sufficiently developed at this point to permit an informed decision. Moreover, it is possible that future developments could also moot this issue."


During the court hearing Thursday, judges closely questioned the Democrats' attorney, Paul Smith, who argued that dropping a Senate rule requiring two-thirds of the 31 members to agree to debate a bill violated the federal Voting Rights Act, enacted to protect minority voters.

"This is a very significant piece of how the Legislature operates," Smith said of the long-standing rule, which was eliminated by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst after it was used to stymie redistricting during the first special session.

The judges seemed wary of Smith's arguments in light of a ruling last month by the Justice Department that the Voting Rights Act provision on getting prior approval of changes that may impact minority voters does not apply in this case.

The panel also seemed comfortable with an argument by state Solicitor General Ted Cruz, representing Republican officials, that the Democrats were in court too soon because no redistricting has taken place.

"There has been no clear action. Nothing has been done yet," Cruz said. "At this point the Legislature is arguing back and forth about what it might do."

Ten of the Senate Democrats who returned to Texas this week after spending more than six weeks in exile in Albuquerque, N.M., attended the hearing. Nine are minorities and most represent heavily minority districts.

The judges' decision on the fees stemmed from the $57,000 in fines imposed by Republicans on each Democrat who went to Albuquerque for the time they spent away from the legislative session.

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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.

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September 09, 2003

Harris County Dem Chair Attacks Whitmire

By Byron LaMasters

Here is a statement from the Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party regarding John Whitmire.

As the chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, I have tried desperately to unite the party, to accommodate all viewpoints, to include all segments of the party in all of its affairs, and to discourage venomous attacks upon Democrats by fellow Democrats. Last week I sent an e-mail to Democrats cautioning against villifying one another with "vitriolic recriminations" in the wake of the John Whitmire debacle. But after reading Sen. Whitmire's comments at his press conference last week and reading the Sunday Houston Chronicle, I find it impossible to suppress the anger I feel over Sen. John Whitmire's betrayal of the other Texas 11 and the 1.4 million Texans they represent, by taking it upon himself, by himself, single-handedly, to undermine their efforts, and then blaming it on them!

The battle the eleven - now ten - Democratic have so honorably and heroically waged by all means lawful and legitimate (including denying the Republicans a quorum to pass their obscene power grabbing redistricting plan), is, in my view, the single most important civil rights struggle (and maybe the most significant fight, period) any of us here in Texas have faced during the past forty years. The Republican redistricting maps are drawn to assure that issues which matter to Democrats cannot advance in the United States House of Representatives (no matter which party controls the Senate or the White House) for the next ten to twenty years. And that objective is accomplished mainly by eliminating "minority influence districts" throughout Texas - denying people of color electoral power in deciding congressional races. (If you think the federal courts can be relied upon to remedy that injustice, you need to re-read the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore.)

The Republican plans are designed to see that no minority chairs a House committee (such as John Conyers chairing Judiciary or Charlie Rangel chairing Ways and Means) or subcommittee (such as Shiela Jackson Lee chairing Immigration) for decades. Its passage would almost certainly dash any hope of extending the Voting Rights Act when it comes up for renewal in 2005, or resisting Republican efforts to undermine affirmative action, health care, choice, the environment, jobs, the labor movement - everything Democrats stand for.

But most importantly, this plan is part and parcel of the most dangerous assault on our democratic form of government, perhaps in the history of the country: when Republicans disapprove of the choices voters make, they find some way to use (misuse) the power they do have to set aside the election results and impose their will, regardless of the votes of the electorate. When they didn't like the result of the 1996 presidential election, they sought to overturn the voters' will be removing President Clinton from office through impeachment. When they lost the popular vote in the presidential election of 2000, they sought to overturn the voters' choice by getting their judges to order that votes in Florida not be counted. When the voters chose a governor in California they didn't like, they used their money to orchestrate a "recall" election designed to remove from office the person chosen by the people of California less than one year ago. And when voters in five Republican congressional districts in Texas (designed by the Republican Attorney General, implemented by two Republican federal judges, at the invitation of Governor Perry himself, and approved by the Supreme Court of the United States) chose to be represented by their Democratic incumbents, rather than by the candidates Tom DeLay preferred, Republicans engaged in an unprecedented second redistricting in a decade, obliterating time-honored procedures (the 2/3rds rule) to achieve their anti-democratic result.

There's a clear pattern here! Republicans are taking away the most fundamental aspect of our democracy - respect for the choices of voters, rather than reliance on raw political power, as the driving force of government.

And just when that message was gaining national traction (Moveon.org raised $1 million to spread the word of what was happening here), Sen. Whitmire essentially threw in the towel. But not just his own towel; because of the mathematics of the situation, he effectively threw in ten other towels as well - whether the other senators wanted to give up and give in (they didn't) or not.

I have read Sen. Whitemire's explanations of his return: he was restless and uncomfortable holed up in a hotel in Albuquerque; he was concerned Republicans would retaliate by eliminating the 2/3 rule permanently and for all legislation, not just redistricting (there are a significant number of Republican legislators, cognizant they will not be in the majority forever, who are on record as firmly opposing such a radical change in the way the state senate conducts business); gaining national support for resisting Republican power grabs and shining a national spotlight on this pattern would be "counterproductive" (John, congressional seats are national, and this is all about control of the national legislature and its agenda); sooner or later the Republicans are going to get their way anyway, so we might as well just accept that reality and move the contest to the courts.

To me, those are all unpersuasive and unacceptable justifications for betrayal. And that is what I am left with - a terrible sense of betrayal, outrage, and anger - especially at the suggestion Sen. Whitmire was encouraged to leave by some of his Democratic colleagues. His "surrender" exit strategy makes no sense whatever to me, and the way in which it was accomplished make me wonder how he can hope to work with the other Democratic senators to advance a Democratic agenda in the future. Like thousands of other Democratic activists throughout the state, my faith in the Democratic Party had been restored by the courageous sacrifices of the Texas 11, but that spirit and enthusiasm and optimism have been sorely undercut by this abandonment. (Not totally dashed, but seriously challenged). Sen. Whitmire's action must be unequivocally condemned. I am doing so here.

Over the past few days, I have read a few e-mails and posts which suggest that, in deference to Sen. Whitmire's history as an advocate for Democratic causes (especially in the criminal justice area), we should "cut him some slack on this one." Unfortunately, this is far too crucial - perhaps the single most important issue in a generation - to do so. But the interesting thing is that while I have heard a few (very few) voices suggesting temperance, I have not read a single e-mail or post from a Democrat praising Sen. Whitmire for leaving Albuquerque or thanking him for doing so or claiming it was the right - or even a good - thing to do. That's a telling condemnation!

So I will hold back the vitriol, but I cannot get rid of this intense feeling of disappointment and overwhelming sadness, and, yes, smoldering (barely) anger. And need to do something to express that rage and do something about it.

Please, John, say it ain't so.

Gerry Birnberg
Chair, Harris County Democratic Party
August 20, 2003

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Perry schedules execution of democracy for next Monday

By Jim Dallas

Gov. Rick Perry announced plans for a third special session on redistricting today. The Statesman and the Chronicle report:

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today said he will call a third special legislative session on congressional redistricting to begin on Monday.

Perry said the session will focus on redistricting, but also will include legislation that has been on the call of two previous special sessions: fixing problems in a transportation bill, government reorganization and appropriating about $800 million that was left pending at the end of regular legislative session.

Perry, ever the magnanimous Republican, wants to give the Democrats plenty of time to pack so that they can attend their own funeral. Not to mention the requisite politicization of September 11:

"Monday's a good start day," Perry told the Houston Chronicle. "We've got a lot of issues in front of us. I could call them in tomorrow, but you've got September 11th and all of the appropriate memorials that day. And then you've got Friday and Saturday and Sunday."

Perry said it also will give Democratic senators who went to Albuquerque, N.M., to deny the Senate a quorum in the last special session enough time to get back to Austin. Republican leaders hope a third session will allow them to finally redraw congressional district lines so the GOP can win a majority of seats in the Texas delegation.

The Texas 11 still have a shot in court on Thursday, when they will argue to a three-judge federal panel that the demise of the two-thirds rule is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Word on the street has it that Speaker Craddick and Sen. Duncan still can't agree what to do with West Texas, so at the moment the redistricting lines are stalled by House/Senate bickering.

In any case, the question is, now that we've gotten lawyer-bashing (vis-a-vis tort reform so-called) and Democrat-bashing (vis-a-vis redistricting) nearly out of the way, can our state finally move on to the people's business?

It's a possibility. Here is the full agenda for the session (from Quorum Report), which begins at noon on September 15:

  • To consider legislation relating to congressional redistricting.
  • To consider legislation relating to state fiscal management, including adjustments to certain school district fiscal matters made necessary by recent changes in state fiscal management; making related appropriations.
  • To consider legislation relating to the dates of certain elections, the procedures for canvassing the ballots for an election, and the counting of certain ballots voted by mail.
  • To consider legislation modifying the filing period and related election dates for the primary elections in Texas.
  • To consider legislation relating to the financing, construction, improvement, maintenance, and operation of toll facilities by the Texas Department of Transportation and the disposition of money generated by the driver responsibility program, fines imposed for certain traffic offenses, and certain fees collected by the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas; making an appropriation.
  • To consider legislation relating to the reorganization of, efficiency in, and other reform measures applying to state government.
  • To consider legislation appropriating fees established by legislation from the 78th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature that remain unappropriated. This matter shall be strictly construed to only include fees that were established during that session of the legislature.
  • Legislation relating to making an appropriation for the purpose of returning to a fund outside of the state treasury cash that was transferred from the fund to the general revenue fund.

The full special session proclamation can be viewed here.

Here is Kuff's take on this.

Posted at 06:12 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Special Session #3

By Byron LaMasters

I'm surprised that Gov. Perry didn't wait until Monday to call a third special session, because this just gives Democrats some motivation to get off their butts watching football, or having a picnic and go to the polls to piss off Perry by voting NO on 12. But, then again, we all know that Perry isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Gov. Rick Perry today said he will call a third special legislative session on congressional redistricting to begin on Monday.

Perry said the session will focus on redistricting, but also will include legislation that has been on the call of two previous special sessions: fixing problems in a transportation bill, government reorganization and appropriating about $800 million that was left pending at the end of regular legislative session.

"Monday's a good start day," Perry told the Houston Chronicle. "We've got a lot of issues in front of us. I could call them in tomorrow, but you've got September 11th and all of the appropriate memorials that day. And then you've got Friday and Saturday and Sunday."

Perry said it also will give Democratic senators who went to Albuquerque, N.M., to deny the Senate a quorum in the last special session enough time to get back to Austin. Republican leaders hope a third session will allow them to finally redraw congressional district lines so the GOP can win a majority of seats in the Texas delegation.

Their efforts have been stymied by a House walkout, followed by the exodus of 11 Democratic senators July 28. The 10 senators still in Albuquerque decided late Monday to return to Texas to attend a federal court hearing Thursday in Laredo, then to return to the Capitol.

Senators in Albuquerque made the decision after a 1.5-hour conference call late Monday with colleagues traveling elsewhere to push the Democrats' stand against a Republican effort to redraw Texas' U.S. House districts.

The call connected senators who were in Florida, Pennsylvania and California for meetings.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Senate Democratic Caucus chair, said the senators will take their congressional redistricting battle to the Texas Capitol, where they plan to debate the issue.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, left Albuquerque last week and said he would return for any special session called by the governor, giving the Senate a quorum.

"Once he makes a quorum, it's a moot point for us to be out of state," Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said late Monday. "We have to at least come back and register our votes."

It's a vain attempt (in my opinion), but it's nice to see that they're still going to give it a good college try on their lawsuit in Laredo.

Van de Putte said the senators will attend the Thursday hearing on their suit seeking to force Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to restore a traditional Senate procedure that requires a two-thirds majority to take up any legislation. If the rule were reinstated, the Democrats likely would have enough votes to prevent a redistricting proposal from being considered on the Senate floor in a third session.

And there will surely be some activities coming up this weekend, even if they aren't all set in stone, yet.

Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen told his hometown newspaper this weekend the senators were planning press conferences in Lubbock and Waco upon their return to Texas, culminating with a rally at the steps of the state Capitol.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, was less certain of that, saying there isn't time to set up a return trip with stops along the way before ending with an Austin rally.

Though the last special session ended two weeks ago, the senators have stayed outside of Texas with an Albuquerque hotel as their headquarters. Their boycott became irrelevant, at least as a way to prevent legislation, when Whitmire returned home.

The problem with Republicans returns to the whole Lubbock vs. Midland debate which if Republicans were smart, should have been settled back in the Spring. The debate derailed the first special session, and is probably going to be the biggest roadblock in the upcoming one.

One of the biggest problems facing the Republicans is a dispute between Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock and House Speaker Tom Craddick over how West Texas districts should be drawn.

Currently, District 19 is dominated by Lubbock and includes Craddick's hometown of Midland. U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, represents the district.

But Craddick wants a new district created that would make Midland the population center. That would require pairing Lubbock with Abilene, now represented by District 17 U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Abilene. People in Abilene have complained that they could lose a congressional district focused on their needs. Lubbock officials fear Stenholm would defeat freshman Neugebauer and leave Lubbock without direct congressional representation.

Dewhurst said he has been talking to Duncan and Craddick in hopes of reaching a compromise. "I think we're going to reach an agreement on a whole map," Dewhurst said.

Democrats are now infighting as well as the Dallas Morning News reports a heated exchange between the "Texas Ten" and Sen. Whitmire, who left New Mexico last week:

Last week’s announcement by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, that he would join Republicans in establishing a quorum on the Senate floor as soon as Mr. Perry calls another special session means “we must return to the Senate to defend rural and minority Texans as best we can,” the 10 senators said.

Mr. Whitmire has said he broke ranks and returned to Texas to protect Senate traditions of bipartisanship and consensus that he said protect minority points of view, no matter what the issue. But the Democrats who maintained the boycott, calling themselves the Texas 11 Minus One, said Mr. Whitmire ignored a new assertiveness by GOP leaders.

“Despite his rhetoric, (Mr. Whitmire’s) move amounts to trading away the electoral voices of the millions of rural and minority Texans we are in Albuquerque to defend,” the 10 senators said.

“This betrayal by a former member of the Texas 11 … makes it imperative that we … return to Texsas to fight Whitmire and the Republicans to prevent this partisan power-grab. We intend to fight the passage of the Whitmire map.”

A spokeswoman said Mr. Whitmire “is disregarding their negative comments. … They’re his friends. They’re under a lot of stress.”

The 10 other Democrats will still stay out of Austin until Mr. Whitmire helps the Republicans reach the 21-member quorum needed to do business, Ms. Van de Putte said.

"We're not at risk of being captured," Ms. Van de Putte said. Meanwhile, in Austin, Mr. Perry met Monday with Republican leaders to plan another special session on the issue amid one remaining obstacle – getting agreement among the Republicans themselves.

Interesting. It's my guess that Whitmire will give the Senate quorum Monday morning, and that later Monday morning the remaining senators will show up. I'm a little surprised at how heated the rhetoric has gotten, but in all honesty, I'm not really too surprised over anything any more...

The Quorum Report has the items on the agenda for the session.

Charles beat me over to PSR, so check it out over there (I know I haven't posted over there... I've been busy and all, but I'll get back to it now that I'm settled and all here in Austin).

Posted at 05:19 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Game Over Man, Game Over"

By Jim Dallas

The Dallas Morning News has the scoop (as does the Statesman and the Chronicle):

The renegade Texas Democrats decided late Monday to leave the New Mexico hotel that they've made their home for the last six weeks and to come back to the state for a court hearing Thursday before returning to their homes.

"We will say goodbye to the great people of New Mexico, probably on Wednesday, and then we will be in court on Thursday" in Laredo, said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic caucus.

The runaway senators had vowed to stay out of Texas until another redistricting session was called and a quorum established on the Senate floor. However, Ms. Van de Putte said, the decision last week of Houston Democrat John Whitmire to return to Texas changed the other Democrats' thinking.

They will still stay out of Austin until Mr. Whitmire helps the Republicans reach the 21-member quorum needed to do business but will return to their families in Texas, she said.

The problem now seems to be with intra-party feuding in the GOP over how to redraw the lines in West Texas and elsewhere.

The future of the two-thirds rule also hangs in the balance.

Although there are still a few tricks up the Democrats' sleeve:

Gallegos said it may be impossible to stop a redistricting bill in a third special session, but he joked that Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, might be able to do so with a filibuster.

"Gonzalo's still got a filibuster in him," Gallegos said. "I don't know if it's a 30-day filibuster. We may have to prop him up."


Kuff has a good post on this also.

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September 06, 2003

Donate to the Texas Ten

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it's not 11 anymore, but you can donate to the "Texas 11" to help cover food/travel/hotel costs for them here.

Posted at 04:22 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 05, 2003

Another Reason Whitmire Should have Stayed in NM

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Sen Whitmire decided that he would stay in Texas for good:

Sen. John Whitmire ended all speculation today that he might once again break for the state's border and deny Republicans the vote they need to have a Senate quorum on congressional redistricting.

"I intend to fight redistricting on the Senate floor. I will be here," said Whitmire, D-Houston, in a news conference on the Senate floor.

So you'd think that Republicans here would be embracing him, right? They talked so much about how much they wanted their collegues back. Well they got one back, and what do they do?

Sen. Whitmire originally planned to hold his news conference in the Lieutenant Governor's Press Conference Room. But a resolution passed by Senate Republicans last month barred him from using that room until he paid $57,000 in fines for breaking the Senate's quorum.

"It's a sad day when a senator can't use the press room," Whitmire said.

Instead of embracing Sen. Whitmire and asking to work with him, Republicans decide to treat him like crap. The message? The Republicans in power are not interested in negotiating. They'll do whatever it takes, legal or illegal, precedented or unprecedented to get what they want. Republicans have set the tone both in Texas and in Washington. Democrats have a choice. They can lay down and take it, or we can fight like hell. How long will it take for us to get it?

Posted at 03:02 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

University Democrats Visit Whitmire's Office

By Byron LaMasters

Two University Democrats officers are leading students to Sen. John Whitmire's office today (I would have gone, but I just found out about it and I have a 1 PM class) to express their disapproval. I respectfully disagree with Andrew and Jim (who I've spoken with about Whitmire), that this was inevitable and that Whitmire shouldn't be attacked because of what he did. I'm sorry, but the guy just left the other senators in the middle of the night without saying goodbye. That's inexcusable. And unlike other senators who have courageously stayed in New Mexico, despite their wife giving birth while in New Mexico (Ellis), or having recently had a heart attack (Lucio), Whitmire has no excuse. None. Zero. If they all decided to come home, then fine. But it should have been all together, united. Instead, the headlines this week blared, "Democrats in Disarray". And it's Whitmire's fault. And the arguement that they don't have the means to stay forever is silly. There are resources that could be used to help them out. They're our senators, and we elected them from safe Democratic districts because they're fighters and will do whatever is necessary to prevent the right wing from power grabs and changing the rules. I'm proud of my state senator Gonzalo Barrientos. As for John Whitmire, can I understand why he did what he did? Sure. Can I forgive it? Maybe. But am I happy? Hell no, and if I lived in his district and the Democratic primary were today, I'd vote against him in a second. Now, I'm not endorsing a challenge to him at this point. The jury is still out. He still may leave if another session is called. He may have an idea. I don't know. And regardless, I still hold him in much higher regard than the two "Democrats" who voted for redistricting in the House, Vilma Luna and Ron Wilson. Anyway, kudos to Ben and Bryant for taking the lead on this. I'd encourage any Democrats in Austin today to stop by Sen. Whitmire's office today (he's in town) and express your disapproval as well.

Bryant and I are going to lead groups to express our disapproval (how pissed we are) to our invertebrate friend senator Whitmire over his decision to be a real "Chicken D."

So Bryant will lead a group at 11, and I (Ben) will lead one at 12, and we
will go to Senator Whitmire's office and officially register our opinions.
We will meet in the area with the benches in front of the PCL and proceed to
the capitol by foot.

Join us! (I bet you didn't know we were coming apart) You're either with us,
or you're with Witless Whitmire.

Posted at 12:24 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 04, 2003

Joe Crabb Clerk Quits, Disillusioned

By Byron LaMasters

The El Paso Times reports:

An assistant clerk for the House Redistricting Committee recently wrote an interesting letter to Chairman Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, and members after she quit.

Lauren Kasprzak had a front-row seat as assistant clerk of Crabb's redistricting committee in addition to a perspective from the backroom where much of the real politics plays out.

Kasprzak's letter drips with disillusionment.

"The process that we went through during the regular session was a joke," she said in the letter. "The public was excluded in any real decision calculus of the committee. Sure, we held public hearings... on a plan that we never intended to go to the floor.

"And then we introduced the new plan... while someone was writing the other map that we actually intended to be voted out of the committee in a back room," she wrote.

She and her parents are Crabb's constituents. Lauren says her parents are Republican. She now calls herself an independent.

Earlier this summer, hundreds of people lined up to testify on a redistricting plan that Crabb knew was a sham, she says. The hearing lasted all night. People hung around to 4 a.m. ... 5 a.m. .. 6 a.m. to testify on a phony plan, unaware that backroom architects were drawing the real plan.

"They wasted the people's time. ... You have to honest with the public," she says. "You are changing their lives as well as other politicians' lives. There should be openness and honesty."

It would be appropriate at this point to share Crabb's perspective and his response.

But a meeting this week in his Capitol office didn't go very well. Crabb interrupted before any question about the letter and other observations by his former employee.

"What you are doing is evil. Leave my office," Crabb, an ordained minister, said while booting this reporter into the Capitol corridor.

And this from the ever-so-liberal *screaming sarcasm* El Paso Times.

Posted at 02:41 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Whitmire Fallout

By Byron LaMasters

You may wonder why I've been kind of light on the redistricting bonanza recently. Well, I've moved into my apartment here in Austin and have started classes. But I haven't yet gotten my cable modem installed. So, when I'm at home, I'm using a dial-up, which I can still post from, but trying to do a wrap-up of statewide news coverage (from a dial-up) is a real pain, as it requires scanning at least half a dozen news sources at once (and anyone who has a dial-up knows how easy and fun that is *sarcasm*). Anyway, while I spend about an hour a day at the UT computer lab, I try to do my other rapid fire posts, check my email accounts and do most of my other internet activities within about an hour or so. So, without any further ado, I'm basically going to yield to Charles in the Whitmire / Redistricting / Killer D's / Texas 11 department until I get my DSL line installed which could be in a few days, or could be next week. He has a great wrap-up of the Whitmire Fallout on his blog today.

So, until I get my cable modem, you can expect about one hour of rapid fire posts on weekdays, and scattered posts at other times from myself, Jim and Andrew. Thanks.

Posted at 02:29 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

Whitmire is Back

By Byron LaMasters

I was pretty busy today, but Charles was on the story of the Sen. Whitmire's return to Houston. I'm a little upset and disappointed, and I hope that he'll continue to break quorum should another special session be called, but I'm not going to call for his defeat in a Democratic primary, like I have with Ron Wilson. I guess we'll just have to see what happens. Anyway, I've had a long day, and I'll blog on it in more detail tomorrow (unless Jim or Andrew gets to it). Again, for all the coverage you need for now, check out Off the Kuff

Posted at 02:29 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 02, 2003

An Exit Plan?

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report reports that Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) spent the weekend in Houston. Is there an exit plan?

Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) issued the following statement this morning:

"I have been in Houston since 10:00am, Thursday, August 28th after getting up at 3:00am to take a 7:00am flight to Houston. I returned as I had always planned - not a bolt from the group, but a planned return after sine die on Tuesday, August 26th."

"After being in my district for five days, I have concluded my constituents are opposed to redistricting, but they also believe the fight should be on the Senate floor."

"I am returning to New Mexico today to keep my commitment to the Texas 11. I will discuss with my colleagues that we need an exit plan and we need it now."

Posted at 02:22 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Park Cities Paper Opposes Perry

By Byron LaMasters

Here's a shocker. The local newspaper serving Highland Park and University Park (upper class suburban enclaves surrounded by Dallas on all sides, which vote about 80-90% Republican) urged Kay Bailey Hutchison to come home and bring some sense to the governor's office. Interested? Read on.

Won’t you come home, Kay Bailey? If Rick Perry calls another session, Republicans should elect another governor

The line is 10-1 that Rick Perry will call another special session to jam through Congressional redistricting. As we’ve said before and will say again, the Republicans have every right to redistrict. The voters gave them the power, and the voters expect them to use that power. But we doubt the voters expected they would use their power so ineptly. While the governor pursues his one-track strategy, a buzzing host of financial troubles hovers overhead. When those troubles descend on Texas, there will be hell to pay. The governor’s political clumsiness has created a legislative crisis that leaves Texas unprepared and unarmed to fend for itself.

There’s more. Seasoned political observers talk about the new GOP leadership with a growing cynicism that long-time Republicans should find appalling. From the stories that are circulating, the new Republican leaders don’t sound much different that the old Democrats who controlled the state for over 100 years.

Corruption is hard to track and harder to prove. A major donor buys a private jet for $500,000 and then sells it to an aspiring candidate for $100,000, which he borrows personally so he can campaign across state. When the election is over, the now-elected official turns around and sells the plane on the open market for $400,000. In these transactions, nothing illegal has occurred. Yet the official has pocketed $300,000 before taxes.

But most things are subtler than that. The intertwining of business interests with state regulation provides a fertile field for mischief. Take the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as an example. One of its three members is a lobbyist for the Texas Chemical Council. Another of its three members, appointed by Rick Perry, is a long-time activist for the Texas Cattleraisers Association, whose lobbyist also happens to represent various utility and chemical interests before the Commission on which she serves. Nothing wrong with that. But how do you think this Commission votes when chemical industry interests are at stake? It makes a joke of the Commission’s name.

Anything illegal here? Not at all. It’s all business as usual in Austin — and that’s the other problem with this governor, besides his ineptitude. He’s a Republican who could as easily be a Democrat. There’s not, in the famous phrase, a dime’s worth of difference between how state government is operated now under the GOP than how it operated under the Tory Democrats who ran the state for over 100 years.

That’s why many Republicans’ eyes are turning to Washington, where Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has served Texas with honor and distinction. We don’t agree with her on every issue (it’s time to dump the Wright Amendment, Senator), but we are second to none in our respect for her abilities and her probity.

Senator Hutchison is a Republican to her fingertips. She grew up in an insurgent Texas Republican Party whose goal was reform, not business as usual. Her integrity is unquestioned. Her good sense is well known. Her political instincts are excellent.

If Kay Bailey were to challenge Rick Perry in the March primary, Texas Republicans would face a clear choice. There’s no question the battle would be bloody. Perry is the kind of politician who, because he believes in nothing, will stop at nothing to get elected. The primary is dominated by the kind of hard-nut conservative that gives that admirable word an almost pejorative meaning. And, finally, Republicans are notoriously loath to fight it out in public.

Against that, Kay Bailey has advantages. She is the most popular Republican in the state, next to the president himself. She is a prodigious fund raiser. She has a deeply embedded network of support throughout the state.

If Rick Perry goes through with his threat to call another session, costing the taxpayers another $30 million, he may achieve his obsession of getting Tom DeLay three more seats in the U.S. Congress. But if he thinks that’s why Texans elected him, he’s reading tea leaves, not election results. The Republicans received a mandate, but not for this. The GOP needs to replenish and reclaim that mandate. It will achieve that by addressing and fixing the state’s problems, not by adding to them.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson, come home.

Posted at 02:06 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2003

Someone Needs to do their Research before Posting Comments..

By Byron LaMasters

Mark Harden made the following comment to this thread:

The Staples map by no means stretched any Travis County district down to the Valley. See PLANC01151. This is the map your man Barrientos could have obtained for you had he not run off to New Mexico. Now he will be coming back to lord knows what map."


If you ignore the propaganda site linked here, and instead refer to the Official Maps of the Texas Legislature, you will see that Austin would share absolutely no part of any districts with ANY of these three cities [McAllen, San Antonio or Houston].

Have you yourself looked at the official proposed maps yet? They didn't make them publicly available for nothing.

I'm sorry, but maybe we're not looking looking at the same Official Maps of the Texas Legislature. The Staples map as amended was passed out of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. The map is Plan C01327. Take a look at it. You know Mark, I even saved a copy of the UT area for your convenience. As you'll notice, the actual University of Texas would be placed in Lamar Smith's 21st district (San Antonio). However, the Baseball field over on the other side of I-35 would be in the new 25th District which, yes, would extend all the way down to the Valley. Finally, my apartment, which a mile north of UT on 38th Street would be in the 10th district dominated by suburban Houston. Who would represent UT on this map, Mark? No one.

Posted at 02:36 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 27, 2003

Redistricting Updates from Off the Kuff

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, I'm just getting back into the routine, here in Austin, so I'll be back to covering the details of the redistricting fight soon, but for now, Charles has great coverage. Today, the Democratic lawsuit saying that Republicans intent to change the two-thirds rule was a violation of the Voting Rights Act was considered to be a poor case by a federal judge, but it will be reviewed by a three judge panel anyway.

Charles also has all the details about the Democratic senators planned and cancelled trip to Laredo, the ruling from the Justice Department and the latest polling numbers across the state. So check it out over there.

Posted at 02:27 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 26, 2003

Poll: Texans oppose redistricting, but aren't happy with Dems either

By Jim Dallas

The Dallas Morning News reports:

The latest posturing came as a new Texas Poll suggests that the public is divided over redistricting.

According to the poll, 46 percent of respondents didn't think that congressional maps should be redrawn, while 40 percent felt redistricting was a good idea.

The poll found that Texans overwhelmingly disagreed with the Democrats' decision bolt to New Mexico. Sixty-two percent disagreed with the action, while 29 percent agreed.

About 46 percent of respondents faulted Mr. Perry's decision to call a second special session, compared with 44 percent who supported it.

The poll, conducted by the Scripps Data Center, surveyed 1,000 Texans on Aug. 7-21. The margin of error was 3 percentage points, meaning the results may vary by that much either direction.

Although Democrats have talked tough about staying in Albuquerque "as long as it takes" to kill redistricting, the Senate Democratic Caucus has not decided whether to return for a third special session or continue the boycott.

The "Texas 11" are coming to another critical juncture - whether to sit out a third special session on redistricting, which Gov. Perry may call as early as today; Democrats have previously indicated they might return for it.

Posted at 04:08 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 24, 2003

Text of Republican Ad Attacking Hinojosa

By Byron LaMasters

Last week Texas Republicans ran an ad in heavily Mexican accented English attacking Sen. Hinojosa in South Texas. Here is the transcript of the ad as provided from his office (via Mike):

I went to Sen. Hinojosa's office today and I did pick up a transcript of the
commercial, here it is typed out by me.

Paid for by the Republican Party of Texas

I solemnly swear that i Will faithfully execute the duties of the office of
Senator of the State of Texas

That is the same oath of office that senator Chuy Hinojosa took in January

Now, Senator Hinojosa is hiding from his duties in New Mexico

The El Paso Times calls it a betrayal of constituent trust and says Senator
Hinojosa elected to play politics with items vital to the state.

Unfortunately Senator Hinojosa has a record of breaking our trust.

He tried to weaken sex offender registration laws.

He opposed schoolchildren reciting the pledge of allegiance

He supports a law with criminals to lie in court to protect themselves

He even voted against increasing state education and healthcare spending by
more than a million dollars each.

With his record, maybe we are better off if Senator Hinojosa stays in New

Call Senator Hinojosa's at 956.872.1841 and let him know that he's betrayed
our trust

There it is.

Posted at 03:14 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2003

MoveOn.org wants to run Ad

By Byron LaMasters

Want a television ad to run across Texas telling Rick Perry and David Dewhurst to stop wasting our tax dollars on useless special sessions, and to stop (in Bill Ratliff's words) "destroy[ing] the Senate"? Then make a donation to the MoveOn.org "Defend Democracy" campaign!

Please help make our "Defend Democracy" ad campaign possible to show Majority Leader Delay and Texas Republican officials that all of America is watching what they are doing. Let's show Texas Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that there are political consequences for doing Tom Delay's Congressional dirty work in Texas. Please support our television ad campaign to let all Texans know exactly what their politicians are up to.

Whether you give $5 or $5000, you will be making an enormous contribution to this campaign. Until recently, this kind of campaign was not possible. Because of you the rules are changing for politicians who would try to operate outside of the bounds of Democracy and the rule of law.

In the event that we are unable to use your contribution for the ad you specify, either because of oversubscription or for another unforeseen reason, it is our policy to use your contribution for other advertising and public relations activities.

Posted at 06:52 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ratliff Interview, GOP seeks ruling on Senate Rules

By Byron LaMasters

Today's news includes an interview with State Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant), who's announcement that he opposed redistricting set the stage for the removal of the 2/3 rule and for Democrats bolting the state. Also in the news today is the amending of a lawsuit by Democrats and Republicans going to the Justice Department to stop a Democratic lawsuit accusing them of violating the Voting Rights Act.

My favorite Texas Republican, Bill Ratliff, who conservatives call a RINO at times, but is strongly supported by his constituents (he beat a ultra-conservative former state rep. primary challenger last year by a two to one margin) for the first time since the Democratic senators fled to ABQ, agreed to an interview. He was strongly critical of the GOP Senate leadership. The Dallas Morning News reports:

A leading Senate Republican on Tuesday disputed his party's argument that 11 Democratic senators have no constitutional right to boycott the Senate and questioned whether the penalties imposed by his GOP colleagues are even legal.

Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, acting lieutenant governor in 2001 and 2002, also said it was a big mistake for Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to scrap the long-standing Senate tradition of requiring a two-thirds vote to take up legislation during the current special session on redistricting.

Mr. Dewhurst set aside the rule in late July, prompting the Democrats to flee to New Mexico because their bargaining power on congressional redistricting was essentially lost. The Senate has 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

And this is a very interesting revelation. I just love Ratliff. It takes some balls and a lot of integrity to stand up to Tom DeLay.

Mr. Ratliff, who had declined to comment on the redistricting fracas until Tuesday, also disclosed that in the summer of 2001 he was asked by Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land and current U.S. House majority leader, whether he, as acting lieutenant governor, would suspend the Senate's two-thirds rule so the GOP could push through a favorable congressional redistricting plan during a special session.

"I said, 'No,' I would not agree to that," he said, adding that the subject was not brought up again while he was the state's No. 2 officeholder.

And there's more.

Mr. Ratliff said the redistricting fight is very distressing. "I think the people of Texas understand this is doing great harm to what many people saw as a superb deliberative body. They see much of that being destroyed," he said.


Mr. Ratliff is the only Republican senator who has publicly disagreed with Mr. Dewhurst and other GOP leaders about the right of the Democrats to block a Senate quorum and bottle up redistricting. The state constitution requires that a quorum of 21 of 31 senators be present for the Senate to conduct business.

Although Mr. Dewhurst and the attorney general say there is no constitutional right to block a quorum, Mr. Ratliff disagreed.

Noting he advised the Democrats not to leave, he insisted, "This is a free country. You can leave the state of Texas if you want to. And they left because the rules were changed."

Regarding the fines, Mr. Ratliff, a member of the Senate since 1989, said he does not support them and is "not sure we had authority to do what we did."

And the Austin American Statesman notes the end of the senate as he knew it:

Ratliff said the standoff is killing the Senate's tradition of bipartisan cooperation.

"The real tragedy is that it was all predictable and avoidable," he said. "But each step that is taken, just by one more step, destroys the Senate I knew."

Republicans have also gone to the Justice Department to clear themselves in a Democratic lawsuit charging that changing the two-thirds rule and removing the blocker bill is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Republican state officials are asking federal authorities for an expedited ruling that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to the Senate rules that prompted 11 Democratic senators to flee to New Mexico.

"Our goal is to get this resolved as quickly as possible," said Texas Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, Senate Democratic Caucus chair, said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's change in Senate procedure "discriminates against voters protected under the Voting Rights Act."

She said the state's lawyers are "belatedly and secretly" seeking U.S. Justice Department approval.


The procedure, traditionally in place in the Senate, allows a third of the Senate's 31 members to block a bill from coming up for debate. With the rule in effect during the first special session, Democrats were able to block redistricting. Without it in the second session, they could only prevent a vote by breaking quorum.

The Democrats filed a federal lawsuit in Laredo claiming Dewhurst violated minority voting rights when he changed the procedure without first obtaining permission from the Justice Department. The case is before U.S. District Judge George Kazen.

In filings with that court and with the U.S. Justice Department, the state attorney general and secretary of state argue that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to the Senate's internal rules.

But just in case it does, Assistant Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor asked the Justice Department to bless Dewhurst's actions as legal because the federal law is intended to protect "the ability of voters (as opposed to legislators) to vote."

Both filings argue that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to state Senate rules governing the flow of legislation.

Van de Putte said changing the Senate procedure "prevents us from protecting the rights and political participation of the millions of Texans they (Republicans) seek to disenfranchise."

Republicans have a legitimate arguement there, but Democrats are irate because the Republicans went to the Justice Department secretly, without telling anyone. Democrats still haven't acted on their 3 PM deadline yet, but a lawsuit regarding the legality of the fines and sanctions is imminent, likely to claim that the fines and sanctions are illegal because 1) there was no quorum and 2) the meeting was closed to the public, a violation of senate rules.

The Democrats had set a 3 p.m. Tuesday deadline for the Republicans to rescind sanctions and fines or face possible civil or criminal action.

"Be assured, we're going to act," said Sen. Royce West of Dallas. "But we'll dictate the timetable."

Dewhurst said the two official misconduct criminal statutes that Democrats are threatening to use against Republican senators do not apply.

"These are only cases in which a public official knowingly and intentionally violates state law," he said. "Everything we've done in the state Senate is with the advice and counsel of the attorney general."

Dewhurst said a civil law on race discrimination does not apply because the sanctions were based on the missing senators' absence, not on the fact that nine of the 11 are minorities.

And there's more on Ratliff.

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, said he has been so upset by the Senate's leveling sanctions against the missing members that he thought about resigning. Ratliff served as lieutenant governor in the 2001 legislative session, after Perry was promoted to governor when George W. Bush was elected president.

Ratliff said bad feelings caused by the redistricting debate will not heal easily. "If I thought that it was all going to blow over when it's over, I wouldn't be nearly as distraught about what's going on. I don't think it's going to blow over. I think it may be a generation before the scars from this are healed and that's what bothers me about it."

Also today, Democrats have amended their lawsuit filed in Laredo regarding the Voting Rights Act. This is the same lawsut which Republicans are trying to clear themselves of at the Justice Department. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The 11 Democrats boycotting the Texas Senate over congressional redistricting asked a federal court Wednesday to determine whether the Senate sergeant-at-arms or the Texas Department of Public Safety can arrest the lawmakers for breaking a quorum.

The Democrats already filed a lawsuit in Travis County District Court asking that state officials or their deputies be prohibited from arresting them should they return to the state. That lawsuit also challenges Republican Gov. Rick Perry's authority to call a special legislative session on redistricting.

The Wednesday filing amends a federal lawsuit the Democrats had already filed in Laredo that claims state GOP leaders violated the federal Voting Rights Act by dropping a Senate tradition that requires two-thirds of the chamber to agree to debate a bill.

Confused yet? I think we all are. It's a traveling circus.

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August 19, 2003

Dems to file another Suit over Sanctions

By Byron LaMasters

After several days of sanctions and fines, which the Democratic senators in New Mexico refuse to pay, it looks as if they will file a lawsuit this afternoon to prevent Republicans from imposing sanctions on their office staff. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Texas' Democratic state senators are threatening criminal and civil action against the governor and other Republicans if their parking spaces, cellular phones and mail service are not restored today.

Republican senators have stripped these privileges and others from the offices of 11 Democratic senators in an attempt to force them back to the Capitol from Albuquerque, where they fled three weeks ago to block GOP-backed congressional redistricting.

All but one of the chamber's 12 Democrats are in Albuquerque.

The Democrats say their constituents are being harmed by the sanctions, and they have no choice but to fight back.

"We're not threatening, we're promising," said Democratic Sen. Royce West of Dallas. "We can't sit idly by."

David Beckwith, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said he welcomed the next legal action.

"The claims are ridiculous," he said. "We would welcome an early judicial determination on their merit."

Gov. Rick Perry said the sanctions were Senate business.

"The Senate has always been an institution where the members along with the lieutenant governor make the decisions. It should stay that way," Perry said.

"This issue is about 11 members who decided to leave town and not do their jobs," the governor said. "By doing so, the work of the state of Texas has ground to a halt."

The Democrats gave the Senate until 3 p.m. today to lift the sanctions.

Otherwise they threatened to take action under sections of the state Penal Code dealing with abuse of official capacity and official oppression, crimes that for some violations carry felony penalties including prison time.

The senators declined to say how they would present criminal complaints to a prosecutor or grand jury.

The Democrats, who claim the congressional redistricting effort and Senate action violate voting rights of ethnic minorities, also threatened civil court action under a state law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex or national origin. That law allows the injured party to obtain an injunction. It also provides misdemeanor penalties punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

Of course, both sides continued to play the racial rhetoric.

The rhetoric in the interstate debate intensified Monday, as Democrats accused Republicans of telling blacks and Hispanics in Texas to "move to the back of the bus."

The sanctions, they said, set up a "class system" based on race.

"Under the sanctions, Texans who live in Anglo districts represented by Republicans get more and better services and resources than those who live in minority districts," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, the chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus and a Hispanic.

Beckwith declined to comment on the racial allegations. Last week he apologized for sarcastically linking the Democrats to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, a black woman who refused in 1955 to give up her seat at the front of an Alabama bus.

Beckwith had said the Democrats thought they were "Rosa Parks II."

Perry, Dewhurst and all the Senate Republicans are Anglo. Nine of the 11 Democrats in Albuquerque are black or Hispanic, and the other two are Anglos whose districts are largely black or Hispanic.

The Democrats contend that race is at the heart of the redistricting issue. Republicans note, however, that the U.S. representatives who likely would lose their seats under redistricting proposals are Anglos.

And the Republicans are sorely mistaken if they think that sanctions will encourage Democrats to come home or compromise. It's only strengthened the Democrats resolve.

Last week, Republican senators present at the Capitol voted to fine the runaways for each day of their absence, and then instituted additional sanctions to enforce the fines.

The 11 senators' staffs said Monday that the sanctions so far were not hurting morale.

"It's like bombing London," said Ian Randolph, legislative director for Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville. "It just strengthens our resolve to support what our bosses are doing."

They described the sanctions as an annoyance, making staffers park far away, lug mail to the Capitol extension rather than having it picked up and hunt down news without subscriptions to hometown papers.

"Aside from the emergency paper clip rationing, we're all doing fine," said Graham Keever, general counsel for Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin.

Only three cell phones were cut off. They belonged to Sens. Frank Madla of San Antonio, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso and Judith Zaffarini of Laredo, said Patsy Shaw, secretary of the senate.

The Dallas Morning News described the new sanctions:

Orange cones blocked parking spaces of the Democratic senators' staffs, a part of the sanctions, which also include loss of cellphone, purchasing and mail privileges, floor passes, travel, conference rooms and subscriptions.

But Democrats will be resourceful, even if they have to run carpools, ration paper clips and take out their mail.

As a result, many of the displaced staffers had to stop work periodically to feed parking meters. But work continued, they said.

"It's pretty much business as usual. Everybody found a way to get to work," said Graham Keever, chief lawyer for Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin. "Other than the severe paper clip rationing that we've instituted, we're in good shape."

Mr. Keever noted that mail pickup was among the privileges suspended Friday.

"The mail guy will literally walk down the hall and not stop at Democratic offices," he said.

The absent senators' Democratic House colleagues, meanwhile, announced they were organizing carpools to free up state parking space for the senate staffers.

"Our goal is to free more than 50 spaces in the Capitol garages so that more senate staffers can continue to park free," said Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine.

In an editorial today, the Dallas Morning News lamented the end of bipartisanship in the Senate.

Last week the Quorum Report harshly criticized Republicans for their failure to sanction a Republican colleague in 1997 who was a convicted sex offender, while finding it necessary to sanction the Democratic senators in ABQ currently. Yesterday, however, the Quorum Report criticized Democrats for the racial rhetoric:

On Friday, this observer wrote an opinion/analysis piece raising the specter that the real cost of escalating sanctions against Texas Democrats was to weaken the Texas Senate in its institutional competition with the Texas House and the Governor's office. We pointed to how the institution had sidestepped such fissures in the Drew Nixon (R-Carthage) era.

But the self-inflicted wounds on the Senate are not exclusively a Republican phenomena.

Without commenting on whether or not the Senate Democrats should have broken the quorum, it is fair to criticize their heightened racial rhetoric. They have all but accused their Republican colleagues of being racist.

Some of the statements emanating from New Mexico and their supporters are couched in language suggesting that the current battle is little more than the racist expression of an all white Republican Party.

The rhetoric reached its height around the time that the Democratic senators sent their open letter to President Bush. It had the feel of trying to inject the Texas redistricting battle into presidential campaign politics. If that was the strategy, it was punctured by the California recall issue and emergence of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a candidate for Governor.

There should be some news about the Democratic lawsuit coming out at 3 PM. I'll update when necessary.

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August 18, 2003

Will the Fight ever End?

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News outlines why each party won't give up this fight and how each side has misunderestimated the other. As for the misunderestimation, both sides have done it.

Republicans might have underestimated the resolve of their opponents, most of them Hispanic, that stems, in part, from a scrappy brand of South Texas politics that extols the noble fight.

Democrats might have underestimated the GOP's willingness to resort to scorched-earth tactics in a battle closely followed by national leaders.

That leaves the Legislature in a seemingly hopeless political deadlock, with neither side hinting at the possibility of compromise.

The AWOL Democrats spent their 21st day in political exile Sunday. Both sides vow not to surrender.

"I agree that we did underestimate each other," Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said last week in Irving. "As time goes on, we're all getting very frustrated, especially with the fact that the Democratic senators left."

Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Washington-based Rothenberg Political Report, called the Texas standoff "the ultimate fight."

"It's a fight for political power and survival," he said.

And the Democrats won't quit.

Democrats have used the plight of the minority voter as their battle hymn.
Of the 11 Democrats, two are black, two are white and the rest are Hispanic, mostly from South Texas.

Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen says the fight is more about "heart" than politics.

"We take pride in standing up for our rights and for the minorities we represent," he said. "We won't give up."

"They don't understand our resolve, and they don't understand our people," said Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo. "Where we come from, if you get hit, you get up and hit back."

Some speculation in political circles had the AWOL Democrats returning from Albuquerque after one, maybe two weeks of living in their hotel headquarters.

Nearing the end of the third week of the Democrats' boycott, San Antonio's Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said some Republicans didn't think the Democrats were tough enough.

"For some reason, they thought we came down here for a show," she said. "But we're here because we have to do whatever it takes to stop redistricting."

Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, said the stakes are too high for Democrats to fold.

More Republican congressmen from Texas could lead to a more conservative national agenda that runs contrary to the minority constituents represented by the Texas 11.

"They are aware of the impact," he said. "They know that there are national implications."

During legislative hearings on redistricting around the state, members of various civil rights groups, including the NAACP, testified against a plan that would elect more Republicans to Congress.

"It really would affect services if there is a big change made in Washington," said U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. "It's a distinctive difference between the philosophies of Democrats and Republicans. There is a majority of Republicans there already. If more are added, it can be disastrous."

Charles Elliott, a retired political science professor from Commerce, agreed.

"It's not just a matter of redistricting," he said. "It's a matter of being able to hang on and not be steamrolled."

Some Republicans were surprised that members of the Senate – called the Legislature's "upper chamber" – used rough-and-tumble, House-like tactics against the Republican majority.

"We're standing up for ourselves," Ms. Van de Putte said. "We will not be deterred from working for the people."

But Mr. Dewhurst still questions the Democrats' toughness, explaining that visiting well-wishers such as country music legend Willie Nelson have given them a morale boost.

"The presence out in Albuquerque has fueled them," he said. "They are rock stars, so they stayed a little longer."

But neither will Republicans.

Clearly in their political prime, Texas Republicans vow to give no quarter in the fight. They know Washington is watching their performance, because the stakes are high nationally.
"It comes down to who's in charge," said Jim Ellis, head of Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political action committee.

The latest proposal waiting for Senate consideration would give the GOP up to 22 congressional seats and make it more difficult for Democrats to regain control of the U.S. House.

"If the Republicans get more seats from Texas, there is no way the Democrats will be able to take back the House in 2004," said David Bositis, a senior analyst for the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. "Democrats know that without Texas, they won't be able to take back the House. They are both fighting for the same thing."

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, a prime legislative sponsor of the redistricting plan, said his immediate goal was to keep the U.S. House under Republican control.

"I want to make sure when President Bush is elected that [California Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi doesn't become speaker," Mr. King said. "If we send four, five or six more representatives to Congress from Texas, it would make it difficult for Democrats to make up the difference."

Republicans also are motivated by the mushrooming Hispanic population in Texas and the difficulty that could pose for the GOP's ability to hang on to congressional seats through the decade.

"The next six years are important to Texas Republicans," Mr. Bositis said, "although the immediate battle is for 2004."

Federal judges developed the existing map based on the 2000 census, after the 2001 Legislature could not settle on a plan. Barring more unusual moves, redistricting would occur again after the 2010 census.

Republicans say their resolve to prevail should not be questioned.

Mr. Perry has said that he would keep calling legislators back for special sessions, setting up a scenario in which Democrats might have to constantly leave the state to break quorums.

To turn up the heat, Mr. Dewhurst and Senate Republicans have taken the unprecedented step of fining the absent Democrats up to $5,000 a day for each day they are not in session.

Republicans are also taking Democrats' Capitol parking spots and cutting their staff budgets.

"I'm shocked at the actions that our colleagues back in Austin have taken," said Frank Madla, D-San Antonio. "I didn't think I would ever see the state of Texas in this type of a situation."

Mr. Ellis said the GOP was prepared to take other extraordinary steps to ensure new congressional districts. Those include moving filing and primary dates for next year's congressional elections, thwarting any Democratic tactics to stall redistricting until it was too late for 2004 elections.

Viewing the odds of approving a redistricting plan in his favor, Mr. Dewhurst has asked Democrats to return to Austin and negotiate or debate a "fair plan."

"Redistricting is going to happen, whether it's in this session or another," Mr. Dewhurst said. "I urge our colleagues to come back to work and help us work on a fair plan."

So, what will happen? I still don't know. But both sides have staked out their ground, and I doubt the fight will end soon. Charles has more from around the state including an interesting Austin American Statesman editorial on the effects of race and partisanship in the redistricting fight.

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August 17, 2003

Republicans Run Ad in Valley

By Byron LaMasters

This is interesting. The ad attacks State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen). And the folks there think its racist because the ad uses very heavily (Spanish) accented English. Do Republicans think that they can better communicate with Hispanic voters by speaking with a Mexican accent? Speaking phrases of Spanish is one thing, but accented English? I think that it sort of assumes that they're stupid or something. Anyway, the McAllen Monitor reports:

Local Democratic leaders are upset about a new radio spot that is running on at least one area radio station attacking State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Hinojosa is among the 11 Democrat senators holed up in and Albuquerque, N.M., hotel to break quorum in the State Senate and prevent passage of a congressional redistricting plan that would slice up Rio Grande Valley congressional representation.

The ad, paid for by the Texas Republican Party, questions Hinojosa’s voting record.

But it’s not necessarily the words in the ad that have Democrats so steamed. While the ad might mislead listeners about Hinojosa’s voting record, local leaders are questioning the method of delivery.

The radio spot features two unidentified actors — one female, the other an older male — speaking in cartoonish, thickly Mexican-accented English.

“That’s the mentality that the Republicans have of our part of the state,” said Juan Maldonado, chairman of the statewide Tejano Democrats organization. “They think we’re still sleeping under a cactus with a big sombrero and don’t know how to speak English.”

Republican state chair Susan Weddington refused to take calls from The Monitor. A reporter was referred to Trey Dippo of the party’s communication department.

“I haven’t heard it,” Dippo said. “I know this is a Republican party ad, but let me talk to our political director and I will get back to you by 12 noon, how’s that?”

He did not call back, and no other return call from the Republican Party was received.

Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman R.D. “Bobby” Guerra said he was appalled by the radio commercial.

“It is very disturbing that the state Republicans would stoop to something so racist,” Guerra said. “There’s going to be a big backlash. I don’t know who’s calling the shots up there but they’re not thinking straight.”

Guerra said the uprising in South Texas against Republicans has already started.
“I know a lot of different segments of our community,” Guerra said. “And I’ve had several staunch Republicans tell me they are so embarrassed over what the state is doing with the redistricting issue.

“And they say, ‘From this point forward, I’m voting Democratic,’ ” Guerra said. “They are just so embarrassed.”

The Tejano Democrats are holding their annual meeting this weekend in McAllen and Maldonado said the group would address the radio ad.

“It’s a bad one,” Maldonado said. “We’re ready, we’ll take action and we’ll do something about it.”

Maldonado said the Tejano Democrats scheduled a conference call with Hinojosa during the weekend conference and planned to talk to the McAllen senator about the ad.

“I don’t think they want to let go of the image of us not knowing how to speak English,” Maldonado said. “They promote that. This is very racial.
“In regards to redistricting, they are trying to dilute the Latino vote and hold us back.”

Juanita Valdez Cox of the United Farm Workers said the two actors in the radio ad are probably not from Hidalgo County, and she would like to know who they are.

“They must not live in the same county we do,” Cox said. “They certainly don’t know his excellent record. Chuy has been one of the best representatives for low-income people. How dare they do this.”

La Joya Mayor Billy Leo said local elected officials need to respond to the commercial.

“They’re looking down at us,” Leo said. “At least Chuy is not hiding how he is feeling. Let’s not be cowards, come out and show your face. Don’t hide behind those ‘Mexican’ actors in the commercial.”

This goes right up there with the poll tax, err.. sanctions as two of the nuttiest ideas of the Republian Hispanic outreach program. Really. I need to make a new category entitled "Are they really that dumb?". This post would qualify for it.

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The Latest GOP Arguement

By Byron LaMasters

From the Houston Chronicle.

Clearly, the Texas 11 are responsible for the northeastern blackout. Or Howard Dean. Or Gray Davis. Or maybe Canada. Really, the sad thing is that this is a more sensible "arguement" than some of the others that the GOP has tried.

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A step closer to Dictatorship

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Kos hit it right on the head. Republicans don't like election results, so they want to change the rules (California, Texas, Colorado, etc.). But now that's not good enough, so they start cancelling them. Or at least they consider it.

I blogged earlier that Phil King (R-Weatherford) had filed a bill to pospone the filing deadline in order for the justice department to clear a redistricting map.

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August 15, 2003

More Sanctions

By Byron LaMasters

This is rediculous. The Houston Chronicle has the latest.

With a band of Democratic lawmakers refusing to end their self-imposed exile, Republicans today approved a new piece of arm-twisting: Yanking the rebels' parking spaces, cell phones and other privileges.

The penalties also include a ban on purchases, travel and printing privileges, which will kick in if the Democrats refuse to pay the fines the Republican senators voted to impose on them this week.

Other penalties include limiting postage to $200 a month and taking floor passes away from staffers.

"These actions that we are adding today are to encourage the absent members to return home," said Sen. Todd Staples, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus.

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A Fair and Balanced Letter to Rick Perry

By Byron LaMasters

A friend of mine in the University Democrats wrote the following letter to Governor Perry.

Dear Inept Governor Perry,

Voltaire once stated that “Common sense is not so common.” Never has this observation been more prevalent than in the actions of your fellow Republicans of the 78th Texas Legislature. While the Republicans claim to be against Affirmative Action and the system of using quotas, they are not behaving in a manner consistent with their mantra. The Republicans have been using what I like to call “weapons of mass distraction” in their reasoning behind redistricting 3 years after the fact. They claim that since they received 56 % of the vote in the 2002 congressional elections that they are entitled to having at least 66% of the seats in the Texas Congressional delegation. Well, in order to be consistent with this system of quotas I would like to know why the Republicans aren’t saying that 50% of the seats must be held by women? 32% occupied by Hispanics; 12% African-American and so on. Why are you not being consistent with your principles? I believe it is because the Republicans want to disenfranchise Hispanics, Blacks, Women, Jews, and any other group that does not subscribe to their brand of extreme right-wing conservatism. Just look at the map being proposed. Rural areas are being connected to Republican dominated suburbs. Any idiot can see what is being done here. It is a travesty to our democracy. I am willing to bet money that 50 years from now the history books are going to elucidate the actions by the Texas Republicans in the year 2003 as nothing short of irresponsible, partisan gerrymandering as baneful and un-American as the McCarthyism of the 50’s, and the internment camps during World War 2.

Make no mistake, this redistricting attempt is nothing short of racist and anti-Semitic. As a Jew, and more importantly as an American Jew, I find your attempt to remove Martin Frost, the only Jewish representative from Texas, from office as an attempt to disenfranchise the Jewish Community of this state. Republicans want to take away our voice because they do not like the way we vote. They know that 80% of Jews voted for Al Gore in 2000 and they want us silenced. Well you can’t shut this Jew up. And I would like to conclude by saying that I sincerely hope you will stop calling special sessions and wait to deal with re-destricting until 2011 like you are supposed to and not mid census. If you succeed in redistricting you will be setting a new precedent in the way Texas handles constitutionally mandated redistricting. If you succeed you will be saying that every 2 years the legislature can redistrict if the leadership switches parties; That the party in power can get a gerrymandered map to their favor if and when they achieve this power between redistricting years. This is a political power play at the expense of the people of Texas.

Seems pretty fair and balanced to me!

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Poll Taxes: 21st Century Style

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report reports rumors of further penalties Republicans want to impose on the Texas 11 in ABQ. I've said this before, but all Republicans have to do is wait out the Democrats. Democrats won't stay in ABQ forever. If Republicans would have just tried and negotiated with them, they could probably have worked out a compromise (altough its way too late and too polarized at this point), but what they're doing is antagonizing the Democrats daily. The only effect that it will have is that the Democrats will fight much harder and longer than they would have otherwise, and it continues to energize Democrats and minority voters throughout the state. I don't get it. But then again, there's a lot of things about Republicans that I don't understand.


Email circulating at capitol describes presumed additional penalties for absent Senators

Not confirmed but ricocheting through the Capitol as likely additional penalties imposed by the Republican Caucus upon absent Democrats if fines are not paid in the next five days:

No access to conference, press or meeting rooms.

No purchases

$200/month limit on postage

no staff or member parking

no subscriptions

no printing of letterhead, newsletters, etc.

no floor passes

no travel

no cell phones

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August 14, 2003

Bipartisan Agreement in the House?

By Byron LaMasters

No big news today. Yesterday, Dave Beckwith (Dewhurst's spokesman) did apologize for his "they think they're Rosa Parks" statement.

For the first time, there's a bipartisan group of House members interested in creating a bipartisan panel for redistricting (which Jeff Wentworth has proposed in the Senate). It probably won't go anywhere, but at least its progress (I personally support a bipartisan panel to decide redistricting -- begining in 2011). The Austin American Statesman reports:

It's a little late for the current fight, but a bipartisan group of House members has jumped on the idea of creating a commission to draw boundaries for the state's congressional districts.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, has pushed the idea for years to no avail.

On Wednesday, Houston Rep. Scott Hochberg, along with seven other Democrats and two Republicans, filed a bill to create such a commission. Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, filed similar legislation earlier this year and is among the joint authors this time.

The commission would have nine members, with the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate appointing two apiece.

Those eight members would choose a nonvoting ninth member to lead the group.

None of the members could be elected officials or political party officials, and none could have held public office for two years prior to joining the commission.

The plan, however, faces long odds.

Even if it can clear the House, Senate Democrats are blocking congressional redistricting by boycotting the session, and no other bills can be considered in the Senate while they're gone.

Meanwhile, the Texas 11 received a visit from Colorado Democratic Senators who were the victim of similar GOP tactics. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports:

Colorado Republicans rushed through a redistricting plan during the last three days of the session in May, suspending legislative rules that could have allowed Democrats in Colorado to block it.

"We certainly can tell them what happens when rules get suspended and when normal courtesies don't apply. And that's something I think nobody's ever prepared for," said Colorado's Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald.

Fitz-Gerald was joined by state Sens. Ron Tupa of Boulder, Bob Hagedorn of Aurora, Peggy Reeves of Fort Collins and Ken Gordon of Denver.

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August 13, 2003

Another Good Summary

By Byron LaMasters

I have a tendency to post things as they happen, and do analysis later. Charles is good at putting it all together, so his recap of the fines, their legality and all is here. I must add that the funding for the GI Forum was restored. I guess our brilliant governor realized that cutting their money could look racist to some people, and that others (like me) would use it as an issue to show Republican racial insensitivity and hypocrisy. And the only think more shocking than seeing a flash of brilliance by Guv. Goodhair is to see that Owen agrees with Charles and I that the fines are illegal. Kind of. Anyway, be sure to check out Charles's recap here.

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August 12, 2003

GOP Sanctions Dems $5000/day/Senator

By Byron LaMasters

Without a quorum to conduct official business, 18 Senators have decided to impose sanctions of the 11 Democrats in New Mexico, the Dallas Morning News is reporting.

"I expect that senators will consider appropriate measures against absent members as authorized by the Texas Senate rules and by the Texas Constitution, for the purpose of compelling their attendance," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Democrats won't pay it, though. So what's the point? More lawsuits probably.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, called the proposed fine a poll tax.

"I won't pay it," he said.

The Quorum Report reported that 18 of the 20 Senators not in New Mexico were meeting in closed door session at 2 PM. The session is illegal.

Update: The sanctions are $1000 for the first day, $2000 for day two, $4000 for day three, and $5000 thereafter per senator. My guess is that it starts immediately, but it could be retroactive:

Republican senators remaining in Texas voted Tuesday to fine the 11 self-exiled Democrats who are holed up in a New Mexico hotel for each day they are absent from a second special session on redistricting.

Without objection, the Republicans and one Democratic senator approved a resolution to fine the lawmakers starting at $1,000 a day, and the fine would double each day for each day they miss the session. The fine is not to exceed $5,000 a day.

Senators took the vote as the Democrats mark their 16th day in Albuquerque in protest over congressional redistricting.

I personally think that it's disgraceful that Ken Armbrister would allow himself to be part of this illegal session to sanction his Democratic colleagues.

Another thought. Is this part of the GOP Hispanic outreach program? Fining all seven Hispanic Senators $5000 per day? Republicans just don't get it. Hispanics will be a majority in this state very soon, and they won't forget this shameless behavior by the Republican majority today.

Update: Apologies to Sen. Armbrister. He voted no, according to the Quorum Report:

After hours of backroom meetings, seventeen Senators convened to sanction their eleven colleagues in New Mexico. Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) introduced a resolution imposing fines to be paid out of private funds beginning August 14. The fines would begin at $1,000 a day and double per day up to $5,000 per day until the end of the second called-session.

After parliamentary inquiry by Senator Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria), Nelson moved adoption. Although there were no apparent objections, the record shows that Armbrister voted no.

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Dewhurst Spokesman: "Dems think they're Rosa Parks"

By Byron LaMasters

Via the San Antonio Express News:

Senators said a spokesman for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made inappropriate comments in a published report by suggesting the Democrats consider themselves akin to Rosa Parks, whose refusal to yield her seat at the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama contributed to the civil rights movement.

The spokesman, David Beckwith, was quoted by Scripps Howard’s Austin bureau today saying of the absent Democrats: “After they got” to New Mexico “thinking they were going to stay a few days and then declare victory or whatever they thought they were going to do, they got captured by the Democratic National Committee blowing smoke up their rears and telling them what great Americans they were. So now they’ve gone from making a statement to ‘doing the right thing.’ They think they are Rosa Parks II.”

Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston, who is African American, said he was “personally offended” by the comment and contended the comment reflected a history of similar lapses by Beckwith, who once worked for Vice President Dan Quayle.

“He owes the entire state of Texas an apology,” Ellis said.

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin said Beckwith deserves a kick in the rear.

“He’s pulled the race card,” Barrientos said. “He’s dealt himself a very bad hand.”

Sen. Royce West of Dallas said he started to give Beckwith “a sheet and a hood” but decided that was too reactive.

Beckwith, informed of the criticism, said today he was simply telling Scripps Howard that the Democratic flight was “not a historic event. I’m sorry if anybody is offended.”

But remember, they're all still friends.

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Fines Violate Civil Rights Act, Dems Say

By Byron LaMasters

From the Quorum Report:

Responding to early reports, Senate Democrat has warned he will use the Civil Rights Act to sue Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and any Republican senator that votes to fine him for non-attendance.

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) said that based on press reports, he might owe $32 million and the Senate Democratic Caucus $360 million in fines.

According to reports, Senate Republicans may this afternoon consider disciplining and fining absent Democrats, perhaps as much as $1,000 for the first day of absence, with the figure doubling for each successive day. Early reports indicate that the funds would simply be deducted from their office accounts beginning Friday.

Hinojosa said the alleged Republican plans have left the Democrats’ Capitol office staff anxious and afraid as to whether they will have jobs or a paycheck at the end of the week. He also said rumors were also flying about doors being locked and staff being told to leave the Capitol.

"This is going to be the black and brown tax imposed by the all-white senators," Hinojosa fumed. "It’s a crime and it is called official oppression. I plan to sue Dewhurst and any senator under the Civil Rights Act to protect my rights as a minority and my actions in defending the interests of my constituents."

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Screw Redistricting, Winner Take All!

By Byron LaMasters

Or so Paul E. McGreal in a Dallas Morning News viewpoint suggests. I would think that his plan would be a massive Voting Rights Act violation, but he makes a serious, if completely unrealistic legal arguement for such a system.

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Redistricting News

By Byron LaMasters

There's some new news today. Charles has a good overview of the coverage in all the papers around the state. The new twist to the story is that Dewhurst plans to fine the senators in New Mexico.

As early as today, the Texas Senate plans to start fining its boycotting members after the Supreme Court on Monday refused to order 11 Democratic senators to return to Texas from New Mexico.

The fines strategy was hatched shortly after the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit filed by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in an attempt to force the Democrats to return to Austin to consider a new map for the state's 32 congressional districts.


"Accordingly, when the Senate convenes on Tuesday, I expect senators will consider appropriate measures against absent members, as authorized by the Texas Senate rules and by the Texas Constitution, for the purpose of compelling their attendance," Dewhurst said.

A Senate leadership source said the "authorized measures" would be fines against the missing senators. No fine had been set, but one scenario considered would assess a $1,000 fine the first day and double the fines each subsequent day.

Senate rules make no mention of fines, but the Texas Constitution says lawmakers can "compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide."

Great. Two problems guys. One, there is no quorum to conduct and business in the senate. Thus, there is no way to legally pass a measure fining the Democrats. And two, Democrats won't pay them. What can Dewhurst do? Arrest them? Nope.

Austin lawyer Renea Hicks, who represents the 11 boycotting senators, disagreed that fines can be assessed.

"There's got to be a Senate rule to fine them," Hicks said. "They just can't make the rules up as they go along. I don't understand how the Senate can be so lawless as not to follow their rules."

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August 11, 2003

Texas 11 Letter to Bush

By Byron LaMasters

Here's a PDF file of the letter.

Notice the address that they sent the letter to:

President George W. Bush
The Summer White House
Prairie Chapel Ranch
Crawford, Texas 76638

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TX Supreme Court Dismisses GOP Suit

By Byron LaMasters

The lawsuit filed by Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst asking the Texas Supreme Court to enact sanctions against the Democratic Senators in ABQ was dismissed by the all Republican Texas Supreme Court. The Austin American Statesman is on the story:

The Texas Supreme Court has turned down a request by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that the court order 11 Democratic Senators to return to Texas from New Mexico.

Without comment or explanation, the state's highest civil court denied a request for a writ of mandamus, essentially an emergency order from the court that would have declared that the absent senators are violating the state constitution and can be required to return to the Capitol.

Dewhurst and Perry had sought the order last Thursday, and the court gave lawyers for the absent Democrats until Monday to file a response.

The court acted swiftly after receiving written arguments from lawyers for the senators who insisted that the court has no legal authority to inject itself into what is primarily a political spat over congressional redistricting.

The standoff between the absent senators and state Republican leaders is purely the creation of Senate rules, the Democratic lawyers argued, and it is up to Dewhurst as the Senate's presiding officer to solve it.

"He (Dewhurst) should not be permitted to invoke the extraordinary remedy of mandamus to remedy a political problem he bears significant responsibility for creating," the Democratic lawyers argued in their brief.


The state Constitution requires two-thirds of the legislative members to be present to conduct business. Although absent members may be compelled to attend, the rules of the House and Senate did not anticipate the Democrats evading apprehension by fleeing the state.

Perry and Dewhurst have argued that a minority of legislators should not be allowed to thwart the will of the majority by failing to attend the special legislative session that ends August 26.

Meanwhile the Houston Chronicle has more on the Democrats lawsuit and their reaction to the dismissal of the GOP one.

The Democratic reaction was obviously positive.

The partisan fight over redistricting erupted on two fronts today, as Texas Democrats sued to block the Republicans' effort to redraw the state's political map and the Texas Supreme Court refused to order Democrats to end their Senate boycott.

Democrats reacted with glee to the high court's ruling.

"We believe strongly that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction with respect to Senate turf," said Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso.

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, both Republicans, had asked the Supreme Court to order 11 Senate Democrats back from self-imposed exile in New Mexico. The Democrats' absence prevented the Senate from considering a GOP plan to redraw the state's congressional districts.

The Democrats are now moving forward with their lawsuit, filed in Laredo (Webb County) which is dominated by Democrats (about 85-90%) at the countywide level. The Democratic Senators argue that removing the two thirds rule is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, the Senate Democrats moved ahead with a lawsuit in federal district court in Laredo, accusing GOP leaders of pushing their plan through the Legislature without adequately considering the views of more than 6,000 people who attended public hearings this summer.

The Democrats sued the state, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and also claimed that GOP leaders violated the federal Voting Rights Act by dropping a traditional rule that requires two-thirds of the Senate to agree to debate a bill.

Democrats argue that the two-thirds rule is vital in protecting the representation of political and racial minority groups in the Senate. Without the rule, voting "practices and procedures" in Texas are changed, Democrats' attorneys say.

Such a change, according to the Voting Rights Act, must first be cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, said Renae Hicks, an attorney for the Democrats.

"It is a change in pattern and practice with respect to redistricting in Texas in a way that's never happened before," Hicks said.

"There is a direct link between the change the lieutenant governor is proposing and minority voters in Texas," he said.

After the rule was dropped, eleven Senate Democrats resorted to fleeing to New Mexico to block consideration of a GOP-backed redistricting bill, partly because they believe the plan would minimize the representation of minorities and rural Texans in Congress.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District court in Laredo, a heavily Hispanic and rural area of South Texas.

"This single issue is a violation of the Voting Rights Act, silencing the voices of every minority member of the Texas Senate and forcing a redistricting bill through the Legislature against the interests of minority voters, against the will of every minority member of the Senate and those senators who represent minority districts," said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

The Democrats who filed the lawsuit Monday -- ten of whom represent majority-minority Senate districts -- claim that GOP leaders excluded minorities in the redistricting process by failing to appoint any racial or ethnic minorities to chair subcommittees on redistricting and failing to hold official field hearings south of San Antonio. Official field hearings also were not held in far West Texas or East Texas.

About 97 percent of 3,103 people who attended House field hearings and 92 percent of the 2,982 who attended Senate hearings registered opinions against lawmakers taking up redistricting, the lawsuit claims.

This lawsuit is a new suit by Democrats. They filed several lawsuits in Travis County district court last week. Those lawsuits are still pending.

Update: The Austin American Statesman has more on the Democrats lawsuit in federal court.

Update: More reaction from across the state.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court today dealt a body blow to the GOP-led drive to redraw the state's congressional boundaries by rejecting a plea from Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that the justices order the 11 Democratic senators to end their holdout in New Mexico.

The state's highest civil court denied the motion filed Thursday by the state's top two Republicans that would have compelled the absent Democrats to return to Austin so the Legislature could take up redistricting.

San Antonio Express News reports that the Democratic Senators are elated:

The Texas Supreme Court today denied a petition by Republican leaders that it order back to work 11 Democratic senators holed up in an Albuquerque hotel to stop GOP-led congressional redistricting.
In Albuquerque, the senators celebrated.

"It's over, it's over," said Sen. Royce West of Dallas.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, head of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said, "It's time for (Gov. Rick) Perry to end this."

Added West, "It's time for them to stand down."

Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo said of the all-GOP Supreme Court, "They passed the integrity test. They did what was right, not what was political."

Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement that he was "very disappointed that the Supreme Court did not resolve this pending constitutional crisis." He said he remained committed to addressing redistricting.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a statement that the court's action "clarifies that the issue is a legislative matter that only the Legislature can and should resolve." He said he expects senators tomorrow "to consider appropriate measures against absent members as authorized by the Texas Senate rules and by the Texas Constitution ... for the purpose of compelling their attendance."

Corpus Christi Caller Times

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Rally Pictures at ToT

By Byron LaMasters

Check out some great rally pictures from Saturday's rally over at ToT.

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While I was out

By Byron LaMasters

Well, while I was raising hell in Austin, Charles caught all the other weekend action.

The only real news today, is that Democrats have asked George W. Bush to intervene to stop redistricting. It won't happen, but it's a new line of Democratic attack (when Bush was governor, he was a uniter, not a divider, and things like this hurt that legacy, so he should step in). It's mostly a public relations ploy, but heck, it can't hurt. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The 11 Democratic senators encamped here have called on President Bush to intervene in the impasse over congressional redistricting, saying he alone has the power to end "this embarrassing chapter in Texas history."

The debacle, they said in a letter Friday that they individually signed, is damaging the former Texas governor's credibility as a bipartisan leader. And, they said, his top adviser, Karl Rove, is largely to blame.

They also criticized U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land, the driving force behind the effort to redraw district lines, and Republicans Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who the Democrats say are doing his bidding in Texas.

Their actions "cast a shadow over your legacy here. ... Your continued silence is being interpreted by thoughtful Americans as complicity or as tacit approval," the senators wrote.

"We ... request an immediate public announcement of your opposition to this unfair and shameful power grab."

But the Bushies aren't really moving.

A Bush spokesman said Sunday that the president did not plan to become involved in the dispute.

"That's a matter for the state of Texas to address," said Jimmy Orr, a White House spokesman in Crawford, where Mr. Bush is vacationing.

David Beckwith, a spokesman for Mr. Dewhurst, said the allegation that his boss has acted on Mr. Rove's instructions is false and nothing but a publicity ploy by the Democrats.

"It's particularly ironic," he said, "since the Democratic National Committee is increasingly calling the tune out in Albuquerque."

Kathy Walt, the governor's spokeswoman, called the Democrats' claims "ludicrous."

And Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos said what I expected. Democrats are working all fronts.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, did not return a telephone call Sunday. Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin said the letter is just another of the group's on-going efforts to find a solution to the standoff.

"We don't hang our hat on one item, on one lawsuit, on one rally. We're working on all fronts," he said.

Update: It looks like the story has hit today's Washington Post.

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Another Round of Editorials

By Byron LaMasters

On Friday and Saturday, a new round of editorials blanketed the state. The Fort Worth Star Telegram, Houston Chronicle and Waco Tribune Herald wrote relatively pro-Democratic editorials, while the Austin American Statesman wrote a mixed one today, lamenting the fact that both sides have taken to the courts.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Mid-cycle redistricting was a bad idea when it came up during the regular legislative session; it was a bad idea when Perry put it on the agenda for the first special session; it remains a bad idea as the clock ticks down on the second special session.

Frustrated taxpayers, who are toting the note for this exercise in one-upsmanship, are rightfully asking: What's the endgame for this costly scrimmage of partisan politics?

Short-term, there's no telling. Ultimately, it will come when lawmakers run for re-election.

In the case of Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, it will take longer for the people to register their official support or disdain, given that their terms run until 2006. But for House members and some senators, the day of reckoning will come in November 2004 -- or sooner. Who knows what might happen in the spring primaries?

The Houston Chronicle:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last week told the Chronicle Editorial Board that U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay does not "jerk his chain," and that the lieutenant governor answers to no one but the voters of Texas. This is but the latest inaccuracy that Dewhurst, Gov. Rick Perry and Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick have used to justify their destructive and unpopular campaign to redraw congressional districts.

The undeniable truth is that many Texans actively oppose redistricting this year. Almost all the testimony at statewide hearings on redistricting was negative. The majority of Texans and their elected representatives are against or indifferent to DeLay's political power play and believe issues such as school finance and property tax reform should take precedence.

Could there be a harder tug than this on Dewhurst's leash? Dewhurst says he is a loyal Republican, but party loyalty should not require denying or misrepresenting the truth.

Months ago, at the start of the regular legislative session, Perry, Dewhurst and Craddick all suggested that redistricting would disrupt and perhaps destroy the bipartisan comity necessary to solve Texas' problems. All three indicated there was little enthusiasm among legislators for redistricting this year, and that the issue was likely to be a nonstarter.

None of the three said anything to suggest that redistricting would soon become the Republican leadership's No. 1 priority. Ordered to seek redistricting by DeLay, none of the three had the courage to refuse DeLay and to act on the assurances each had given to Texans.

Calling from the Democratic senators' sanctuary in New Mexico, state Sen. Mario Gallegos reminded Texans that when the Legislature failed to agree on congressional district lines in 2001, Gov. Perry could have called it back into special session. Perry did not think it necessary, nor did the state appeal the lines drawn by a panel of federal judges. Perry's failure to act then betrays his true sentiments about redistricting's lack of urgency -- sentiments Perry is disowning today.

On top of his false portrayal of the merits of redistricting, Perry has dishonestly tried to blame Democrats for the state's inadequate support for health care and other vital social services. The Democrats are not innocent of selfish partisan motives, but at least they are not misrepresenting the facts with every breath.

On the same conference call with Gallegos, Sen. John Whitmire said the senators would return if Dewhurst would restore the Senate's traditional two-thirds rule. The tradition calls for a parliamentary procedure requiring a two-thirds majority of those present before a bill can be brought up for debate and action.

Sen. Rodney Ellis points out that the Senate has never suspended the rule for bills on important matters such as civil rights or criminal jurisprudence, no matter how urgent the need. Ellis and Whitmire note that the Senate's two-thirds rule resulted in a superior insurance reform bill in the regular session.

As if Texas' political mess were not embarrassing and distracting enough, both Republicans and Democrats are pursuing unpromising litigation to further the dispute.

Even if the Democratic senators returned Monday, a disagreement among Republican legislators over how to divvy up rural West Texas could thwart redistricting until the clock runs out before next spring's primaries.

There is only one reasonable, prudent way to end the mess redistricting has inflicted, and that is for Dewhurst to agree to reinstate the two-thirds rule. Redistricting's few proponents will have a fair chance to gain a consensus. Should they fail, the Legislature will be free to move on to more important matters.

And the Waco Tribune Herald:

Texas Democrats holed-up in New Mexico may not win their new court challenge, but they certainly have a good point.

They have sued to stop the current special session because the Texas Constitution says one can only be called in "extraordinary occasions." Party-driven redistricting isn't one of them. It isn't even in the neighborhood. Texas districts were redrawn in 2001 as required by law.

What Gov. Rick Perry has ordered as the basis for two special sessions is vital only to partisan schemers in Austin and Washington, most venally Congressman Tom DeLay.

Oh, yes, some important issues were left stranded by the 78th Legislature. But Perry and the Republican leadership have no one but themselves to blame for not addressing them before.

Fortunately, Wednesday by executive order Perry released some $700 million from the Foundation School Fund. The money was needed by school districts that are about to open their doors. Because of a bookkeeping error, the funding stood to be hung up until September.

In the days before making that announcement, Perry said these dollars were being held up by the boycotting Democrats. Surely he was joking. GOP leaders let an entire 30-day special session expire knowing the $700 million was in limbo.

The fact that the matter was allowed to be tucked into a monster government reorganization bill that died in the last day of the special session is the fault of GOP leaders who decided to put the interests of the party ahead of those of their constituents and tried through stealth to force 11th-hour passage of a redistricting bill that effectively killed lagging legislation.

Were Perry not transfixed on redistricting and games of political payback, we would wager that these problems would have been identified and fixed in the regular session.

And if the Legislature truly needed a special session to address such things, these matters would have been addressed promptly in Special Session No. 1.

Every time the governor and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst say "there's important work to be done" in the special session, voters should ask, "Is this work for the majority party or for Texans?"

Perry and Dewhurst know how the work for Texans can get done. They can listen to the Waco City Council, the McLennan County Commissioners and so many Central Texans urging that they pull a divisive and disabling matter off the table. Redistricting has been done. It was done in ’01.

Meanwhile, the Austin American Statesman which has been pretty consistently pro-Democratic throughout the redistricting debate had problems with the seperation of powers with everyone suing. The editorial is in today's paper.

The current legislative standoff in Texas is many things: unusual, frustrating, sometimes entertaining. But the one thing it is not is a crisis.

State government is working as usual, a budget is in place and the flag still flies above the Capitol each day. The special session called by Gov. Rick Perry to redraw Texas congressional districts was an act of political partisanship, not a response to an emergency.

Still, the way this situation is playing out, with hard feelings and dueling lawsuits, could have a dramatic impact on Texas. The lawsuit filed by the Senate Democrats in district court in Travis County, and one filed with the Texas Supreme Court by Attorney General Greg Abbott, representing Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, go to fundamental aspects of how state government operates.

The 11 Senate Democrats who fled to New Mexico last month to prevent a quorum, paralyze the Legislature and kill Perry's redistricting effort are directly challenging the governor's power. They are asking the district court to rule that the special session called for redistricting does not meet the constitutional requirement of an "extraordinary occasion," and is therefore illegal.

The Senate Democrats are asking the courts to define "extraordinary," and to limit the power of the executive. This is deep water because the question goes to the heart of the separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

One need not be a fan of Perry or his slavish determination to redraw the state's congressional districts to question the wisdom of asking a judge to limit the governor's power to call the Legislature into session. There are other checks and balances, including the Legislature's right to exercise its own power to kill bills the governor wants.

Asking the courts to determine when a governor can convene the Legislature is an extraordinary and risky move. But Perry and Dewhurst are gambling as well in asking the Supreme Court to order the absentee Democrats back to work in Austin.

Does compelling the Democrats to return to town mean they can be arrested, although no crime has been committed? A lower court already has ruled that leaders of the state House of Representatives, whose Democratic members absconded in the spring, cannot order state troopers to arrest them.

Abbott's petition, which argues that the court can force the senators back to work, raises another question of separation of powers. The remedy for elected officials not doing their jobs is not at the Supreme Court, but the ballot box. If they aren't doing their jobs, citizens can vote them out of office.

The courts might not wish to get in the middle of this partisan fray and might leave it up the Legislature to clean its own house. That already is under way, with efforts to change the rules so a minority of members cannot disrupt legislative business in either house.

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August 10, 2003

Austin Enough is Enough Rally

By Byron LaMasters

As I said earlier, I attended the Enough is Enough rally in Austin on Saturday. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to go out with friends in Dallas on Friday night, and ended up only getting a couple of hours of sleep on Friday night. There were 11 buses leaving from Dallas, but I decided to go with Dave, who not only managed to get us there and back in one piece, but provided entertaining company (a special thanks to Dave for driving). So, we left from the Dallas County Democratic Party office around 8 AM and arrived in Austin around 11 AM. We were lucky enough to find a great parking spot, then walked into the capitol to go to the bathroom and cool off a little bit. We walked outside on the south steps where it was a circus. The stage was pretty small and there were several thousand people there, but it was very difficult to count. Media counts have been anywhere from 2000 to 5000. Instead of being all bunched up near the front (as is usually the case with most rallies), lots of people were scattered around under trees and in areas of shade. It was, after all, 100 degrees and humid out. My guess would be about 4000 people, but there's no way to know. There were 40 buses from across the state that brought people from as far away as Lubbock, Texarkana and Brownsville. There was a small Republican presence there. But I mean small. There were about half a dozen protesters at one corner with a couple of signs and flags. An airplane flew around the capitol with a sign attached, reading something like: "Real Heroes -- Don't flee Texas".

The program was emceed by State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin), who wore her "Deny DeLay" t-shirt. Here was the official schedule:

  • 11:15 Music begins = Ruben "El Gato Negro" Ramos

  • 11:30 Emcee, Representative Dawnna Dukes, starts rally and recognizes Killer D's

  • 11:32 Senate families introduced

  • 11:36 Soloist sings God Bless America

  • 11:42 Ram Chavez, Commander of the Texas GI Forum, speaks and leads the Pledge of Allegiance

  • 11:45 Speakers from Across Texas:

    • Max Shumake, President of the Sulphur Oversight Society, a group dedicated to the preservation of the Sulphur River Basin

    • Maureen Jouett, Mayor of Killeen

  • 11:51 Family Members of Texas 11 Speeches:

    • Joseph Barrientos, son of Senator Gonzalo Barrientos

    • Olga Gallegos, wife of Senator Mario Gallegos

    • Ileana Hinojosa, daughter of Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa

    • Eddie Lucio III, son of Senator Eddie Lucio

    • Helen Madla, wife of Senator Frank Madla

    • Lee Shapleigh, wife of Senator Eliot Shapleigh

    • Nicole Van de Putte, daughter of Senator Leticia Van de Putte

    • Carol West, wife of Sen. Royce West

    • Carlos Zaffirini, son of Senator Judith Zaffirini

  • 12:03 Texas 11 members speak by phone

  • 12:10 Rep. Dukes closes rally program

  • 12:15 Closes with Music -- Joe Ely

Amazingly, things stayed pretty much on schedule. It was the desire of all of the organizers to keep all of the speeches as short as possible and to keep the focus on the senators. Dawnna Dukes did a great job as emcee. She has a very powerful voice and held everyone's attention. The crowd was quite vocal. The favorite chant was "Recall Perry! Recall Perry!".

A dozen or two of the 51 Killer D's were there. House Democratic leader Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) got the loudest ovation. He spoke for a minute and said that the Democrats would win the redistricting fight. He pledged to keep fighting the rest of the summer, all fall and all winter if it took that long.

Max Shumake spoke on how the Republican maps gutted rural representation and that his town would likely be represented by a Dallas congressman under a new map. He said that he liked Dallas and all, but a Dallas congressman wouldn't look after the water rights of his community. Instead, a Dallas congressman would fight to build a dam to create more water for Dallas. The rural folks didn't want that, and liked the representation they got from Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Marshall), who looked out for their interests.

Maureen Jouett, the Mayor of Killeen spoke on how she voted in the Republican primary in 2002, and that she was outraged that she was counted as a number being used in the arguements for redistricting. She even whipped out her voter registration card with the "Republican" stamp on it. She was part of the Mayors for Perry and Mayors for Dewhurst groups last fall, but she strongly supported her Democratic congressman Chet Edwards (D-Waco). Why? Because of Fort Hood - the largest employer in the state of Texas, and the largest military base in the world. Chet Edwards fought for Fort Hood and was the reason that it hadn't been downsized. She said that even though her community leaned Republican on the statewide level, they strongly supported Chet Edwards for Congress, because he used his senority on the Armed Services committee to be a champion for Fort Hood. A freshman Republican congressman would be unable to have the influence of Chet Edwards, she said.

All of the family members of the senators praised their mom/dad/husband for their courage and bravery. They were all very proud. The children of Leticia Van de Putte did and excellent job. So did the others, although I don't remember specifically. One of the family members suggested marching towards the governor's mansion after the rally. Several people in the crowd joked about doing a "Texas style recall" (use your imagination), but it was only a joke, so John Ashcroft and all of yall over at the DOJ reading this, there's really no need to start arresting folks over it. No need.

Next, the senators were connected to the speakers and they all spoke, and thanked the crowd for coming. They all spoke for about two minutes. Several of the Hispanic Senators spoke a little bit in Spanish. They pledged to wait as long as it took and urged Governor Perry to stop being a bitch to Tom DeLay and get back to business (although the word "bitch" wasn't used, other names were).

Finally, the rally closed with music. We were all hot and exhausted, even though water was provided at the event. I went to Romeo's for some good Italian food with some friends from Dallas, then we headed back to Dallas. I got there, drove home and slept for five hours, got up at 11 PM, went back to bed at 3 AM, slept until 11 AM then got up this morning. I took another nap this afternoon. Hell of a way to spend a weekend. I'm glad I did it, though. Our senators are holed up in New Mexico away from their jobs and families, so this was the least that we could do to show our support from them. It was hot out, but if old ladies in wheelchairs could take it, then so could we.

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Austin Rally

By Byron LaMasters

I attended the Austin rally in support of the senators (Texas 11) with 5000 other Texans. It was hot and kind of crazy but I'm glad I went. I'll write a full post on it later today.

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August 08, 2003

Today's Redistricting News

By Byron LaMasters

The news of the lawsuit mess is all over the papers today. As I said, blogging will be relatively light (from me) over the weekend as I'm going to Austin tomorrow for the big anti-redistricting rally, and because I just got a new computer.

So, with that in mind, check out Charles's coverage of the story. You can expect a full recap of the rally sometime over the weekend.

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August 07, 2003

To the Courts - Dewhurst, Dems file suit

By Byron LaMasters

Two lawsuits have been filed today. The first was by the Democratic senators in the Travis County (Austin) district court. They asked that the court not allow the Dewhurst arrest senators if they returned to Texas. Perry and Dewhurst countered by filing a suit at the Texas Supreme Court asking for the power to enforce sanctions on the absent senators. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have asked the Texas Supreme Court to rule that the 11 Senate Democrats boycotting the special session "are acting contrary to their duties under the Texas constitution and Texas Senate rules."

The court filing by the Republican leaders came a few hours after Democrats filed their own lawsuit in Travis County district court. They asked a judge there to rule that Perry did not have the power to call a special session on congressional redistricting and asked for a ruling that Senate leaders cannot have the boycotting lawmakers arrested if they return to Texas.

Perry and Dewhurst's lawsuit asks the Supreme Court to order the 11 Democrats to return to work and to impose sanctions if they don't.

"Today, I joined Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a move designed to resume work on the critical issues facing our state," Perry said in a statement. "The people of Texas should know that this decision was a difficult one, but one that's now necessary because of the refusal of 11 senators to fulfill their legislative responsibilities. This action is an attempt to protect our constitution and prevent a handful of legislators from misusing Senate rules to bring government to a halt."


The Democrats' lawsuit alleges that Perry has no authority to call a special legislative session on congressional redistricting because the constitution limits that power to "extraordinary occasions."

The senators claim there is no "extraordinary occasion" because the state has a legal congressional map drawn by federal judges and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. The map is valid through the 2010 Census.

"There is no illegality to remedy in the present situation," according to the lawsuit.


The lawsuit also contends that any attempt by the state Department of Public Safety to arrest the boycotting senators should be prohibited under a recent court decision, which said House officials could not use DPS officials to arrest their members.

Also in the news today, was the offer by senate Democrats to meet with their Republican colleagues in New Mexico on Monday. Republicans complained that the two Republicans that traveled to New Mexico yesterday weren't treated with respect. It probably would have helped if they had notified the Democrats that they were coming:

In addition to filing their lawsuit, the Democrats invited Senate Republicans to a meeting in New Mexico on Monday. Two Senate Republicans had traveled to Albuquerque on Wednesday and met with three Democrats for about an hour.

Dewhurst complained that the two lawmakers were not treated with the respect members of the Senate deserve. They waited several hours before the meeting and were not allowed to meet with all 11 Democrats.

Details about the Monday meeting have not been ironed out.

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GOP Senators visit ABQ

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, two Republican Senators visited ABQ to try and negotiate with the 11 Democrats away from the state, breaking quorum. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Two Republican state senators flew here Wednesday for a covert two-hour meeting with several of the 11 Democratic state senators who fled Texas to block a GOP congressional redistricting plan.

Republican Sens. Todd Staples of Palestine and Robert Duncan of Lubbock told the Houston Chronicle Wednesday evening that they met with Democratic Sens. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, Royce West of Dallas and Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of Mission.

Despite the gesture, however, no progress was made.

Van de Putte characterized the meeting as friendly and respectful, but she and other Democratic senators said it did not change their minds about staying in Albuquerque.

"We still remain inalterably opposed to redistricting," Van de Putte at an evening news conference.

The Senators were sent by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, says the San Antonio Express News:

The meeting was described as an effort to reach out to Democrats, and had the support of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who a day earlier said he was exploring unspecified "legal options" to yank the senators back across the state line.

Dewhurst provided the leased twin-propeller plane taken early Wednesday by Republican Sens. Todd Staples of Palestine and Robert Duncan of Lubbock. The two sought to meet with all the Democratic senators at their hotel, the Marriott Pyramid.

The article goes on to explain why little progress was made. It's kind of hard to convince the Democrats to come home, when there's nothing being offered to them.

In Austin, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said Staples and Duncan sought to persuade the senators "to come back and do their jobs."

"They are not offering anything for them to come back," Wentworth said. "They're there to encourage them to come back."

In all honesty, this basically looks like a pr gimmick by the two Republican Senators. I doubt that it has or will accomplish anything.

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August 06, 2003

Alright Texas Dems, A call to Action!

By Byron LaMasters

I'll be in Austin this Saturday, will you? If any BOR readers or fellow bloggers will be in Austin for the rally, let me know! Most cities have buses taking people to the rally, so check with your local county party. I volunteered to phone bank for the Dallas County Democratic Party last night to help fill up some buses (more info here for you Dallasites out there).


Had enough of Rick "The Puppet" Perry?
Had enough of Texas' children being held hostage by the Republican power grab?
Let Your Voice Be Heard!
Send a message to the Governor to STOP REDISTRICTING!
Saturday, August 9th, 11:30 AM
South Steps, Texas State Capitol
A Texas 11 Rally Information line has been set up at 512/480-8999. Please call them for transportation information.

Imagine this. Democrats Right, Perry Lied

By Byron LaMasters

It really doesn't get any clearer than this. Last week Republicans argued that Democrats breaking quorum prevented the state from distributing $800 million for needy children. The Austin American Statesman on Tuesday, June 29th reported:

As this year's first special legislative session imploded Monday afternoon, Republican leaders pulled an unexpected political reverse and accused their Democratic rivals of hurting the poor children of Texas and their families.

The GOP message of the day downplayed congressional redistricting and proclaimed that the real losers were the thousands of heretofore-ignored needy Texans praying that the Legislature would help them.

"Today, a minority of members in the state Senate prevented the Senate from finishing important work and killed legislation that would have generated an additional $800 million to help meet the priorities of our citizens," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement that didn't mention redistricting.

"We could have spent that money to boost Medicaid payments for home care services, to help pregnant women receive Medicaid services, to expand health insurance for children of working families."

The charges — echoed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick — were remarkably similar to the rhetoric that Democrats lobbed at Republicans who cut social services instead of raising taxes earlier this year.

This time, the accusations referred to a trio of bills that had received scant attention or even lip service over the past few weeks.

The measures included accounting maneuvers that would have shifted around some state money, giving state leaders more spending flexibility. They would have also allowed officials to spend other money that was just delivered by the federal government or freed up when Perry vetoed parts of the state's $117 billion budget.

Critics immediately questioned the Republicans' sincerity, noting that Perry never committed to using the $800 million to offset social service cuts and that he hasn't even added the failed bills to his call for the latest special session, which began Monday afternoon.

As it turns out, however, the Senate wasn't needed to appropriate the new federal money. Finally, yesterday, Republicans all but admitted that they lied:

For the past week, Gov. Rick Perry and Republicans have been firing away at the out-of-town Democrats for holding up new money for health care.

As it turns out, the GOP was shooting blanks.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott on Tuesday confirmed what Democrats have said all along: Perry and the Legislative Budget Board already have the power to spend new federal money on health care if they want.

That means the Legislature doesn't have to change state law, and the Democrats don't have to come back to Austin from New Mexico to free up the cash (though they might still have to vote on making a separate pot of money available to spend).

"Today, doctors, hospitals and patients can breathe a sigh of relief because the state of Texas has received legal approval to use federal funds needed to address health care needs," Perry said.

The state has received $372 million in federal money primarily intended for health care that were not included in the budget Perry signed in June.

Gosh. Next time Perry lies he ought to at least try and cover it up a little better, but then again, as Sen. Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) would say, Perry's "not the brightest porch light on the block". It always helps going into a fight with dumb opponents. Now, if only the good folks of Texas would stop electing them...

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Most Partisan TX Editorial from WHERE?

By Byron LaMasters

That would be George W. Bush's "hometown" newspaper, the Crawford Lone Star Iconoclast. You'd think that they would be as pro-Republican as can be, yes? Wrong. Take a look at this, from the Bush's hometown:

The Iconoclast of the Week is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who assigned a state trooper to protect the protesting Texas legislators from bounty hunters. The Rightist lunatics who have taken over the state legislature were reportedly planning to hire gun thugs to go to New Mexico and bring back the 11 Texas legislators who fled the state to stop lying Texas Gov. Rick “Tricky Ricky” Perry’s illegal gerrymandering scheme.

Perry’s plan has wasted $3 million of taxpayers’ money in hopes that Perry’s Rightist party hacks won’t have to bother campaigning and explaining these kinds of Fascist tactics. Richardson pointed out that police officers in New Mexico take a dim view of kidnapping, and gave the Texans police protection. These protesters are not doing anything illegal. In fact they are representing the will of a majority of Texans, who oppose redistricting. Of course Rightists have no compunctions about breaking the law or following the will of the majority.

The Rightists should be wary of Richardson. New Mexico’s legislature has just been won by the Democratic Party. So has Oklahoma’s, where Texas legislators fled to stall off the last Rightist power grab. Both those states have warned that they may consider a similar redistricting move and eliminate the seats of virtually all Republican Congressmen from those states. This move by the Rightists is not only venal, it is downright stupid.

Well, a little crazy, but hell, I just love the fact that Bush's hometown has itself a nice left-wing weekly paper. It serves him right. Still, I can think of nastier things to call nutty Republicans than "rightists". Let's be a little more creative here.

Update: The Iconoclast had a similarly partisan editorial back in May when the House Democrats broke quorum.

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August 05, 2003

Redistricting.... Tuesday

By Byron LaMasters

Charles took the day off yesterday, but he's back on the latest news today. I'm pretty much taking today off, but he has the latest roundup here more on the possibility of Dewhurst taking legal action, here.

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Longhorns Support our Senator

By Byron LaMasters

I'm glad to hear that three UT-Austin students were there to support our state senator, Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin), although you'd never guess the source:

By contrast, three University of Texas students took a detour from a planned camping trip just to shake hands and get their picture taken with their hometown lawmaker, state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin.

They said they had driven 10 hours straight from Austin and had not had much sleep.

"I don't think that any of the Republicans would have such courage of their convictions, and I just wanted to say thank you," said 20-year-old Austin Van Zant, wearing T-shirt and shorts.

I was fortunate enough to be able to say "thank you" to my state representative, Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) while in Ardmore, OK. Unfortunately, I'm not able to go to New Mexico to thank my state senator, but I'm glad to hear that Sen. Barrientos has been personally thanked by some of his Longhorn constituents. It's not easy for them to be away from the state and their families, but they're doing what they need to do to stop Tom DeLay, and his bitch Rick Perry from subverting democracy.

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August 04, 2003

Redistricting Monday

By Byron LaMasters

Charles has a nice weekend roundup of all the action, or non-action with redistricting. Be sure to check out the Houston Press article on Tom DeLay's next battle.

The Dallas Morning News had two front page stories on redistricting today. One on David Dewhurst's transformation from Mr. Inclusion to Mr. Hardball and another on the Democrats in New Mexico. Senate Democratic Leader Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) didn't hold anything back when asked about her thoughts of Governor Rick Perry:

He's "not the brightest porch light on the block," Ms. Van de Putte said. But, "he really looks good in jeans."

Hehe. Who's the bitch? The Houston Chronicle has more on Van de Putte's lashing out at Perry. Meanwhile, they report that the Democratic Senators spent their weekend with family.

The Austin American Statesman lashes out again at Perry and Dewhurst, as Dewhurst responds. John Kelso pleads with lawmakers to Keep Austin Weird, and let us pick our congressman.

Two San Antonio Republicans traveled to ABQ trying to change Sen. Van de Putte's mind. It didn't work.

Solis and Jim McGrody, who founded and runs a GOP Internet-based political action committee from San Antonio, made the weekend "Van to Van de Putte Tour" to try to persuade her to return to Texas with them.

Both said she politely declined the offer.

Along with the results of a poll conducted by McGrody on his southtexasrepublican.com Web site, the two came bearing treats. They brought empanadas from Van de Putte's favorite bakery, La Poblanita; her favorite brand of chips and salsa; flowers; and a balloon in the shape of a boot with Texas flag on it.

Finally, for a little humor, Republicans want the Democrats to pay for the useless special session that Perry called.

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August 03, 2003

A Trip to Albuquerque - A Guest Entry

By Byron LaMasters

By Mike Apodaca

This is also posted (with pictures) here.

On Friday, August 1st, a fellowship of 5 members from the University Democrats and the El Paso Young Democrats hit the road at 8 am to visit our senators. We went on this voyage to give our senators a message of hope and appreciation to stop the evil DeLay and his two puppets Perry and Dewhurst. But what were we going to encounter, what dangers lie head, and would this question be answered, "Is Mike correct that Teriyaki Chicken Bowl is the the greatest fast food restaurant in Albuquerque?" This is a testament of our quest.

The five travelers started out at 8 am in a Chevey Tahoe, thanks to my very lovable mother, and we hit the road. If you have never been to New Mexico, or driven through it, its a beautiful state, and is truly "The land of Enchantment."

An unexpected problem and question occurred, how many young and university democrats does it take to change a tire? Well, it takes five. Five of Young Dems to work as a team to try and figure out how to fix a busted tire along the journey. (Sorry Mom, I promise i was only going 95 mph.) But I do want to thank the group for helping me put the tire, even if it did take us 40 minutes. Unlike Republicans, we didn't need to call on-star to figure it out.

After the tire incident, we finally got into Albuquerque and into the Pyramid. Unlike the Holiday Inn for Killer D's, we found the Pyramid to be very boring, few press vans, and no protesters. I thought there would be more action and activity, but, I guess we have 30 days of fun, excitement, and history instead of 4.

We found the room and spoke to a staff member from Sen. Zaffirini's office and told us that the senators were not at the hotel because they are doing work!

Yes, I did say that right, Work! They are not vacationing or just shopping, but the members of the senate have been busy around albuquerque getting new ideas, looking at problems in NM that are similar to Texas, and even going to meetings. Like our Senator said, he was going to come to New Mexico in August anyway for certain issues that affect El Paso. When we got there our Senator, Sen. Shapleigh, was out with four other senators to a Union meeting at the of arrival. She told us that they are visiting nursing homes, schools, poor areas of Albuquerque, the university, etc. Perry might be saying they are just fooling around doing nothing, but the only one fooling around are the Republicans who made our Senators leave. So don't believe the lies the GOP states about their vacation, because it isn't.

We came back at 2:30 pm and the senators were in a private meeting. So we just looked around the hotel, and its not all that. Just a nice fountain with nice carpet. Not really a resort like some thought it would be.

Finally, the doors opened and the senators came out. We ran into Sen. Shapleigh and he gave us the grand tour of their current home. Before that, he introduced us to the majority of the other senators like Ellis, Lucio, Barrentos, and Zaffirini to name the few. Some of them did talk to us for a little bit, and I was really happy to have met Sen. Barrentos and Zaffirini. Sen. Shapleigh had some kind words for Barrentos, calling him a living Legend in the Senate for civil rights.

He showed us their daily routine which starts everyday something like this:

morning at 8:30 am with a daily briefing,
then a press conference usually at 11 am,
then they go out to the community for special projects,
then they come back for another special meeting around 3 pm,
and some more stuff, but I don't want to give away all the secrets.

He continued to show us around the area, the meeting room and the famous press room

During the Press Room visit, we also met a writer for the Austin Chronicle who is covering the Texas 11. We did have a good chat about the PR war with this walkout and about who really controls the press. It's a sad and ugly feeling to know that most of are news sources are own by a couple of large corporations and there are only a few, like the Austin Chronicle, who are independent. Sad.

Finally, our day ended with a grateful offer from our Senator, he was willing to put the bill in for a room if we wanted to stay. We declined because our Senator and the rest of them are doing so much for us and the people of Texas that we are already satisfied. We left the hotel feeling good that we got to see history and give some words of encouragement to our Senator. With that in mind, we ask for all of you to call his office (915-544-1990) or any of the other Democratic Senators.

Yet, there was one question unsolved: what is this darn chicken bowl place that Mike keeps talking about. Well, while I was a student at the Univ. of New Mexico, there was this great fast food place called Teriyaki Chicken Bowl, and I've always talked about it with the members of University Democrats and how much of a great place it is. Last time I was in Albuquerque for the YDA 2003 Spring meeting, I failed at going to my beloved chicken bowl. This time, I was not going to leave without it. After giving the group a tour of "my" Albuquerque, we stopped at the restaurant I always went to and bought a bowl. I consider it the "Chicos" of Albuquerque (FYI, a famous fast food place in El Paso), but my members will speak for that one.

Mike Apodaca is the President of the University Democrats at the University of Texas at El Paso, the Region I Director of the Texas Young Democrats, the College Caucus Chair of the Texas Young Democrats, the Director of Communications of the El Paso Young Democrats, and the Democratic precinct chair of precinct #69 of El Paso County. You may contact Mike at universitydemocrats@yahoo.com

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August 01, 2003

From Today's Opinion Section...

By Byron LaMasters

State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) speaks out against redistricting and about the sense of "betrayal and loss of respect" for Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. The article is, here.

State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) wrote on his thoughts, here, and State Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) pleads for a compromise, here.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) makes no apology for failing to show up.

And finally, for a fun column regurgitating the GOP party line, check this out.

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Austin Rally for the Killer D Senators!

By Byron LaMasters

Here's all the details:



Had enough of Rick "The Puppet" Perry?

Had enough of Texas' children being held hostage by the Republican power grab?

Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Send a message to the Governor to STOP REDISTRICTING!


Saturday, August 9th, 11:30 AM
South Steps, Texas State Capitol

Meanwhile, Save Texas Reps has an online petition to stop redistricting.

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El Paso YD's Support Their Senator

By Byron LaMasters

From Mike Apodaca:

University and Young Democrats to Visit Senators

The University Democrats and the El Paso County Young Democrats are going to be sending their support to their Democratic Leaders this Friday, August 1, 2003 by visiting them in Albuquerque, NM. They are going to remind their senators that the youth of Texas are behind them and to give them support to keep on fighting for real issues like school finance, health care, funding for our medical school, not redistricting.

“Governor Perry has really showed his true colors, that he is not a real leader but only a puppet. While the people in Texas are suffering because of the lack of health care and education, our governor and the Republican Party only cares about their own interest by trying to do an unprecedented power grab. I know that I’m just a university student, but I guess our Governor missed that day in Political Science 101 when redistricting is suppose to be done every 10 years, and we already did it,” states University Democrats President, Michael Apodaca

The Young Democrats will spend all day on Friday with their leaders to give them extra support.

Also, both the University Democrats and the El Paso Young Democrats are planning to have a “Rally for Shapleigh” on Tuesday, August 5, 2003 at 12:00pm at our County Courthouse. Numerous elected officials such as County Attorney Jose Rodriguez will join the University and EP Young Democrats to show our support for our Senator and the Texas Democratic Senate Delegation. Please contact Elizabeth Macias for more information at 915-227-1791 and more information will be known this weekend.

I'll be looking forward to a full report when Mike and his gang return. Mike really does a great job with his El Paso folks. It's good to see a leader like him out there.

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More from New Mexico

By Byron LaMasters

Rick Perry yesterday hinted that he'll call a third special session to deal with redistricting if he needs to. The Austin American Statesman reports.

Gov. Rick Perry this morning hinted he may call a third special legislative session on congressional redistricting if this one expires on Aug. 26 without a new map.

"If the work of the state of has been done, I would expect everyone can go home on a Labor Day vacation," he said. "If not, we may be back here continuing to work on the issues that are important to the state."

With an upcoming deadline of October 6th for a redistricting plan to become effective for 2004, Republicans led by Phil King, are looking for ways to delay the filing deadline for Congress.

The Houston Chronicle ran a story on the Albuquerque reaction to the Democratic state senators. No one really cared.

The big story has been the talk among the Democrats of how to return. The Fort Worth Star Telegram has the details.

The Democratic senators in exile may ask the federal courts to halt to redistricting in the Texas Legislature, which would allow them to return home without having to participate in the effort that would likely end with their party losing clout in Washington.

On Day 4 of their holdout in an Albuquerque hotel, the 11 Democrats remained tight-lipped about their strategy to end the standoff with Texas Republican leaders. At their daily press briefing, several senators said they have to keep open every alternative, but they insisted that no decision had been made on whether to go to court.

"We're going to keep all options open," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.


The request would seek to prevent Dewhurst dropping the Senate the two-thirds tradition, said the source, who requested anonymity to keep from putting his job at risk.

"The thinking being this: For the first time, minority and minority-impact senators ... now have, for the first time, enough votes to block legislation under longstanding Senate rules," the source said. "So rescinding the two-thirds rule and .. would be an infringement on minority voting rights."

Neither Governor Perry, nor Lt. Gov. Dewhurst were particularly pleased with the idea.

"That's like negotiating for hostages," Perry said at a news conference in Austin.

Asked to comment on the possibility that the Democrats might pursue court action, Perry simply said: "I have no idea."

Dewhurst issued a statement expressing dismay that the Democrats would consider asking a federal judge "to interfere with our state legislative processes."

Where would the Democrats go to court? Probably in south Texas where it could go to Democratic judges.

The source did not know when it might be filed or who might file it, and said no decision has been made to go forward. But if they decide to take legal action, court papers would be filed "somewhere in South Texas."

Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, helped fuel speculation about a potential court action when he told a reporter late Wednesday that South Texas' federal courts have proven friendly venues for lawsuits filed on behalf of minority groups.

On Thursday, he told the Star-Telegram that he was not "forum-shopping" a lawsuit as Dewhurst suggested in his statement.

"I am not saying we are going to court or even that we should," Lucio said. "But if we do, it would be my preference that it would be in a court that is friendly and fair. That's what I was trying to say."

So, that's where we stand for now.

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July 31, 2003

Laredo Rally in Support of Dems.

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, Democrats rallied in Laredo in support of their State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), and the other 10 Democratic Senators in New Mexico. The new map passed by a State Senate committee cut Webb County (Laredo) in half, retrogressing minority voting rights by ensuring that the majority Hispanic population of Laredo would be dominated by the majority Anglo Bexar County suburban vote for the remainder of the decade. The Laredo Morning Times reports:

Local and state elected officials and leaders of the Democratic Party joined League of United Latin American Citizens No. 12 officials Wednesday at the Webb County Justice Center to show support for 11 Texas state senators on the lam in Albuquerque, N.M.


More than two dozen Democrats and Texas 11 supporters gathered behind the podium to loudly express their support of the move to break the quorum and chastise the governor for calling a second special session on the item, costing the state at least $3.4 million the first time around. At that time, Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives broke quorum and fled to Oklahoma.

"How many textbooks could have been purchased for Texas children? How many elderly could have had health insurance and what about the GI Forum?" Rocha asked, referring to other things the $3.4 million could have paid.

Other speakers at the rally included Rep. Richard Raymond, who led the House Demos charge to Oklahoma, County Commissioner Judith Gutierrez, Webb County Democratic Party Chairman Roberto Balli, Senator Judith Zaffirini's husband Carlos and Judith Zaffirini via speakerphone.

Several speakers pointed out Zaffirini gave up her perfect attendance record to break quorum, and travel with the 10 other senators to be guests of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

The group also agreed with a statement by one speaker that they did not feel she was breaking her perfect attendance record with this action, rather it was part of her attendance to Texas issues.

Judith Zaffirini told the group that the Democrats strategizing in New Mexico to deal with the redistricting attempt " are absolutely appalled at some of the shenanigans going on in Austin."

She reviewed the week's events when for the first time in 24 years, they heard that Gov. Rick Perry was going to lock them in the Senate, and immediately call a second special session.

At that time Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Texas Senate, also indicated that he would ignore the time-honored "two-thirds rule," meaning that the Democrats would not have the numbers to block redistricting from coming to the floor.

Both actions spurred the Senators to flee to New Mexico.

"The support of Laredoans and constituents from throughout District 21 has been absolutely overwhelming," said added.

Raymond said he had just returned from Austin, and officials there felt "the Texas 11 was taking a very principled stand" against redistricting.

"They (Republicans) are trying to take away the voting rights of the majority of Texans. That is wrong. That is why the senators are in New Mexico and that it why we are standing here."

If you want to show your support for the Democratic Senators (or I suppose, register your complaints), you can email them at: Texas11@txdemocrats.org, fax them at (505) 828-0230 or visit them at:

Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North
5151 San Francisco Rd., NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109

There has been some talk about a big Austin rally in the next couple of weeks. When I get more details about the rally, I'll be sure to pass it along.

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Redistricting Polling

By Byron LaMasters

No one will know what the voters of Texas really think about redistricting until next November, when the voters have an opportunity to let everyone know. But there's certainly no shortage of polls trying to suggest that Texans are thinking one way or the other. The latest was a poll by Survey USA saying that 53% of Texans oppose the Senate Democrats actions. The state Republican Party has been quick to tout that poll, along with a poll done previously (which was commissioned by the Republican Party):

53% of Texans oppose Democrat walkout Jul 30, 2003

A scientific non-partisan statewide poll conducted by Austin television station KVUE shows a strong majority of Texans are opposed to the latest Democrat walkout.

Fifty-three percent of Texans said Democrat senators did the wrong thing by walking out on the legislative session and fleeing to New Mexico. Only 37% said Democrats did the right thing. 10% were unsure.

Independent polling firm Survey USA surveyed 500 Texans across the state. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4%.

Perhaps most interesting is the number of Hispanics and African Americans – often considered key constituencies within the Democrat Party – opposed to the Democrat walkout. Most Hispanics - 44% – were opposed, while 42% were supportive. Nearly one-third of African Americans were opposed as well.

"The people of Texas elected their lawmakers to work for them in Austin, not shirk their responsibility by running away to neighboring states," said Texas GOP Chairman Susan Weddington. "Clearly, the majority of Texans recognize that the Democrat walkout is nothing more than a blatant abdication of duty staged solely for the benefit of the Democrat Party. This poll confirms that Texans want these runaway Democrats to get back home and get to work."

The KVUE survey mirrors a poll conducted by the Austin firm Baselice & Associates after the House Democrats’ walkout in May. In that poll, 59% of Texans said House Democrats had done the "wrong thing," while only 23% said they did the "right thing."

Democrats, on the other hand, tout a poll by Jeff Montgomery, that shows 45% supporting the Democrats actions, and 30% opposing.

A plurality of Texans oppose the current redistricting efforts in Austin, according to a recent statewide survey.

Since the summer of 2001, Montgomery and Associates, an independent research firm based in Austin, Texas, has been running surveys tracking statewide political issues and elected officials. In partisan political races, the firm works for Democratic candidates. This survey was conducted from July 2-16, 2003 and tested 1,031 Texas residents over the age of 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1%. This survey was a random sample of adult Texas residents matching the state's demographics.

Surveyors told respondents, "Governor Perry has called an unusual special session to change current congressional districts, although they were redrawn just two years ago," and then asked "Do you support or oppose this redistricting effort?" 45.5% of Texans opposed redistricting; 30% supported it. One in four respondents (24.5%) did not have an opinion.

Strongest opposition came from Democrats (70.9%), East Texans (55.7%), African-Americans (55.7%), Central Texans (52.5%), and Hispanics (51%). Self-identified Republicans were the only demographic group who were more likely to support than oppose the redistricting effort (47.9% supported, 24.8% opposed). Texans aged 18-34 were in a statistical tie on the issue, 36.9% supporting and 35.4% opposed.

"Frankly, it's surprising that the special session was called when we're seeing so little support for redistricting," said Jeff Montgomery, president of Montgomery and Associates.

Of course, Republicans tried to discredit the Mongomery poll by saying that he was a Democratic pollster and that he used words that slanted the results.

Finally, Save Texas Reps tries their best to discredit the Survey USA poll.

Yesterday, the Texas Republican Party touted a "poll" showing that a slim majority of Texans support redistricting.

The GOP is grasping at straws.

The only independent poll made public thus far shows that a mere 30 percent of Texans support this redistricting power grab orchestrated from Washington D.C. by Tom DeLay.

In desperation, the Republican Party of Texas has latched onto a "poll" conducted by Survey USA for TV stations. This "poll" is universally dismissed by experts in public opinion surveys. The main goal of Survey USA and other television "polls" is to generate news, not credible results.

Survey USA does mainly automated calling, rarely speaking to an actual human being. They don't even bother to weight their results to account for party affiliation, minority representation, or other common forms of over-sampling and under-sampling common in legitimate polling. And their 500 sample size is inadequate for a state the size of Texas, as the margin of error (+ - 4.4%) shows.

Other questions remain. Does Survey USA do bi-lingual interviews? Do they call back when no one answers on the first or second or fifth try, or do they just run through a call list until they get a response? The difference is important, because minorities and lower-income voters -- not to mention those who speak little or no English -- are disproportionately Democratic. These are the same voters who often require several tries to get on the phone and, as a result, are very likely under-sampled in this TV poll.

What about the geography and partisan breakdowns of these polls? Were there more respondents from West Texas than South Texas? More urban respondents than rural respondents? Did they find more well-to-do respondents at home in the early evening? Did they get through to more Republicans than Democrats on the first try?

And then of course, there was the unscientific KRLD listener poll from yesterday.

Even right-wing radio talk shows are finding that Texans do not support the redistricting power grab orchestrated from Washington D.C. by Tom DeLay. A listener poll on Dallas' KRLD yesterday showed that 53 percent support the Democrats -- almost exactly the same unscientific result in the TV poll touted by the Texas Republican Party.

Of course, don't forget about the results of the Senate committee hearings, where testimony ran 8% for and 89% against redistricting. So where's the truth? I guess we'll just have to wait until next year.

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Redistricting Articles

By Byron LaMasters

I'm not really in the mood to provide much analysis, but there's lot of articles on redistricting today. Nothing really new, though.

The Houston Chronicle writes on the financial cost of the trip on the Democratic Senators. They also write that Republicans and Democrats are far apart on redistricting.

The Dallas Morning News writes on Democratic attacks of Gov. Perry. The paper editorialized again opposing redistricting and supporting an independent panel to deal with the issue.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram repeated that there's not really much middle ground, and wrote that the Democrats are comfortable. They also said that October 6th would be the deadline for a redistricting map to be used in the 2004 elections.

The San Antonio Express-News suggests that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst may try and expel Democratic Senators.

Thats all for now.

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July 30, 2003

KRLD Listener Poll

By Byron LaMasters

This is the station I called in on the other night. They're having a listener poll on redistricting, here. Not scientific, but fun nonetheless.

On a related note, the Dallas County Democratic Party is urging Dallas Democrats to call in talk shows:

Fellow Democrats -

As many of you know, eleven of our State Senators boarded planes yesterday for Albuquerque, New Mexico to block a quorum in the State Senate. They were warmly greeted upon arrival by New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.

"Without question, we did the right thing," Sen. Royce West of Dallas said of the walkout. "We're playing by the rules. When the other side doesn't play by the rules, you have to find other solutions to deal with it."

Not all people, especially Republicans, share Senator Royce's beliefs. And these people are calling talk radio shows in droves.


Please consider calling a talk radio show and expressing your support for our brave State Senators. Two prominent stations with selected shows are listed below:

WBAP--820 214-787-1820
Brian Wilson In For Mark Davis Show WEEKDAYS: 9:00 AM - 11:45 AM
Gary McNamara Show WEEKDAYS: 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

KLIF--570 1-800-583-1570
Darrell Ankarlo Show WEEKDAYS 5:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Dallas County Democratic Party
Susan Hays, Chair
Russell Langley, Executive Director

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Let's Make a Deal?

By Andrew Dobbs

So Rick Perry has decided that the best way to denounce the Killer D Senators would be to lie to the people of Texas. This article from the Houston Chronicle quotes Perry as saying:

Perry... (blamed) Democrats for also walking out on health care issues he hadn't added to a special-session call.

"We could have spent that money to boost Medicaid payments for home care services, to help pregnant women receive Medicaid services, to expand health insurance for children of working families, to provide HIV medications for afflicted Texans, to train new doctors, or to address a number of other health and human services needs," Perry said after the Democrats fled.

Democrats and Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said they found the governor's newfound interest in health care spending surprising.

Strayhorn had been rebuffed when she repeatedly asked Perry to let lawmakers appropriate the money for health care during the first special session.

You see, in a special session the legislators can only work on legislation that the Governor says they can. For instance, if/when Perry calls a session to deal with school finance the legislature won't be able to work on water rights legislation- it isn't allowed. This particular call has only one issue on the docket- congressional redistricting. For Slick Dick Perry to accuse Democrats of skipping out on HIV patients and pregnant women is a lie. Not misleading, not deceptive, not any other nice word- a goddamned lie.

While we should point that out, it suggests that Gov. Perry might be interested in freeing up $800 million for social services. It also looks like Dewhurst might be interested in a more modest plan as Charles points out. This might all add up to an interesting alternative scenario.

Let's say that Dewhurst agrees to put out the modest map and both Perry and Craddick promise to keep it intact in the conference committee. We would lose maybe 4 seats, a strong maybe in that we might be able to keep them as we already have 21 GOP districts and we do fine. Let's say we also got Perry et al to agree to use this extra money to restore cuts made to CHIP and other vital programs. We have them make a public announcement- Rick Perry, Tom Craddick, David Dewhurst and Gonzalo Barrientos standing together saying we'll let the Armbrister Map pass and we'll fund social services. Everybody is a little happy and as soon as Perry signs the new map into law a couple of dozen federal law suits get filed. Chances are any map will be ruled illegal and tossed out. Win, win, win for the Dems.

I don't know that I support this idea- if the law suits don't work the Democrats end up a lot worse off and we lose the ability to call them a bunch of cheating weasels- we made a deal with them. But I'm not sure we can keep holding out as the 11 senators will have to come home eventually and when they do the GOP will ram redistricting down our throats. This is a solution we should keep in mind for when the rest of our options run out. Kids get to go to the doctor, AIDS patients get their medicine, the poor and needy in Texas keep the services they've come to count on and we have a map that stinks, but that is stomachable. If we can kill the plan, by all means we should; but if we can't we must be ready to make some sort of deal so that we don't come out completely battered and bruised.

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Redistricting Grab Bag

By Byron LaMasters

ToT caught another picture of the protester outside of the governor's mansion. If you scroll down a little bit, you'll find a picture of the "backless house" which I ride by everyday during my bike ride from my apartment to the UT campus. Just found that interesting.

Also, Mike continues the debate between myself and Owen Courreges over the myths and realities of redistricting. Another reader, Richard Kelly, emailed me his thoughts. He makes an interesting point:

Any way, you linked to the following site today as a place for Republican talking points of note. That got my interest so I clicked:



Myths of the Democratic walkout

Myth: Republicans are only trying to pass redistricting because they can't win fairly.

Reality: The current US House districts are still gerrymandered from 1992, when Texas Democrats rammed through redistricting after waiving the two-thirds requirement. Accordingly, they are still tilted in favor of Democratic candidates. This is not a matter of opinion, but of fact. Republicans recieved 56% of the vote overall in Congressional elections in 2002, and yet they make up less than 47% of the congressional seats. That, my friends, is unfair.


If you check the comments section on that site you'll see that I tried to engage the Courreges folks in a bit of civil dialog, but I really didn't get very far.

The point I was hoping to discuss is as follows: There's plenty of arguments to be made as to why the United States, the State of Texas, or Texas Congressional District XYZ might be better off with Republican representation. Of course you and I know that all those arguments are dead wrong, but this 56%/47% deal is worse than wrong. In fact, it's a patently bogus set of numbers. And it irks me to see it repeated all over the place.

To illustrate, let's imagine a football team with a ten game season. They lose the first nine games, each by a score of 27-24. In the last game, with the season basically over and the championship already decided, the other
team just mails it in, and our boys roll to a 50-0 victory.

The athletic director takes a long look at that 1-9 record and starts poking around for a new coach. The coach protests, "Unfair! Look at the season point totals: 266 for us, 243 for our opponents. That means we scored 52% of the total points. If we hadn't gotten screwed by the refs, we should have won over half our games. In fact, in consideration of equity and ethics, I think I deserve a raise."

Maybe we can label this the John Mackovic Defense, and it sounds a little nutty to me. But while we're playing with numbers, let's look at the 2000 election, in District 7, where John Culberson chalked up 89% of the vote.

In stark contrast, his Democratic opponent got... well, actually he didn't have a Democratic opponent. At the same time Lloyd Doggett's Republican challenger couldn't even beat the Libertarian candidate--partly because in Lloyd Doggett's district there was no Republican challenger on the ballot.

And while Chet Edwards was fighting tooth and nail for 51.55%, a couple Valley races were conducted in the grand Soviet tradition of one party, one candidate, 100% plurality.

I'd suggest that these minor details have major implications for that great unmentionable of electoral data points: voter turnout.

I'd also argue that it's grossly misleading to add up all the votes cast in such wildly divergent situations and to then conclude, "Aha! Republicans got 56% of the vote, therefore they're entitled to 56% of the seats." I don't doubt that 56% is an accurate sum. And it certainly sounds precise. You know, not 55%, not 57%, but 56%. Maybe it's even 56.73%. But it's precisely meaningless when used to evaluate statewide election results as a whole. In fact, it's no more a proper use of statistics than say, using Al Gore's popular vote total to decide the Presidential race.

What Courreges's little piece of Republican spin advocates is nothing less than proportional representation. In other words, they're suggesting that the votes cast for or against Congressman Smith (D) be given some weight in determining the fate of Congressman Jones (R). Maybe it's a good idea, maybe it's not, but it's certainly one that puts them in exactly the same camp as the Green Party and the glorious & honorable nation of (ahem) France.

Unfortunately it puts them exactly at odds with the Constitution of the United States. And it's why this fight goes beyond blocker bills, Senate tradition, or whether David Dewhurst is as nice (or as nasty) as Bob Bullock. Because if they really believe what they're saying, it means that Tom DeLay thinks the Founding Fathers were a little confused in structuring the federal government and that he's got a few ideas on how to tighten things up a bit. That, my friends, is pretty damn scary.

Oh well. Thanks for listening. Y'all keep up the good work. Hope you're enjoying the summer. I'm counting the days until the UT-New Mexico State game which now seems a somewhat ironic way to open the season.

Charles also took a look at more editorials from Day 2:

More editorials:

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal calls Governor Perry a disappointment and compares him to a "spoiled 2-year-old child".

The Chron calls the endless fight for redistricting madness.

The Waco Trib really smacks the Governor, whom they call a "well-pressed con man". This needs some quoting:

How hypocritical is Perry in light of the partisan meltdown over redistricting? Let us count the ways.

----1. His silence was deafening----

Perry speaks now about $800 million in newly freed-up money that could go to human services if the Democrats would only come back. What was he saying during Special Session No. 1? Nothing.


If Perry really wanted to direct $800 million to social services, all he had to do was put it on the agenda. Instead, legislation he supported would have routed the extra money into an "emergency fund" under the control of the governor and the Legislative Budget Board.

Just how many Texans would benefit from that, Mr. Governor?

----2. He dropped ball in 2001----

Perry is the very last person on the planet to be saying, "It is lawmakers' responsibility, not the courts', to redraw congressional lines." That responsibility sat snugly in his lap in 2001. He brushed it off like lint.


----3. He would dispense with rules----

Whenever Perry uses the words "fair" or "fairness," he isn't thinking that way when it comes to the legislative process and redistricting.


The Lufkin Daily News compares the whole thing to the movie Groundhog Day.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times also uses the term madness, but they're actually pretty mellow about the whole thing.

Finally, the El Paso Times, which was nearly alone in condemning the Democrats for the Ardmore walkout, condemns everyone for the current boycott.

Good stuff.

Posted at 02:09 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Open Thread

By Jim Dallas

Get your kicks.

Also, a thought to ponder - is the War in Iraq over? I noticed some other folks implying this, as in, "I haven't done that since the War in Iraq."

My feeling is that U.S. versus Saddam is sort of like (to use a football analogy)Texas versus Baylor. You know the game is over by the end of the first quarter -- but you've still got to sit through 3 more quarters during which you still risk injuries and the ever-so-remote possibility that they might just come back and beat you if you don't put up an effort.

OK, enough of my ramblings. Be free, wild spirits.

Posted at 02:41 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Redistricting: Point / Counterpoint

By Byron LaMasters

Owen Courreges made a list of "myths" and "realities" on redistricting on his site. I thought that I'd go for a good, old-fashioned point / counterpoint with him. He actually has some decent Republican talking points, but there is always another side.... and here it is!

Myth: Leaving the state to thwart a quorum is a legitimate legislative tactic.

Reality: The Texas Constitution states clearly that in the absence of a quorum, the remaining members may "compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide." Considering that the Constitution allows for both arrest and penalties, it is difficult to argue that thwarting a quorum is a legitimate means to keep legislation from passing. The Senate rules bolster this interpretation -- Senate Rule 5.03 states that "[n]o member shall absent himself or herself from the sessions of the Senate without leave unless the member be sick or unable to attend." The Texas 11 are violating Senate rules.

Normally, I would agree. Busting a quorum is not something that should be taken lightly. It's not something that should be used simply because the minority doesn't get what they want. It should only be used in the most extreme of circumstances such as a time when the majority tramples over the rules, precident and tradition. That is the case. The Republicans have abandoned the Senate tradition of a blocker bill, requiring a two-thirds vote to bring up any bill. The Republicans have abandoned the decades-old tradition of not redistricting in mid-decade, unless the courts mandate it. If Texas Democrats don't stand up to it now, what's to stop congressional redistricting from happening every time any state legislature changes hands? Finally, Abraham Lincoln, an American hero, and father of the Republican Party gives the best example:

About a year later Lincoln had become a leader in the Illinois legislature and he repeatedly opposed proposals by Democrats to audit the Illinois state bank. In December 1840 the Illinois Democrats wanted to require the bank to make payments in gold or silver instead of paper. The bank was authorized to continue its suspension of specie payment through the end of the year. Lincoln wanted desperately to avoid this outcome, so he bolted for the door and instructed his fellow Whigs to follow him. Without a quorum the legislature could not vote to adjourn, and the suspension of specie payment would continue.

But the door was locked and guarded, so Lincoln literally jumped out of the first-floor window, followed by his lemming-like Whig followers...

I'm sure that Republicans feel that Abraham Lincoln was justified in breaking quorum. So are the Democrats today.

Myth: Democrats are just upset that Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has waived the 'blocker bill;' a rule that requires two-thirds of Senators to agree to legislative debate.

Reality: Unlike the tactics the Democrats are employing, it is well within Dewhurst's authority to waive the two-thirds requirement. Moreover, Texas Democrats have used precisely the same tactic before, rendering their claims hypocritical. In 1992, Lt. Governor Bob Bullock waived the blocker bill to get through a redistricting plan after a Republican judge slapped down an earlier plan. It should also be noted that in that case, Republicans didn't flee the state to keep a redistricting plan they didn't like from passing.

In 1992, the court mandated that the lines be redrawn. There was bipartisan support for withdrawing the blocker bill. Republicans wanted to get the process over with so that they could immidiately turn to the courts. Dave McNeely of the Austin American Statesman wrote on this:

In the debate over how to debate congressional redistricting, some Republicans are making a case that an example has already been set by the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

Current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst cites "The Bullock Precedent," from a 1992 special session on redistricting, when a bill about Senate redistricting came up with less than the traditionally required two-thirds vote.


On Dec. 24, 1991, three Republican-appointed federal judges threw out the plan that 19 Democratic senators had agreed to in settling a court challenge by minorities. The judges ruled the plan illegal because it had not cleared the full Legislature. They drew their own map, just for 1992.

Gov. Ann Richards had already called a special session on redistricting, to begin Jan. 2. A majority of the senators — all Democrats — revived the settlement plan and hoped to use it for primaries on March 10.

Bullock, a Democrat, did not have the traditional "blocker" bill atop the calendar, which usually means other bills need a two-thirds vote to come up out of their regular order.

Although there were 22 Democratic senators and just nine Republicans at the time, three Democrats opposed the Senate map, and one Democrat was absent.

Without a blocker bill, when the bill came out of the Committee of the Whole on Redistricting — comprising the entire Senate — it went straight to the Senate floor, where it required just a majority vote. It passed the full Senate 18-12. But Senate Dean John Whitmire, D-Houston, said there was unofficial agreement at the time that a two-thirds vote wouldn't be required.

Indeed, Republican senators who had planned to filibuster decided not to.

"I am going to oppose this bill," explained then-Sen. Buster Brown, R-Lake Jackson. "But I hope that it gets out of here quickly and into the courts. . . . The best chance of having a March 10 primary is to get this bill out of here."

Despite their efforts to have the plan in place for the primary, the U.S. Supreme Court said the 1992 Senate elections should be on March 10 but use the three-judge federal court's plan — just for 1992. The state Republican Party unsuccessfully asked later that the court plan be used for the remainder of the decade. (An ironic request, since the party is insisting that the court-drawn congressional plan be redrawn by the Legislature now, even though it is good until 2011.)

There is also the 1979 precedent for skipping the two-thirds rule. Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby tried to circumvent the rule to set up a separate presidential primary. A dozen Democrats, known as the Killer Bees, hid out to break a quorum for 4 1/2 days.

Hobby said that in 18 years presiding over the Senate, it was his biggest mistake.

See. Even Republicans admit that there was bipartisan support to remove the blocker bill. The purpose of the two-thirds rule is to protect the rights of the minority. In that case, the minority had no problem with the removal of the blocker bill because they felt that the there was a better chance that the courts would protect the their rights. They were right. In this case, there is no bipartisan agreement to end the two-thirds rule. The whole purpose of the rule is to prevent power grabs by the majority... and that is why Democrats are furious.

Myth: Republicans are only trying to pass redistricting because they can't win fairly.

Reality: The current US House districts are still gerrymandered from 1992, when Texas Democrats rammed through redistricting after waiving the two-thirds requirement. Accordingly, they are still tilted in favor of Democratic candidates. This is not a matter of opinion, but of fact. Republicans recieved 56% of the vote overall in Congressional elections in 2002, and yet they make up less than 47% of the congressional seats. That, my friends, is unfair.

Nonsense. Republicans have majorities in 20 of the 32 (or 63%) districts. If anything, there should be more Democratic majority seats. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Chet Edwards, Ralph Hall and Charlie Stenholm won last year in districts that supported every statewide Republican candidate in 2002 and gave George W. Bush over 60% of the vote in 2000. What Republicans want is a district quota system (which is odd, seeing that they oppose affirmative action). If we lived in a proportional representation system, then fine, Republicans should have 57% of the seats. But we don't. Just because Republicans had a better turn-out last year doesn't mean that they're entitled to change the rules. Also, just because Democrats tend to represent districts with less citizens and less voters doesn't mean that those people don't count. Republicans come up with the 57% number by running up the score in places like Montgomery County (suburban Houston) with Kevin Brady in district 8, who beat a Libertarian opponent with 140,575 votes last year, and by the fact that Democrats who represent heavily Hispanic and heavily immigrant districts like Gene Green (district 29) nearby get substantially less votes against Libertarians (55,760). Basically what Republicans are trying to say is that the suburban Republican voters of district 8 are 2.5 times as valuable as the (majority) Hispanic Democratic voters of district 29. Charles posts on some of his observations on the issue as well.

Myth: These special sessions are costing the taxpayers money, and it's all the GOP's fault.

Reality: If the Democrats didn't keep on thwarting quorums, which is an illegitimate tactic, then we wouldn't need to hold these special sessions. We would be getting back to other issues that need to be addressed. However, instead of simply admitting that they don't have the votes and losing with dignity, the Democrats are using every dirty trick in the book to thwart redistricting. And that's why Texans are paying.

It's Republicans that won't admit that they don't have the votes. If Republicans could have drawn a map in which just one of the 11 quorum-busting Democratic Senators and Bill Ratliff would have supported, then this wouldn't have happened. Senators Lucio and Madla stated earlier in the session that they were open to redistricting. However, Republicans insisted on a plan which would retrogress minority voting rights by packing minority voters in some districts, and by diluting their strength in other districts. For Lucio and Madla, that was unacceptable. These special sessions are wasting taxpayer dollars and all the major papers in the state have agreed that Rick Perry is the one to blame for it.

Myth: Republicans have no right to redistrict since a court-ordered plan has already been handed down. It's unprecedented.

Reality: Whether or not it's unprecedented, the GOP has every right to do it. It has the statutory authority, and besides, the very situation the Republican Party faces is unique. We've never been in power before, and we'd prefer not to endure another seven years of gerrymandered US House districts. If the Democrats hadn't been so insistant on drawing hyper-partisan district lines in 1992, this wouldn't be such a sticking point. They only object to this innovation because it harms them, not because it's illegitimate or somehow ethically dubious. In any case, I haven't seen a credible argument made to the contrary.

Again, the current districts favor Republicans in 20 out of 32 districts. If anything, the current map favors Republicans. As you almost admit, this is an unprecidented power grab. Republicans have the right to do their own gerrymander if they are in power... in 2011. Not now.

Posted at 02:33 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Latest Redistricting Articles

By Byron LaMasters

Here's the latest for you junkies out there. Another anti-Perry editorial, this time from the Houston Chronicle, and a lot more on the action from across the state.

The Houston Chronicle comes out today strongly opposed the the second special session:

There are a number of good arguments that have been stated and restated as this issue has unfolded about why this redistricting power play is ill-advised.

But, one of the underplayed ironies of the issue is that there are likely 19 or 20 districts under the current scheme that already could elect Republicans to Congress. Voters in several of those districts in the last election split their tickets to vote for President Bush and for statewide Republicans while re-electing Democratic congressional delegates. Dewhurst acknowledged as much.

Why, then, wouldn't Perry et al. -- and Texans in general -- be better served if they devoted their resources to electing Republicans in those districts instead of engaging in the partisan gamesmanship that we're now witnessing, and paying for?

Amen to that. The Chronicle also has the story on the House action today, and the story of how the Democrats left:

Van de Putte planned the revolt, including selecting the destination, hotel accommodations and flight arrangements. And she did so in the utmost secrecy.

Ellis said everyone had expected to leave either Monday night or Tuesday morning. He said the Senate Democratic Caucus met Monday afternoon and members were planning to be in the Senate chamber when it was scheduled to reconvene at 2 p.m.

But about a half hour before the session was to begin, they learned from a group of Democratic and Republican House members that Perry was planning to adjourn the then-current special session at 3 p.m. and proclaim a second special session 30 minutes later.

That's when they decided to leave immediately. Sen. Ken Armbrister of Victoria was the only Democratic senator to stay behind in Austin.

About an hour later, the 11 senators were onboard a pair of private jets whose services were contributed by constituents of state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen. Gallegos said every precaution was taken to keep the details of their flight a secret, even on the drive to the airport.

"At one point, I said, `Where are we going?' " he said. "It was a back road. I didn't know there was a back road to the airport."

Van de Putte said she had selected six potential city destinations in four states, including bordering Mexican states. She said she picked the places based on their proximity to Texas, the political climate of the city and, most importantly, the medical facilities available.

Because state Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville had recently suffered a heart attack, she said a city with a good medical facility was essential.

And as predicted, Gov. Bill Richardson gave them a warm welcome

Since their arrival, the senators have been protected by about a half dozen New Mexico state troopers, all but one in plainclothes.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, said Tuesday that the state, his administration and a majority of the state Legislature stood behind the Texas senators and their mission.

"My message to Texas state senators is that they are most welcome in New Mexico," Richardson said. "These men and women are courageous. They're strong. They acted on principle and they are here protecting their constituents, protecting those that potentially could be disenfranchised."

The Dallas Morning News wrote on the Democrats Tuesday press conference.

"There is nothing fair about a partisan redistricting effort that turns a deaf ear to the overwhelming majority of Texans and turns its back on minority participation," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus

The article also discussed the tension in the House.

Tension between Republicans and the late-arriving Democrats ran high.

When Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, questioned why Rep. Roberto Alonzo was late for the day's opening roll call, the Dallas Democrat took the microphone and tearfully explained that his brother had died Monday evening and he was assisting family members.

Earlier, Mr. Hartnett had posed the same question to Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston, who said he was comforting his wife, who was concerned that she was about to be fired from her job.

The Morning News also carried an AP article on the issue.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram has more on the unusual process in which the House voted on redistricting without a committee hearing:

A quasi-organized quorum bust of in the House lasted two hours Tuesday morning, leading House Speaker Tom Craddick to place a "call" to compel members to come in. A quorum was reached just before 1 p.m. with 100 members and House leaders convened the session instantly with some 80 redistricting supporters, mostly GOP members and a small handful of Democrats.

That gave them the four-fifth majority they needed to sidestep time-consuming processes such as committee hearings and legislative delays intended to give lawmakers and the public time to read the bills before they get a floor vote. Had just a few more redistricting opponents been on the floor, they could have blocked the majority and forced the House to send the map through the longer process.

The Austin American Statesman has its round-up as well. It's got the article on the House action, article on the Democratic Senators, article on DPS authority and more.

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July 29, 2003

Houston Chronicle Cartoon

By Byron LaMasters

Posted at 11:15 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogging the Senators

By Byron LaMasters

So who all is blogging the latest story of the Albequerque 11?

As always, Charles is on the story. He had a great morning roundup of everything that happened overnight. Greg found a great picture for his blog. Take a look. Rob's keeping up with things from a libertarian Republican perspective. He posts the oath of office from the Texas Constitution, which I must say makes for a good talking point. However, Democrats like myself, who elected our Democratic Senators are very proud of our senators for "faithfully executing the duties of the office of Senator" by breaking quorum. I voted for my State Senator, Gonzalo Barrientos because I trusted him to fight tooth and nail against to Republican power grabs. I think that the vast majority of Democratic voters feel similarly, and the 11 Democrats would be in much more danger of losing re-election (renomination) if they were to let themselves get rolled over.

For some partisan Republican rants on those lying, dirty thugs and liars (Senators for the rest of us), check out InSane Antonio and Courreges. They remind me of Republican Shock Troops. Courreges actually does have well written talking points (see the "myth/reality" post, not the crazy rant above it) that a lot of Republicans are using (so, go look at them, I'm all about the free speech business). I'm more than willing to debate all of them, and I might post on it later tonight.

Courtney wrote this about my coverage:

Burnt Orange Report: a gleefully liberal Austin blog, looks at Democratic lawmakers on the lam as a good opportunity for a roadtrip. Overall tone of coverage is somewhat like a slumber-party. Personally, I feel this is the most honest Democrat representation of the situation. Kind of "Nah, nah, nah nah, nah, you can't catch us!" when kids about to lose a game tip over the board so no one can win.

I've never claimed that I don't have a bias. I try to be fair, but I know that I'm partisan. I don't apologize for that. Oh, and Courtney, it's "..honest Democratic representation". As for her thoughts, very well, Courtney, but the talk about Democrats subverting democracy and being "whiny little bitches" is fair and balanced. Yes?

Anyone else been following the story that I've left out?

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House In Session

By Byron LaMasters

The House has a quorum and are on their third reading of the redistricting bill within 5 minutes. Watch it in action, here.

Update: With lightning speed, the House passed the redistricting bill (which it passed last month) by a 75 to 26 vote (with one present not voting). With 102 members present, the House had a quorum. Democrats were quick to point out that the record would reflect the fact that the bill had no committee hearing, no testimony and no (public) debate.

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A Call on the House

By Byron LaMasters

I just heard on the radio that there is a call on the House to find 5 more representatives to produce a quorum. They're looking for Representatives in the building, but not on the House floor, but no one knows where the majority of representatives are. Whether the representatives can be arrested outside of the capitol is debatable.

Want to watch the House? Click here.

And the Senate (non) action is here.

Via Save Texas Reps.

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Good Taste?

By Byron LaMasters

So here's where the Senate Democrats are staying. I approve. So does Mark.

The only concern of mine is that it looks kind of nice.... a little too resort-like. Still, I think that Democrats need to remind voters that they chose the location because Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) who had a heart attack last month, would have access to the type of facilities needed to help him fully recover.

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Senate Democrats Press Conference

By Byron LaMasters

It's over now, but the 11 Democratic Senators in New Mexico held a press conference.

They said that Ken Armbrister (the Democrat that did not go) respected their position and that they respected his. The Democrats in New Mexico said that Armbrister felt that he should stay in Austin and fight for his rural constituents.

State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin) and several others spoke on minority voting rights. The Republican plan diluted some minority districts and packed others.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and others have said that they will return if the two thirds blocker bill would be included.

Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) gave a timeline of the redistricting process in 2001.

Sen. Judith Zafirini (D-Laredo) said that the input of the people of Laredo was ignored. They asked that their county not be divided, yet it was in Republican maps.

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No Quorum in House Today

By Byron LaMasters

The Senate isn't the only place where Democrats broke quorum yesterday, the Democratic State Representatives decided not to show up either. The Austin American Statesman reports:

The hunt for missing lawmakers has expanded to the Texas House.

The chamber was unable to produce a quorum when it met this morning at 10 a.m. Only 96 members of the 150-member showed up — four short of the number necessary to conduct business.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, ordered the doors locked and placed a call, or order to return, on those who are missing — mostly Democrats.

The 54 missing representatives are in addition to the 11 state Senators who fled the state Monday to prevent the Legislature from passing a bill on congressional redistricting. Gov. Rick Perry called a second special session Monday which can last for 30 days.

It is unclear whether the House members have merely stayed home or have left the state as well.

This is the first time in Texas history that both chambers have failed to have a quorum.

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Awake Again

By Byron LaMasters

I just woke up, so expect some posts soon. I'm looking at editorials, and so far, so good. Take a look at the Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News. Personally, I'm surprised with how strong the DMN editorial is. Usually, whenever they have a pro-Democratic editorial, they usually find someway to be critical of Democrats or say something good about Republicans in the process. This time, there there was only a little praise for Jeff Wentworth and a little critisism of previous Democratic maps, but the force of the editorial was directed on Perry.

Update: Via Off the Kuff are anti-redistricting editorials from the Austin American Statesman and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

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Something I've never done before

By Byron LaMasters

I called a radio talk show. I called the Charley Jones Show. I guess it was because I was listening to the Gary McNamara Show (on WBAP 820) who was going on about Democrats changing the rules, and then Charley Jones was doing the same Republican talking points. I decided to call in and say that it was the Republicans that were changing the rules. They changed the rules about redistricting. We redistrict every ten years. Charley Jones said that Democrats redistricted every two or three years throughout the 1990s, but that was because the courts mandated it. Never before has the legislature taken up Congressional redistricting in mid-decade without a court mandate. That's the republicans changing the rules. I wanted to make a point on the Republicans changing the rules by withdrawing the blocker bill, but I didn't have a chance. Oh well. I'm glad I did it. I'm actually happy. A lot of the callers are defending the Democrats, and a lot of the callers are independents. One guy that I just listened to, voted for Perry and most of the Republicans, but voted for Kirk, Sharp and Martin Frost and was happy that the Democrats left because he leaned Republican, but liked his congressman, Martin Frost. There's so many people like that across the state. I tried to make that point. I said that 20 of the 32 seats leaned Republican, and that Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm and Ralph Hall won in Republican districts, and that if Republicans wanted to win those seats, they ought to run better candidates. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what polling shows about this.

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July 28, 2003

Open Thread

By Byron LaMasters

I'm heading out for the evening (I was going to head out for the afternoon and evening about four hours, but it alas, it wasn't meant to be. It's amazing how blogging can control your life). Jim may post on here later if anything new develops, otherwise I'll plan on posting more late tonight. If there is anything breaking, check in with Charles, Political State Report, the Quorum Report or Save Texas Reps and of course the Texas newspaper links (see right hand column below).

If anyone else has anything new on the story, post it in the comments. Thanks.

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Gary McNamara

By Byron LaMasters

Lord, if anyone else in Dallas wants to listen to a right-wing hack go on and on about how the Democrats are worthless and changing the rules, turn on Gary McNamara at WBAP 820. Think of a cheap version of Rush Limbaugh. It's rather entertaining. Damn liberal media, right?

Posted at 06:51 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Royce West from Albuquerque

By Byron LaMasters

State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) just spoke on KRLD 1080. He said that he and the other 10 Democrats are in Albuquerque, and are willing to stay there for 30 days (for the entire session). He said that the Senators are in contact with Republicans in Austin, and that the Democrats are willing to come back if David Dewhurst puts the blocker bill back into effect. That would require a two-thirds vote to bring up any bill out of order, as is the senate tradition.

Interestingly, I heard a No on 12 radio ad during the comercial break after the interview.

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Perry's Statement

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Rob has directed me to the statement made by Governor Rick Perry earlier today:

Jul. 28, 2003

Statement of Gov. Rick Perry on Special Session

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today released the following statement:

"Today a minority of members in the state Senate prevented the Senate from finishing important work and killed legislation that would have generated an additional $800 million to help meet the priorities of our citizens.

"I am saddened by the fact that we will not be able to put hundreds of millions of dollars into a number of priorities. We could have spent that money to boost Medicaid payments for home care services, to help pregnant women receive Medicaid services, to expand health insurance for children of working families, to provide HIV medications for afflicted Texans, to train new doctors, or to address a number of other health and human service needs.

"Today's developments are disappointing - not just to me - but to the many Texans who would benefit from the services $800 million would provide.

"That's why today I am calling another special session. These priorities need to be addressed, and Texans deserve a vote on these issues and more."

Posted at 05:43 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Confirmed: 11 Dem. Senators in New Mexico

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express News reports:

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat and chairwoman of her party’s Senate caucus, flew to Albuquerque, N.M., today with the 10 other senators on two private jets.

“We're all of us sitting here around the conference table” at an airport in Albuquerque, said Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Hinojosa, who declined to say who owned the aircraft the Democrats took to New Mexico, said they would stay away “as long as necessary” to kill the redistricting effort.

My radio is tuned to KRLD 1080 in Dallas. I hope that they'll cover the press conference. Otherwise I'll try another station, but the Democratic Senators ought to have a press conference very soon, via Quorum Report:

July 28, 2003 5:21 PM
The Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid
Press conference imminent

Update: KRLD has said that they'll be interviewing Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) in the next 30 minutes.

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DPS Ruling Info

By Byron LaMasters

Not sure exactly what this means, but here's what the Quorum Report just said:

July 28, 2003 5:02 PM

Dewhurst puts out a call on missing senators.
In a crowded courtroom, Judge Campbell today withheld his final signature on an order preventing DPS from seeking out missing House members.

The reason he postponed issuing a final order was that the Jeff Boyd from the Office of the Attorney General claimed he had been denied due process in arguing the merits of the issue. He told a somewhat incredulous Campbell that he had only argued on whether or not the court had jurisdiction in the matter.

Posted at 05:13 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Media Spin Begins

By Byron LaMasters

Just finished listening to State Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) whine on the radio about how the Senate Democrats were abdicating their responsibility, and that it's their fault that the Senate won't be able to deal with important issues like school finance and government reorganization. Their fault? What a joke. Both of those issues could have been taken care of in the past 30 days had Republicans been interested in solving them, as opposed to fighting amongst themselves over the best way to screw senior congressmen like Martin Frost, Chet Edwards and Charlie Stenholm who bring millions of dollars to our state every year.

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New Mexico Bound!

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express News reports:

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, was flying to Albuquerque, N.M., aides said. It was unclear if other Senate Democrats were also leaving the state and if that city was their common destination.

In remarks videotaped for distribution to local TV stations, Perry characterized his call for the second session as reason to free up $800 million for state budget priorities. He did not mention his request, made in his formal proclamation, that members again take on redistricting.

In a letter released today, Van de Putte said: “We have been called back to Austin to debate this phantom priority at the cost of $1.7 million per month,” a reference to the estimated cost of a special session.

“In light of the many more pressing issues facing Texas families, I am dumbfounded how Republicans can justify spending so much money on such a self-serving issue,” her statement said.

“For these reasons I have decided to break Texas Senate quorum along with 10 of my colleagues to prevent a vote on congressional redistricting,” Van de Putte said. “This is not a decision I have taken lightly, this is an extreme measure that is being used in what we consider an extreme instance."

I'm sure that Gov. Bill Richardson will give them a warm welcome.

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Senate 1 Short of Quorum, House short 15

By Byron LaMasters

A new session has started and neither the House nor the Senate has a quorum, the Austin American Statesman reports:

The Texas Legislature has reconvened for its second special session, even though it appears that a third of the Senate has fled the Capitol.

After a whirlwind afternoon, House Speaker Tom Craddick read a proclamation from Gov. Rick Perry at 3:15 p.m. calling the Legislature back to deal with the subject of congressional redistricting.

Craddick then convened the House, but with only 85 representatives present the House, like the Senate, was short a quorum. It was unclear whether the absences in the House were part of a coordinated boycott, but many of the missing representatives were Democrats — including the Austin Democratic delegation.

The Senate was also expected to reconvene on Monday, but eleven senators failed to show up for Monday's earlier session and were unlikely to reappear.

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2nd Special Session Begins with No Quorum

By Byron LaMasters

The Houston Chronicle just added this:

The second special session officially began at 3:15 p.m. with congressional redistricting as the only issue in the governor's proclamation. Neither the House nor the Senate had a quorum.

There is no mention of the proclaimation on Perry's website or on the House or Senate sites.

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More on PSR

By Byron LaMasters

Charles just beat me to it on Political State Report. He put about what I was going to say. Everyone is basically confused at this point.

Posted at 03:19 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Perry to Call new Session at 3 PM

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

The current special session is expected to come to an end a day early, with both chambers adjourning this afternoon.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he expects Gov. Rick Perry to immediately call a special session to start this afternoon. It is unclear whether some Democratic senators will show up for the session, amid rumors that they may be locked in the Capitol chamber.

A spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick also confirmed the report, although Perry had not made an announcement.

Dewhurst said he had hoped to wait until Tuesday, the final day the 30-day session could run, because he wanted the Legislature to adopt a sweeping government reorganization bill. As the clock ran on the first session, that bill's future in the House dimmed.

"It sounds as if, what I'm hearing from the House, is that at least they're under the understanding that they're coming back for a special session between 3 and 3:30 this afternoon," Dewhurst said.

The Quorum Report says that both House and Senate Democrats have left the Texas Capitol, and that neither will have a quorum when the session begins. The Houston Chronicle has the best coverage:

An unknown number of Democratic state senators abruptly left the state Capitol this afternoon after learning that Gov. Rick Perry planned to immediately call a second special session on congressional redistricting.

One Democratic senator who asked not to be named, told the Chronicle in a phone interview that senators were apparently on their way out of town.

"I have no idea where we're going. I just know in a little bit we will be out of pocket," the senator said.

He would not say how many senators had left but called it an "adequate" number to break a quorum and keep the Senate from conducting business.

The Senate requires two-thirds, or 21 senators, to be present to conduct business, meaning the absence of 11 senators could break a quorum. There are 12 Democrats in the Senate.

The senator said the action was precipitated by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's decision to bypass a traditional Senate rule that requires a two-thirds vote to debate any bill.

That rule, which has been in effect during the current special session, has so far blocked redistricting in the Senate.

The senator said the Democrats fled because they feared Perry would immediately call a second special session and Dewhurst would lock down the Senate chambers and prevent members from leaving.

The first session was to end by midnight Tuesday, but the Senate adjourned at 2:30 p.m. and the House also did so at 3:10 p.m.

Dewhurst earlier had told reporters Perry was expected to call a second special session minutes after both houses adjourned.

Of the 12 Democratic senators, the only one to show up for a 2 p.m. session today was Ken Armbrister of Victoria.

In May, more than 50 representatives hid out for several days to block action on congressional redistricting, forcing the governor to call a special session.

Judge Campbell will rule at 3:30 PM if the DPS can be used to search for the Democrats.

Holy Shit.

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Democrats Gone

By Byron LaMasters

Quorum Report is reporting.

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Culberson Says Perry will call immediate session

By Byron LaMasters

Rob Booth posts an mass email sent from Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston), stating that Rick Perry will call a second special session immediately, and that redistricting will be over by the end of the week. This suggestion confirms much of the paranoia that Democratic Senators have that a session will be called before Democratic Senators have a chance to get out of the capitol, should they decide to break quorum.

On Tuesday, the First Called Special Session of the Texas Legislature will end, and another one will be called immediately to finish redistricting Texas' 32 congressional seats. It is highly likely that the entire process could be over very quickly, and if so, it is possible that our Congressional District 7 could be carved up and sent out into central Texas. This has almost happened on four previous times, and this week the final, most crucial map will be drawn.

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"Must Attend" Dem. Senate Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

We may know today what the Senate Democrats plan to do. Senate Democratic Leader Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) has called a "must attend" caucus meeting at noon. Via the Quorum Report

Van de Putte has organized a "must attend" Senate Democratic Caucus meeting for 12 noon on Monday. Before even thinking of finalizing plans for a walkout, the Democrats must check into the feasibility of Gov. Rick Perry or Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst putting a restraining order on them.

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July 25, 2003

Redistricting Dead... for Now

By Byron LaMasters

The San Antonio Express-News reports:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst confirmed Friday that congressional redistricting will not be debated or voted on by the full Senate before the term ends next week, but he vowed that "sooner or later" a new plan will get approved.

"In essence, redistricting in this session is dead," Dewhurst said. "We will continue to do everything we can to bring everyone together."

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More Signs of a Walkout

By Byron LaMasters

Charles has it covered. Yesterday several Democratic Senators were pretty open about their intentions:

Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said he believes 11 of the Senate's 12 Democrats are committed to a walkout if they decide it is necessary to stop redistricting. He said he hopes Perry will back off and not call another special session.


"I'm ready to walk," said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the Senate's longest-serving member.


Asked to rate the possibility of a Senate walkout on a scale of one to 10, Whitmire jokingly replied: "About 11."

Then, with a straight face, he said: "I can only tell you it's a very serious option."

Meanwhile, the legal battle over what the DPS can or cannot do continues:

Democratic state senators contemplating a walkout to block congressional redistricting might be constitutionally protected from arrest by state police if they flee the Capitol, a lawyer has advised the senators.

Criminal defense attorney Keith Hampton also told the Senate Democratic Caucus that an arrest by a Senate sergeant at arms or a private security agency to force senators to the Senate floor for a vote might be prosecutable as kidnapping under state law.

"And it gets worse than that. If someone in the Legislature directed them to do that, there is the crime of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping," punishable by up to life in prison, Hampton told the Houston Chronicle Thursday.


Fifty-five state House Democrats blocked redistricting in last spring's regular session by fleeing the Capitol to break quorum.

State troopers searched for those legislators, but state District Judge Charles Campbell, a Democrat, said earlier this month that he plans to rule in a civil suit arising from the search that it violated state law.

Attorney General Greg Abbott plans to appeal Campbell's order once it has been filed.

Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, evaded questions about whether he would order the Democrats arrested if they broke the Senate quorum.

"I will continue to follow state law. I understand that (Campbell's) ruling has been appealed by the attorney general," Dewhurst said.

Campbell's ruling applied state law, and Hampton said it will provide a starting point for any challenge to Department of Public Safety authority to bring in legislators who break quorum.

House Speaker Tom Craddick cited House rules in ordering the search for the missing state representatives in May. House Sergeant at Arms Rod Welch deputized the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct the manhunt.

Hampton said the Senate sergeant at arms has the authority to deputize individuals to return runaway senators to the floor to restore a quorum. But he said there is a question of what is legal enforcement and what becomes kidnapping.

"I don't know if they (Senate leaders) can do anything more than make a major effort to persuade them, because a senator has every right to say no," Hampton said.

"They (senators) may find going home and mowing the lawn more productive."

Senate Sergeant at Arms Carleton Turner declined comment.

DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said the agency has not decided what to do, in light of Campbell's ruling, if Democratic senators bolt.

"If we are asked to help in rounding up folks, I'm sure we will call the attorney general's office and consult with our lawyers and see what they want to do," Mange said.

Abbott spokeswoman Jane Shepperd said no appeal has been filed because Campbell has not officially entered his order.


Hampton said if the Democratic senators decide to break quorum, then Campbell's ruling likely will be used as the basis for a Texas Supreme Court challenge on whether the use of state police to enforce Senate rules violates constitutional separation of powers.

Article II of the state constitution defines the three "departments" or branches of state government.

It continues, "No person, or collection of persons, being of one of these departments, shall exercise any power properly attached to either of the others."

The DPS, an executive branch agency, would become an arm of the legislative branch if drawn into the search, Hampton said.

"It has been conveyed to DPS and the executive branch that they would be in violation of the constitution were they to interfere in the affairs of one single House or Senate member," Hampton said.

"I don't think your law enforcement agents want to be enforcing some political positions."

I'll be waiting for the fireworks next week!

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July 23, 2003

The Will of the People

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, the Quorum Report reported that a poll showed that only 30% of Texans supported redistricting. Still, 30% was significantly more than the 8% that supported redistricting at the Senate field hearings held across the state. Here's a table of the numbers of support and opposition to redistricting in each city via the Houston Chronicle. I must admit that I'm quite proud of Dallas.

City For Against Other Total
Houston 20 (7%) 260 (91%) 5 (2%) 285
Dallas 45 (5%) 810 (94%) 11 (1%) 866
Corpus Christi 54 (21%) 189 (74%) 12 (5%) 255
Waco 32 (6%) 523 (90%) 24 (4%) 579
Laredo 5 (4%) 106 (93%) 3 (3%) 114
San Angelo 25 (15%) 124 (75%) 17 (10%) 166
McAllen 36 (10%) 313 (88%) 6 (2%) 355
TOTAL 217 (8%) 2325 (89%) 78 (3%) 2620

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Map passes Senate Jurisprudence Committee

By Byron LaMasters

On a 4-3, party-line vote, the Senate Jurisprudence Committee passed a new map today. The Dallas Morning News has the story.

Despite opposition from Democrats, a Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill to redraw congressional districts that would likely give the Texas GOP an advantage in Washington.

The Senate Jurisprudence Committee passed the measure on a 4-3 vote that fell along party lines.

Sen. Todd Staples of Palestine, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus, sponsored the bill and encouraged his colleagues to work with him as the bill makes its way to the floor.

"My door is open," Staples said. "I want to be completely unambiguous. Come join us."

The map's future after a committee vote is uncertain.

Eleven Senate Democrats and one Republican have said they are opposed to taking up redistricting. Under Senate rules, two-thirds of the chamber, or 21 senators, must support a bill for it to be debated. Opposition from 12 senators is enough to kill the bill in the 31-member chamber.

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick said Tuesday that he expects Gov. Rick Perry to summon lawmakers back into special session next week, and he predicted quick action on a new congressional map.

"We'll go back into session on Tuesday for a second special session and will wind up passing a congressional redistricting plan," Mr. Craddick told delegates at a national legislative conference in San Francisco.

The Republican House speaker conceded that efforts to redraw congressional lines are stalled in the current special session in Austin. He said Texas lawmakers likely will adjourn by Tuesday, then be called back immediately.

"We are committed to pass a plan that basically makes our congressional delegation reflect the makeup of the population of Texas," Mr. Craddick said.

Mr. Craddick's comments – which came during his appearance on a panel on redistricting at a meeting of the National Conference of States Legislatures – were the clearest indication yet that Republican leaders plan to immediately ram through a GOP-backed map to increase Republican seats in Congress in the probable second special session.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has said that in such a session, he would dispense with the Senate's requirement of a two-thirds vote before a bill can be considered – removing the main roadblock to a map in the current special session.

"This whole process can take days, not weeks, not a month," he said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman said Mr. Perry is considering calling lawmakers right back into session if no redistricting bill passes before the House and Senate must adjourn by midnight Tuesday.

"But no decision has been made," Kathy Walt said.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, warned again that abandoning the Senate's two-thirds rule could destroy the chamber's traditions of bipartisan cooperation.

But she said the 12 Democratic senators have not decided whether to boycott the proceedings – their last resort to try to kill redistricting, much as House Democrats blocked it during the regular session that ended June 2 by going to Oklahoma.

"Nobody relishes having to exercise that extreme option," she said, referring to a possible walkout, which would require 11 senators to break a Senate quorum.

"But it's there, and it's there for a purpose," Ms. Van de Putte said.

Ratcheting up the pressure on Mr. Dewhurst, she said, "This is a real test for our presiding officer."

Mr. Dewhurst had said he was inclined not to suspend the traditional two-thirds rule for the first special session.

But Mr. Dewhurst said redistricting "is an issue ... that doesn't fall within our traditional, bipartisan areas of legislation" and may change the rules for the next session. He cited the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock's decision not to require a two-thirds vote to bring up a state senatorial redistricting map in a January 1992 special session.

But Sen. Kenneth Armbrister, D-Victoria, a key undecided senator, said that the current situation cannot be compared with what happened in 1992, when lawmakers faced a court order to redraw districts and Republicans did not object to suspending the two-thirds rule.

On July 8, the House passed a new congressional map that could end the political careers of as many as six incumbent Democrats. But several GOP senators object to that plan, and the Senate's remap point man, Todd Staples, R-Palestine, is trying to craft a map that can win approval from 16 Republican senators.

Mr. Staples said he may have a plan ready for a committee vote Wednesday.

Earlier versions he has proposed would likely lead to the ouster of at least five Democratic congressmen, including Martin Frost of Arlington, Chet Edwards of Waco, Max Sandlin of Marshall, Jim Turner of Crockett and Nick Lampson of Beaumont.

Some of Mr. Staples' maps also might finally achieve the GOP goal of toppling U.S. Reps. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene, and Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, which would give Republicans a 22-10 edge in the state's delegation.

Under maps drawn by federal judges in 2001, Democrats won 17 of the 32 seats in Congress.

GOP leaders say the current map fails to reflect the state's shift toward Republicans, but Democratic lawmakers argue that it contains at least 20 GOP-friendly districts and that voters should be free to decide whether to oust senior Democrats or pick Republicans who would become junior members of Congress.

Ms. Van de Putte and other Democrats said that at a dinner meeting Monday in Austin, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the author of the House's redistricting plan, was seen reviewing maps with Jim Ellis, a political adviser to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

Mr. DeLay has pushed hard for a redrawing of congressional boundaries.

"The process is corrupted when Tom DeLay's guy is sitting there vetting the map," said Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo.

But Mr. King said he and Mr. Ellis were simply "catching up on things." The purpose of the dinner was not to discuss redistricting, Mr. King said.

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Another Map

By Byron LaMasters

The latest Staples map is here. It looks like the senate committee vote will be today or tomorrow, then the action will be on to the Senate floor. This map looks like it would have support from all four senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It reunites most of the 11th district, but that's about all that it offers Democrats. The Quorum Report has more.

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July 22, 2003

Redistricting Update

By Byron LaMasters

Well, the reason I haven't posted anything new about redistricting today, is well, because there's not too much new to report. It looks as if a map will come out of committee tomorrow, but we're not sure which one, and then it looks like it's dead on arrival in this session, at least, on the Senate floor.

Charles has the latest on everything, so check out his post over on Off the Kuff. I'm pleasantly surprised by the news from the Quorum Report that the majority of Texans oppose redistricting:

Pollster Jeff Montgomery has released some surprising poll numbers showing tepid support for redistricting -- including among Republicans -- and generally weak numbers for Governor Rick Perry.

It is about here that your erstwhile reporter eats a little crow. Although Montgomery typically represents Democrats, his polling has not always been kind to them.

In fact, we questioned Montgomery's polling nearly two years ago when he consistently showed Perry beating Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez by 20% or more.

When the votes were counted, Perry beat Sanchez by 19%.

Like his polling eighteen months ago, this poll was independently financed by Montgomery & Associates so it is beholding to no clients.

According to Montgomery, 45.5% of Texans oppose redistricting and 30% support it.

Even a majority of Republicans were ambivalent on the issue with 47.9% supporting the effort whereas 24.8% opposed.

But the bigger news is Governor Perry's soft approval numbers.

I'll be looking to see if the mainstream media catches on to it. It's good news for the Democrats. Now they have polls to back up their claims that the majority in this state, not just the rank and file party activists that attended the redistricting hearings, oppose redistricting. Hopefully, it will give them more incentive to break quorum when that, inevitably will become necessary.

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The Problem with redrawing CDs 11 & 31

By Byron LaMasters

Redistricting in the state senate has run into lots of problems. There are concerns about the disenfranchisement of minority voters, the loss of clout of rural areas and more. However, the greatest debate has centered on what to do with Congressional Districts 11 and 31. Why? It should be easy, right? Republicans want to get rid of Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco). Can't they just draw a district that would split Waco from Temple like that House map did? Not quite. The problem is, that almost all of the elected officials just love Chet Edwards. He's the main reason that Fort Hood is still the largest military base in the country. Fort Hood is the driving force of the central Texas economy, and Chet Edwards is Fort Hood's number one advocate. That's why the mayor's of Temple, Waco, Coppers Cove and Kileen, along with councilmen and county commissioners made the trip to Austin to testify before the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. They all had the same message. Keep Fort Hood in one Congressional district, and maintain the historic community of interest of McLennan, Bell, Bosque and Coryell Counties. All four of those counties are solidly Republican on the statewide level, but all four vote for Chet Edwards because they know that he is a lot more powerful in helping Fort Hood, and the central Texas economy than a freshman Republican would.

So, the problem? The Republican Senators from the area are worried. Sen. Kip Averitt (R-McGregor) has said that he'll oppose any map that divides McLennan County (Waco). He's been under LOTS of presure from Republicans and Democrats in his district to leave congressional district eleven alone. Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) represents Fort Hood in the Texas Senate. He has said that he'll oppose any map that divides the Fort Hood area.

This creates a problem for Republicans. Chet Edwards has been at the top of most every list of targetted Democrats, but local elected officials, Democrat and Republican, love the guy. In order to make a map to satisfy Averitt and Fraser, Republicans are forced to draw a district, which in the latest Staples plan, would at least give Edwards a fighting chance.

Furthermore, in order to target Edwards while meeting the Fraser and Averitt concerns, the only option for Republicans is to add more of Williamson County (heavily Republican Austin suburbs). Of course, that creates more problems. State Rep. Mike Krussee (R-Round Rock) has fought all along for uniting Williamson County in one Congressional District, the 31st. Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) has said that he'll vote against a plan that divides Williamson County. The Austin American Statesman explains the latest drama:

Another day, another map, another way to slice Central Texas.

On Monday, it was Williamson County's turn to be split between two congressional districts and, perhaps more critically, joined to northern Travis County.

Sen. Todd Staples, the Senate's primary mapmaker, Monday offered two slightly different updates to his map for the state's congressional districts. Staples, R-Palestine, is expected to fine-tune the map before the Senate Judiciary Committee's scheduled vote Wednesday.

If approved, the map would go to the Senate floor, where it doesn't yet have the votes to be debated.


Staples said it's difficult to draw a map that gets enough support from lawmakers to get it passed.

"Anytime you change one area, it seems to have a rippling effect in the other areas," Staples said. "We're never going to get there to satisfy everyone."

Under the current map, drawn by federal judges, Williamson County is split between U.S. Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Chet Edwards, D-Waco. Even though Staples' latest version again splits Williamson County between those two representatives, it upsets the state lawmakers who represent that county.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said he cannot support a map that splits Williamson County, but he is working on amendments. Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, also objects to putting a portion of Williamson County in a district that could be dominated by Travis County.

"My goal is for Williamson County to remain the political center of its congressional district," Krusee said.

The concerns with CD 11 and 31 are just one example of the problems that Republicans have in drawing maps in which most Republican senators can support. The reason that Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) joined Democrats in opposing redistricting altogether was because he realized that the only way for Republicans to gain their desired seats, was to gut rural, east Texas representation. Seeing that his concerns would not be met by the Republican map-drawers, Ratliff jumped ship.

Another example of Republican infighting is between Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) and the House leadership. Duncan doesn't want significant changes to the west Texas districts. The House leadership, however, wants a new Midland - Odessa based at the expense of the 17th district held by Charlie Stenholm (D-Abilene). If Republicans had been serious about getting any Democratic support, they should have started out with some unity amongst themselves. Instead, they've managed to stage a circus show of a special session as Democrats have been largely able to laugh at the chaos from the sidelines.

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A Game of Chicken

By Byron LaMasters

Well here in Texas, its come to the old fashioned chicken game. Who will jump first? Perry, Dewhurst and the Senate Republicans? Or will it be the Senate Democrats? Today, Governor Perry gave more evidence to suggest that he won't back down. If the Senate doesn't pass a map this session, he'll call a second special session to deal with the issue:

Gov. Rick Perry, who compelled lawmakers to deal with the issue by calling the session, said he wouldn't hesitate to do it again if the Senate fails to approve a redistricting plan.

A second special session could come on the immediate heels of the current 30-day session, which ends July 29.

"I would expect that it [another special session] would be relatively soon. We've got work to do," Mr. Perry said.

In a second special session, the Senate's GOP majority probably would pass a new congressional map. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said redistricting would be the only item on the Senate's agenda. Unlike the current session, no two-thirds vote to suspend rules would be required, he said.

Democrats, however, by refusing to cooperate this session, when Dewhurst and Perry have essentially tried to bribe them into voting for redistricting, have basically told Dewhurst and Perry that they too, will play the chicken game. Statements by various Democratic Senators over the past week highly suggest that they're willing to hide out, break quorum, and do whatever it takes for however long it takes to stop redistricting.

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July 21, 2003

Killer D's to Raise $$$ in D.C.

By Byron LaMasters

Texas Democrats are now reaping the benefits of an energized base willing to donate to their cause. The House Democratic Caucus has set up the Majority Political Action Committee of Texas. Its goal is to re-elect the House Democrats who broke quorum, and to help take Republican seats in the legislature, begining in 2004. Their first fundraiser was in Austin on July 17th, and tomorrow, they will go to Washington D.C. to raise money from national Democrats. The AP reports, via the Corpus Christi Caller Times:

On Tuesday, state and federal Democrats will hold two back-to-back receptions to raise money for a state political action committee. "You're invited to help show our national appreciation and to celebrate" the Killer D's, the invitation says. Killer D's is the name Democrats dubbed the state Democratic lawmakers who staged the May 12 walkout of the Texas House to kill a congressional redistricting bill.

Money for the receptions will go to MPACT, a political action committee operated by the state Democratic Caucus. The committee will use the money to keep the Killer D's in office and to target vulnerable Republicans.

The invitation lists all Texas' congressional Democrats as honorary co-chairs of their reception. State Democratic Reps. Garnet Coleman of Houston; Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio; Jim Dunnam of Waco and Pete Gallego of Alpine are the Killer D's are listed as attending the later reception.

"The Killer D's are heroes who stood up to Tom DeLay and a lot of people want to support them," said Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington.

DeLay, the majority leader in the U.S. House, pushed for a new congressional map in Texas that would increase the Republicans in the delegation and eliminate Democrats, including Frost.

The effort is not unlike the help that DeLay has provided state Republicans by organizing and helping to get funding for Texans for A Republican Majority. The PAC helped Republicans take control of the Texas House in 2002.

State Republicans found irony in the Democratic fund-raiser.

"It's interesting after all the noise they made about D.C. Republicans taking an interest in Texas redistricting that they are dragging a sack up in Washington to allow national Democrats to influence the process in the Lone Star State," said Ted Royer, Texas GOP spokesman.

Meanwhile in Austin, the Senate on Monday began anew trying to draw congressional maps that will add Republican seats but still comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Both Democratic receptions are being held at the Hotel Washington, but are divided to avoid violating campaign finance laws.

Tickets are $250 per person. However, organizers are suggesting sponsorships of up to $2,000 for individuals and of up to $5,000 for PACs.

The events were organized by Progressive Consulting Group of Silver Spring.

"It's a way to say stand up. Tom DeLay does not get to decide who our Congress people are, the voters of America get to make that decision. Let's take a lesson from those guys who had the courage to say so," said Karyn Strickland, president of Progressive Consulting Group.

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Maps, Maps and more Maps

By Byron LaMasters

There are new maps over on Red Viewer. The Senate Jurisprudence Committee is meeting today, again, to discuss new maps that have been posted over the weekend. There is the map by Sen. Armbrister (D-Victoria), here and new substitutes by Sen. Staples (R-Palestine), here and here.

I'll look at them further when I have a chance. I'm still in Austin, but will be heading home later today.

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July 19, 2003

Slick Dick Perry, Tommy Gun Craddick and Tweedledum Dewhurst

By Andrew Dobbs

My, how the tables have turned. Word around the capitol at the beginning of the regular session this year was that Dewhurst did not want to touch redistricting, but it looks like the machine-style thuggery of Slick Dick Perry and Tommy Gun Craddick has finally pulled old Tweedledum Dewhurst in line.

Democratic senators sent their strongest signal yet Friday that they might boycott a potential second special session on congressional redistricting, much like their House colleagues did in May.

"If there are sufficient numbers to break a quorum, then I'll be a part of breaking it," said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. "I'm sure other members, including Republicans, feel the same way."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, meanwhile, held out the possibility of a series of special sessions lasting through the summer, even into September, if Democratic senators refuse to strike a deal on a new congressional map more favorable to Republicans.

And he said any further sessions would be run on terms more favorable to the GOP.

"I'm committed to having a fair plan, whether we're talking about July, August or September," said Mr. Dewhurst, a Republican.

I clearly remember remarking to a friend one day, in astonishment, that I actually liked David Dewhurst. Here was the former CIA agent who worked with Contras in Nicaragua in the late 70s turned oil baron turned ultra-right wing patron of the racist advocacy group FreePAC that was doing crazy things like pushing for a somewhat fairer budget, proposing a tax hike and state-wide property tax to pay for schools who said he didn’t want to touch redistricting. Just goes to show that the venomous Washington-style partisanship that the GOP has injected into the once cordial corridors of the state capitol won’t leave any decent man standing.

There was a time in this state, less than a year ago actually but it seems much longer, where you could say that even though you disagreed with a man’s politics or his party, you understood that in the end he put the interests of Texas first. Sure, I disagree with the Republicans about how to best serve the people of this state- they think low taxes and less “red tape” is the answer, I believe that more services is the right way- but you would never question that the man or woman standing across from you really believed that they were working for something bigger than themselves or their party. Many are still like that- Bill Ratliff, Tommy Merritt, Bob Duncan and several others. Even George W. Bush as governor I believe really fought for what he thought was best for Texas. But now the GOP is run by a bunch of petty partisan self-promoters that care about nothing but number one. Rick Perry, Tom Craddick, Tom DeLay, Bob Talton and all the others hate this state and they are willing to make it resemble a third-world country and to make it a cautionary tale, a laughing stock, a no-man’s land of poverty, decay, desertion and desperation just so they can vindicate some sick perversion of the conservative philosophy. I hope that someday people choke on the name Tom Craddick or Rick Perry like we do George Wallace or Richard Nixon. These men have reduced the once lofty discourse of service in Texas to a profanity and history will have no mercy on them.

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July 18, 2003

Bait and Swith: Dewhurst Offers a Deal

By Byron LaMasters

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is trying to buy off minority Senators to agree to a map. It's purely a bait-and-switch effort that won't work, because all of the south Texas senators have sworn their opposition to redistricting. But, it won't stop Dewhurst from trying. The McAllen Monitor reports:

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Wednesday offered a deal to senators opposed to congressional redistricting in an effort to allow House Bill 3 to reach the floor.

Dewhurst offered to create “minority districts” in South Texas and offered funding for the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) located in the Rio Grande Valley.

“They tried to buy us out like Judas,” said State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who has been leading the charge against redistricting. “They offered us two ‘minority districts’ and the $19 million that they’ve already committed to the RAHC, but have been holding hostage. But why did they have to use the word ‘minority? We are Americans, we are Texans and we are loyal to our constituents. We are not going to sell out for two pieces of silver. We were offended and we said ‘no.’” During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Dewhurst said he has always supported fairness, and fairness justified redistricting. “The majority of voters here in Texas support President George W. Bush and his policies,” Dewhurst said. “The majority of the congressional delegation does not — that’s not fair.”


“I personally want to see a map that reflects the wisdom of our entire senate,” Dewhurst said. “Our committee began work earlier this afternoon on a strong initial map. The map can be improved for the good of the state and it is now time for our Democratic friends to become part of that process.”

Hinojosa said not everyone against redistricting is a Democrat. “Many of our Republican friends are also against redistricting,” Hinojosa said. “It’s the Republican leadership that’s trying to push it through. There’s a difference.”

Dave Beckwith, a press secretary for Dewhurst, did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.

Hinojosa also expressed dismay at Dewhurst’s denial that his office has been in contact with the White House about congressional redistricting.

“Karl Rove is in constant contact with the leaders in the Senate and the House,” Hinojosa said. “What they are doing now is, they don’t want Bush to get tainted.”

Rove, Bush’s senior advisor and chief strategist, was out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment, according to his office, who then referred a reporter to the White House Press Office.

Taylor Gross, Bush’s secretary for Texas, did not return telephone calls for comment.

On Tuesday Beckwith confirmed to The Monitor that Dewhurst has spoken to Rove about congressional redistricting during “a casual conversation with Karl Rove a few weeks ago.”

Also on Tuesday, Gross said Rove makes many telephone calls and that to his knowledge had been in touch with at least one Texas legislator on redistricting.


“As each day ticks by and there’s not map, we’re just wasting taxpayer money to please Tom DeLay,” Hinojosa said.


On Monday, Hinojosa, nine other Democratic senators and one Republican — Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant — signed a letter of commitment, vowing to block any redistricting legislation.

One more Democrat has signed on, bringing the total senators on record against redistricting to 12.

Only one Democratic senator, Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, has failed to indicate how he would vote on redistricting.

In a Senate that operates under a two-thirds rule, 11 of the 31 senators can block legislation from coming to the floor for debate or vote. But that two-thirds rule might not be around during a second special session, Hinojosa said.

Instead, a simple majority can pass a redistricting bill and map through the Senate during a second special session.

Hinojosa said a quorum would still be required for the Senate to use the simple majority rule. It would require the presence of all 11 of the dissident senators to constitute a quorum.

“If they’re going to sell out the Senate, we’re going to walk,” Hinojosa said. “We’ve got 11 senators willing to break quorum.”

Well, hooray for Sen. Hinojosa! It looks like he's quickly becoming the Richard Raymond of the Senate. He's doing a great job filling the big shoes of his predecessor ("Dirty Thirty" member and Killer Bee), the great Sen. Carlos Traun (D-Corpus Christi), who retired last year. (On a side note, I had an honor of having lunch with Sen. Truan and his wife at last year's Texas Democratic Convention by sheer luck. My friend and I had sat down at this restaurant in downtown El Paso when the Senator and his wife came in. The restaurant was full, but we had two extra seats at our table, and we invited them to sit with us. I wish that I had taken the Texas politics and elections course before meeting Truan, so that I would have had a better understanding of all the work the Traun had when I thanked him for his service to the senate. It goes without saying that the Senator and his wife were fascinating people, and I was honored for him to thank me for getting involved at my age.)

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July 17, 2003

Latest Action Via QR

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report has the latest:

In a press availability this afternoon, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst laid his cards on the table.

Senate protocol and tradition will be honored meaning the 2/3s rule. But he was quite clear. If the Democrats use their numbers to block redistricting during this special session, the Governor will call another special session.

In the next special session, there will be no blocker bill. Referring to the "Bullock precedent", Dewhurst said that the redistricting bill would be the first one filed next time around. Responding to a court ordered redistricting in 1992, then Lt. Governor Bob Bullock put redistricting as the first bill in sequence. That meant that a 2/3s vote was not required to bring the bill up.

Meanwhile, the Quorum Report gives another example of Republicans talking the talk with veterans, but not walking the walk. This should be an election issue next year. Republicans are anti-veteran. They have no shame. This is pure retaliation for the G.I. Forum's members protesting redistricting:

Gov. Rick Perry has told the American GI Forum that he is cutting $300,000 in discretionary federal funds that go to the group's National Veterans Outreach Program.

The decision was immediately condemned by Ram Chavez, the group's state commander for Texas, and Democratic congressmen as retaliation for the strong opposition Hispanic veterans have shown to congressional redistricting.

"There is no question in our minds that Gov. Perry is retaliating," Chavez said. "But he is not just hurting GI Forum members. His mean-spiritedness will affect all veterans. It is a sad day when veterans are used in political turf wars.

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The Staples Map

By Byron LaMasters

The latest map, here, by Senator Staples. It will be presented to the Senate Jurisprudence Committee today. I think that this is the map drawn by State Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) that Staples is presenting, but I'm not sure. Under the map, my apartment on 38th Street would be in district 10, but every day, on my 8 minute bike ride, I would travel into the 21st district. What a disgrace. UT representated by someone from San Antonio? That's just traitorous. Then a mile to the east, East Austin would be ghettoized into the 25th district represented by someone from Hidalgo County. Communities of interest? That's some ugly shit. Look at districts 10, 11, 15, 25, 26, etc. Maybe the BOR reader from usdoj.gov can tell me what you think of it. Time for the Democratic Senators to pack their bags...

Update: Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) has proposed a map. This one keeps Lloyd Doggett's district in tact, but is still hideous. Check it out, here.

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Democratic hints of Exodus

By Byron LaMasters

The McAllen Monitor ran an article today detailing the decision-making process for previously undecided Senator Frank Madla (D-San Antonio):

Some state legislators are lined up like elementary students on a school blacktop, trying to get on the same kickball team as their friends.

Some have been successful, like Texas Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, who had been undecided on the Republican-backed congressional redistricting efforts under way in the state.

Madla on Wednesday said he had been praying for guidance and it has been provided — through 3,000 letters addressed to him concerning redistricting.

“The flood of input from the people in the district I represent and the state as a whole is impossible to ignore,” Madla said. “I have heard from Democrats, Republicans and independent voters alike, and the message is the same: Please block or vote against any redistricting plan.”

About 20 of the letters he received support a change in the current congressional lines, Madla said.

“While some were the result of phone banking, the majority of these contacts were individually composed e-mails and individually placed phone calls citing specific reasons for their opposition,” Madla said.

Wow! Old fashioned activism still works with some people! Amazing! The Monitor goes on to suggest that because of a recent ruling preventing the DPS from arresting absent lawmakers, it would be easy for Senate Democrats to break quorum should Dewhurst decide to end the two thirds rule:

The situation in Austin is so tense, hand-to-hand combat could be a possibility, [Sen. Hinojosa] said.

“I think as soon as a map is voted out of committee, they (Republicans) will find they do not have a quorum on the Senate floor,” Hinojosa said.

The statement implied that senators opposed to redistricting would stage a walkout, much like the one in the House during the regular session. A group of Democratic state representatives, now known as the Killer D’s, led an exodus from Austin to prevent a quorum on the House floor. As a result, redistricting legislation died in the regular session.

“DPS (The Texas Department of Public Safety) no longer can arrest a legislator,” Hinojosa said. “We would resist arrest. They would have to handcuff us and we would use physical force to defend ourselves, because they have no authority to do that (arrest a legislator).”

Wow. This could happen as early as tomorrow if a map passes out of committee today. We'll have to wait and see.

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Shapiro Map Coming Today

By Byron LaMasters

State Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) will introduce a map to the Senate Jurisprudence Committee today. It will divide Travis County three ways, targetting Lloyd Doggett, and also endangers Martin Frost. From the Austin American Statesman:

Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, announced that a dozen GOP colleagues had a substitute map waiting in the wings.

For Travis County, the result would be the same: a three-way split that would probably endanger U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

"Travis County is one of the larger counties in the state," Shapiro said. "You're now up with the big boys. To just have two (districts) is untenable."

Shapiro said her map would have 18 predominantly Republican districts, 11 Democratic districts and three that would be toss-ups. She said she wasn't sure whether Doggett could win re-election.

Doggett was hardly surprised: "Like 'Night of the Living Dead,' a new map is lurching into the Senate embodying Tom DeLay's ghoulish desire to carve up Travis County."

DeLay is the U.S. House majority leader from Sugar Land, who wants to increase the Republicans' majority in Congress, particularly from Texas.

The map drawn with input from 12 of the 19 Republican senators would seem to have legs. Even with 12 supporters, the plan would still need 21 votes to even be debated in the Senate under current rules.

Shapiro said she intentionally did not involve any members of the Senate's redistricting committee when drawing the map, but she did ask a committee member, Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, to present it publicly late Wednesday afternoon.

After the Senate GOP leadership huddled, however, the signals changed again. Staples announced he would rework the map overnight.

"It's bizarre," said Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville. "I've never seen anything like it."

Since April, the Republicans have fought to increase their share of the state's 32 congressional seats. Instead of their current 15, they would like to have 20 or more.

So far, the partisan battle has prompted a walkout in May by House Democrats, a special session called this month by Gov. Rick Perry, and a declaration this week by 11 senators that they are ready to block debate under the current Senate rules.

A 12th member, Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, joined the would-be blockers on Wednesday. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, has implied that he might bend the debate rules for redistricting if he can't rally enough votes.

Now Harris, Dewhurst's choice to draw the maps, has quit mysteriously in the middle of the redistricting session.

"I have found now there's a computer glitch in the software, and actually those two maps will now not stand up, and both maps had to be adjusted," Harris said of the two versions he was to propose. "At this point, I'm out of the map-drawing business. Senator Staples now has that privilege."

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July 16, 2003

The Harris Non-Maps

By Byron LaMasters

The maps that Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington) were going to propose, but at the last minute, decided not to (see below posts), are available over at the Quorum Report. Go here. The maps are nearly identical with the major difference being that the latter splits Webb County (Laredo) and the former keeps it whole. Lloyd Doggett and Martin Frost are the top two targets in this map, but most of the white Democrats are targetted for extinction in the plans (with the exception of Ralph Hall). The map leaves south Texas in a mess, and would have a Hidalgo County Democrat representing part of Travis County, and once again the voting strength of minorities in Tarrant County would be diluted to the extent that it would constitute, in my opinion, a violation of the Voting Rights Act. I believe that that is probably the opinion of the attorney general as well (based on what has happened earlier today).

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No Harris Maps

By Byron LaMasters

From the Quorum Report:

HARRIS OUT OF THE MAP DRAWING BUSINESS His maps were designed by Attorney General's office In a brief statement before the Senate Jurisprudence Committee, Senator Chris Harris (R-Ft.Worth) said that neither of the two maps he had been prepared to lay out met appropriate standards. He said that they had been prepared by the Attorney General's office but due to a computer glitch, they did not pass muster

I guess that Attorney General Greg Abbott and I think alike. Any attempt to dilute the minority voting stregth in the 24th district (Frost) violates the Voting Rights Act. Period.

Update: The Austin American Statesman is on the story:

The Senate's lead member on drafting proposed changes to the state's congressional boundaries abruptly withdrew from the role, but said another senator was prepared to step in.

Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, earlier Wednesday had said he would be presenting two proposals for redrawing congressional boundaries. Lawmakers are considering the issue in a special session at the urging of congressional Republicans who hope to pad their majority in Washington.

Instead of presenting the maps, however, Harris said he was withdrawing as the lead senator on the issue.

"At this point, I am out of the map-drawing business." Harris said, adding that Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, would be presenting a map.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock and chairman of the committee considering the redistricting debate quipped, "I don't know if (Staples) wants that."

According to Harris, Staples had presented him with a small map at 10:10 a.m. Wednesday and that appeared to the map that would be debated by the committee.

Harris said he had been told by the attorney general that his maps were illegal. With that, Harris left the committee room. Reporters chased after Harris but the gruff Arlington senator would say little.

David Beckwith, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, rushed to the committee room when he heard that Harris had announced there was a "glitch" with his maps.

Beckwith said Harris' action was a surprise to the lieutenant governor's staff.

Duncan recessed the committee while it regrouped.

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Senate Map Targets Frost

By Byron LaMasters

Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington) will release two redistricting maps this afternoon. Aparantly, Rep. Martin Frost (D-Arlington) is now a target. I do believe that it is nearly impossible to draw a district where Frost could not win without violating the Voting Rights Act, but here's what the Austin American Statesman says about it:

State Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, said he will be presenting two proposed congressional maps Wednesday in which Democrats will find "very little" to like.

Harris said his maps would "take out" the senior Democratic member of Congress, Martin Frost of Arlington, because Harris' constituents want him gone. Frost has been in Congress since 1979.

Harris' maps come as a majority of the Senate's 12 Democrats and one Senate Republican continue to oppose any changes to the current boundaries for Texas' 32 congressional districts.


Harris did not estimate how many more Republicans could be elected if either of the maps was adopted but said either would increase their membership in Congress. He also said each map would create a new Hispanic district in south Texas and an African American district in Houston.


Unlike a map that has gotten state House approval, Harris' maps would leave McLennan County, including Waco, in a single district.

Harris said the primary difference between his two maps is that one divides Webb County in south Texas, which he really doesn't want to do.

He said the process is far from over because apparently a third map, with Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, as author, is also expected to be released Wednesday.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, is the chairman of the senate Jurisprudence Committee that is dealing with redistricting. He said the committee will want to take several days of testimony on the maps and other senators may be bringing additional maps.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst predicted no map would clear the committee and reach the Senate floor until sometime next week.

I'll post maps and comment on them when I see them.

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More Editorials

By Byron LaMasters

More redistricting editorials from around the state, here.

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Redistricting Chaos

By Byron LaMasters

Again, redistricting was all over the papers today, with no one exactly sure what is next. Here's all the details of the latest action.

Again, redistricting was all over the papers today, with no one exactly sure what is next. The San Antonio Express-News explained how we got to where we are today. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) led ten Democratic senators and Bill Ratliff to sign the "unalterable opposition" document:

Like a riverboat gambler, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte held her cards close to the vest.

Throughout the day Monday, the San Antonio legislator held the document she authored so close that it literally came between her and her bra.

Tuesday, she smiled coyly as she pointed under her blouse at the undergarment that stashed the document everyone was asking about, but no one would see.

Ten Senate Democrats and one Republican senator signed the letter, which informs Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that a contentious congressional redistricting bill — the main reason lawmakers are meeting in a special session this month — is all but dead.

"Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, in his heart, expects the Senate to hold hands and sing Kumbaya over a redistricting map. That's not reality, and it's not going to happen," Van de Putte said.

Under longstanding rules in the Senate, 11 of the 31 members can prevent a measure from being brought up for floor debate.

Although the document had not been delivered as of late Tuesday, Van de Putte said the 11 senators are firm in their opposition to redistricting "and we will not be moved."

There was more about Gov. Perry's intentions to call a second special session in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

If congressional redistricting is blocked in the special legislative session, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry will call another session.

And if that happens, several key Texas Senate Democrats said they might resort to a quorum-busting tactic similar to the flight to Oklahoma by their House counterparts to ensure that congressional boundaries remain unchanged until after the 2004 elections.

Tuesday's back-and-forth between the state's top Republican leaders and key Democrats came on the heels of Monday's announcement by state Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, that he would join the effort to kill what he called a "partisan bloodletting" move to redraw the state's political map. The political lines were drawn in 2001.

Dewhurst, a first-term Republican who presides over the Senate, said he was working diligently to keep the peace in the 31-member chamber. But he warned that unless senators approve a redistricting plan, lawmakers could expect to spend at least another month in the Capitol. A 30-day special session of the state Legislature costs taxpayers an estimated $1.7 million, or about $57,000 per day.

"At the end of the day, I am still optimistic that we'll be able to come up with a map which will have a consensus of senators behind [it] ," Dewhurst said.

Asked whether he thought the governor would call another special session if the current one ends on July 29 without a consensus, Dewhurst replied, "Yes." Asked whether Perry had told him that, Dewhurst answered, "Yes, he did."

Perry, who spoke briefly with reporters outside the Senate chamber, offered a more guarded answer.

"Oh, I never rule it out," he said.

The article went on to say that undecided (on redistricting) Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) offered to lead a walkout among senators to break quorum should Dewhurst decide to abandon the two thirds rule in a special session:

The impasse in the Senate centers on one of the chamber's most cherished traditions: that any 11 members can band together to block debate on legislation.

With Ratliff joining 10 Democrats firmly opposed to redistricting, it would appear that the issue is dead. But Dewhurst said he might consider breaking tradition and allow a simple majority to decide redistricting instead of requiring a two-thirds majority, 21 votes.

"I would lead the exodus if they tried to violate the 21-vote rule," said state Sen. Ken Armbrister of Victoria, a conservative Democrat who has not ruled out supporting a redistricting effort. "I think that's one tradition that we don't relinquish for any reason."

All 12 of the Senate's Democrats have said they want the 21-vote rule protected. But Republicans are divided.

The issue has united all twelve senate Democrats, but Republicans are divided

"I'd break it in a heartbeat," said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio.

"I ran for public office the first time in 1974, and I've watched the Democratic majority kick Republicans around for 30 years. And we've just taken it because we have been outvoted," he said. "And the very first time we get a majority, what do they do? They run off and hide in Oklahoma in a parliamentary sneak attack, and if that's the way they are going to play the game, the majority needs to exercise its will."

But Lubbock Republican Robert Duncan, chairman of the Senate committee handling redistricting, said he would be loath to change course on the rule.

"It's been a tradition in the Senate that has worked well," he said. "I think it would be preferable for the two-thirds rule to remain."


The Senate committee handling redistricting has yet to offer a proposed map for the members' consideration, and Duncan said he has yet to see a draft map that he could support.

The Austin American Statesman did a survey of it's own with the Senators on redistricting. Their finding?

A survey of senators on Tuesday indicated that at least 14 object to changing the rules. It would take only 11 dissenters to shut down the Senate.

Dewhurst does have support from several Republican senators for the rule change for the redistricting bill. Nine senators voiced various levels of support for changing the rules only for redistricting. Four said they were unsure, two refused to comment, and two could not be reached.

One of the supporters, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said redistricting is different from other legislation because it's a partisan issue.

"I think the (two-thirds) rule is crucial for everything but redistricting," he said. "It is the partisan issue the Legislature deals with."

He said the Democrats punished Republicans for decades during redistricting and now the GOP should be in charge: "We are the majority, and the majority should rule."

Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and the longest-serving senator, said breaking tradition is dangerous.

He said other votes — vouchers and abortion rights, for example — could break down along party lines. And, he added, there will be temptation in the future to debate bills without a two-thirds approval.

"If you start making exceptions for tradition, there's no end," he said. "I think it does irreparable harm."

Several senators and Dewhurst cited 1992 as a precedent for breaking the tradition.

That year, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and the Texas Senate met quickly in special session when the courts threw out the Senate's map.

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, opposes splitting his home county of McLennan, but he said he isn't ready to stop trying to draw a new map.

As for Dewhurst changing the rules, Averitt said: "I think changing the rules in midstream probably is not the best thing. It should certainly be the absolute last option considered."

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, is the redistricting committee's chairman. He said his constituents oppose a new map. Asked whether he could vote for one, he said, "It would be awful tough on it unless I had some consensus (from his constituents) on it."

Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said he would vote against any map unless it kept intact the three counties that contain Fort Hood. He also said he opposes creating a congressional district for Midland, the hometown of House Speaker Tom Craddick. But Fraser said he could support breaking tradition and debating a map with only 16 senators if his concerns are taken care of.

Even if Dewhurst changes the rules and a map passes, it will have to go to a conference committee of House and Senate members who will negotiate a final map.

That has many senators nervous.

Perry and Dewhurst could very well have a fight on their hands, should Perry call a second session and Dewhurst abandon the two thirds rule. Not only might senate Democrats break quorum, but senate Republicans are anything but unified. As I've said all along, this whole redistricting mess has done more to unite Democrats in Texas than anything that Democrats could ever do.

The Houston Chronicle, trying to best the Statesman's poll of senators, decided to interview former governors. I think the Statesman wins this one. Senators opinions are a tad bit more important than 90 year old former governors. Still, it's interesting that the Houston Chronicle was able to get ahold of conservative Democratic governors Preston Smith and Dolph Briscoe. We don't hear from them too much any more:

Former Democratic Govs. Preston Smith and Dolph Briscoe have been retired from active politics for years. But they remain spectators from afar, and both believe it is wrong for Perry, a Republican, to try to redraw congressional districts set two years ago by a federal court.

Perry's goal is to increase the number of Republicans elected to the U.S. House from Texas. Although all statewide officeholders and a majority of state legislators are Republicans, Democrats still hold a 17-15 edge in the House delegation.

"I see a danger in this. Next session we may have a Democratic majority (in the Legislature). Will they redraw them again?" Smith said in a phone interview from Lubbock, where, at 91, he still helps raise money for Texas Tech University.

He said Perry and the Legislature should live with the map drawn by the federal court after the 2001 Legislature failed to act in the first session after the 2000 U.S. census, the traditional session for redistricting.

"They had a chance to do that in 2001 and failed to do it," Smith said.

Briscoe, 80, of Uvalde, who returned a phone call from vacation in England, agreed.

"I think it's traditional to do it every 10 years. To me, it sets a bad precedent to redraw the districts between the time of the censuses," he said.

As for the editorial department, the Austin American Statesman praised Sen. Ratliff's decision to oppose redistricting:

If you are among those who bemoan the lack of courage and independence in politicians, then please take note of Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant. He has single-handedly taken on U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick, all Republicans.

Ratliff announced Monday that he will not support any plan to redraw Texas' congressional district lines. It was not a solo blast. He joined 10 Democratic senators in making the announcement, and under Senate rules, it takes just 11 of the 31 senators to block consideration of any bill -- even if a simple majority would approve the bill itself, as would likely happen if a redistricting bill were to reach the Senate floor. DeLay and other GOP leaders want such a bill to boost the number of Republican representatives from Texas in the U.S. House, from the current 15 (out of 32) to as many as 22.

In joining the Democrats on this issue, Ratliff was not acting out of partisan favor for either party, or even out of personal interest. Rather, he acted out of what he considered the best interests of his small city and rural constituents, who don't want to become the tail of a congressional district wagged by Dallas suburbs.

Ratliff's constituents, like Ratliff himself and other small-town and rural Texans, have irritated and frustrated DeLay with their independence. On the whole, they are conservative and vote Republican: They backed George W. Bush for president, John Cornyn for U.S. Senate, Perry for governor and Dewhurst for lieutenant governor. But then they broke ranks and voted for conservative or moderate Democrats for Congress whom they have come to know and trust. In Ratliff's part of the state, that has meant they supported Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall.

There are other congressional Democrats getting support in rural and otherwise Republican-leaning districts, such as Ralph Hall of Rockwall, Charles Stenholm of Stamford and Chet Edwards of Waco.

Ratliff isn't worried about saving Democrats. He wants to make sure his constituents have an effective say in who gets elected to Congress, and he thinks the maps he has seen so far won't do it.

Dewhurst has not given up. He hopes to come up with a redistricting plan that would satisfy the concerns of Ratliff -- and other rural Republican senators who have the same fears but aren't willing to buck the party leadership. Failing that, Dewhurst might find some way around the longstanding rule that requires 21 votes to bring a bill up for Senate debate, though such a maneuver would entail a risk to his hard-won reputation for fairness and his mastery of the Senate's tradition of bipartisan governance.

The lieutenant governor suggested Tuesday that Perry might call another special session on redistricting if this one fails, and Perry declined to rule out that possibility.

Our preference is that the Legislature drop this unnecessary redistricting exercise and go home. Let the Republicans come up with candidates who can beat the likes of Stenholm and Edwards at the polls.

In the meantime, for those who bemoan the lack of backbone in state politicians, take a look at Ratliff. It doesn't get much stiffer than that.

The Dallas Morning News joined the Statesman in urging Dewhurst to maintain the senate tradition of the two thirds rule.

No telling what the pressure is like on Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Republican partisans must be twisting his arms as hard as Lyndon Johnson coerced legislators in Washington. They want their leader to break the Senate's rules during the special redistricting session, now that GOP Sen. Bill Ratliff has stalled the Republican push to create new congressional districts.

Mr. Dewhurst, don't bend.

Remember what you told this newspaper after the regular session ended. The Republican in you favors a special session on redistricting. But the leader of the Senate in you does not, because it would spoil the chamber's collegial atmosphere.

Mr. Dewhurst, apply that common sense now.

With the respected Mr. Ratliff deciding to join 10 Democrats in blocking the Senate from considering a GOP-friendly congressional map, Republicans will want you to end a very important Senate rule. It's the one that requires two-thirds of the Senate to approve bringing a bill to the floor.

Ending that rule, Mr. Dewhurst, will be like Adam biting into the apple. It looks juicy, but it will satisfy only for the moment. Bitterness will follow, and the Texas Senate never may be the same.

The two-thirds rule essentially demands that legislators from both parties shop their ideas around to Democratic and Republican legislators. They must line up support from both parties to get bills to the floor.

As Sen. Ratliff says, the rule explains why the Senate operates with a surprising sense of bipartisanship. If Mr. Dewhurst ends it to get a new map to the floor, Washington-style partisanship could become common. That would be doubly disastrous, because the GOP-led House already has lost much of the bipartisanship of the 1990s.

Ideally, Mr. Dewhurst would wipe his hands of "rolling redistricting" entirely. But if he wants a new congressional map or feels he must satisfy Gov. Rick Perry, House Speaker Tom Craddick and the state's GOP financial backers, we suggest he work with the Senate Jurisprudence Committee to come up with a map that can get the support of 21 senators.

That's a far better option than breaking a tradition that benefits Texans. Their legislature doesn't need a can of poison dumped into it. That's what we urge you to remember, Mr. Dewhurst.

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July 15, 2003

The Senate Map?

By Byron LaMasters

I'm expecting to see a State Senate redistricting map pop up at some point over at Texas Legislative Council site. While I haven't seen any official senate map, I have seen two maps "PLAN 01295C -Owens" and "PLAN 01296C -Owens". Now, I don't know who "Owens" is, because there's no senator or state rep. named "Owens", but the maps drawn by Owens, look a lot like possible senate maps. Owens' maps address the concerns of a lot of the senators.

Take a look at the most recent map, here. The map creates bait for Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-McAllen) by creating an open 24th congressional district in Hidalgo and Cameron County. It creates bait for Sen. Ratliff, by restoring the vast majority of the 1st congressional district (Max Sandlin) in northeast Texas, and esentially keeps the predominantly rural nature of the 2nd (Jim Turner) and 9th (Nick Lampson) districts. It does make Turner's district more Republican, however, by adding Tyler - Longview. The map eliminates Ralph Hall's 4th district. It draws Martin Frost into a new Republican seat, the 4th including suburban Dallas and Fort Worth, although Kay Granger's 12th becomes slightly majority Democratic. The 19th district remains a Lubbock / Midland-Odessa seat, but Charlie Stenholm's 17th and Chet Edwards' 11th districts are radically altered. Neither is paired, but both would have lots of new constituents unfamiliar with them. Neither would be favored for re-election under this map. The map also pairs Henry Bonilla and Lamar Smith in the new 21st (Hill Country) favoring Smith. However, the 20th includes much of Bonilla's old territory, and that district, held by Charlie Gonzales would have a nearly 50/50 Republican / Democratic split. It's interesting to look at, and there are some pretty hideous looking districts (see 15 and 17) in the plan, but it is probably similar to something that the senate might try to do.

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Another Session?

By Byron LaMasters

Well, as I suggested earlier, it looks as if Rick Perry would have no problem calling a second special session to address redistricting. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Tuesday that he expects Gov. Rick Perry will call another special legislative session to address congressional redistricting if a plan is not approved this session.

Perry, speaking to reporters earlier, would not confirm that he would call lawmakers back to the Capitol to redraw congressional districts if they fail to adopt a plan, but he left the option open.

"Oh, I never rule it out," Perry said.

Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said Perry told him he would call another session but Dewhurst also said he believes lawmakers should solve the issue now.

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More Republican Senate Defections?

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report suggests that there's more than one or two Senate Republicans upset with redistricting. There may be a full-scale revolt going on over there. They report that 24 Senators are opposed to ending the two thirds rule, and that there are three "back-up" Republicans that would get on board if necessary to block debate of redistricting on the senate floor:

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) claimed five Republican senators were hostile to new congressional lines being drawn and that three of the five were on call as "back-up" to the 11 senators that signed a statement outlining their "unalterable opposition" to the measure.

"We're hunkered down," Hinojosa said. "In addition to the 11 votes we need to keep redistricting from the Senate floor, there are five other Republicans opposed to the measure and three of these will sign the letter if need be. We're solid."

Meanwhile, the Senate Jurisprudence Committee continues to meet. There's a chance that the committee will vote on redistricting today, and given the above information, there's a chance that redistricting may be voted down in committee. The Senate Jurisprudence Committee has seven members, four Republicans and three Democrats. Democratic Sens. Mario Gallegos, Eddie Lucio and Royce West are on the record in opposition to redistricting. They were among the eleven Senators to sign the letter stating their "unalterable opposition" to redistricting. Of the Republicans on the committee, only Sens. Teel Bivins and Chris Harris seem fully supportive of redistricting. Sens. Kip Averitt and Robert Duncan have both expressed reservations about redistricting. Kip Averitt will vote against a plan that divides Waco, and Robert Duncan might vote against a plan that seriously alters the district in west Texas. It'll be interesting to watch.

Updates: The San Antonio Express-News reports that undecided Democratic Sen. Frank Madla is now opposed to redistricting:

Madla, who for months has said he was undecided on the issue and was praying daily for guidance, said late Monday that he now opposes redistricting.

"Anybody with input from the district that is running 99 percent opposed, there is only one way you can vote," Madla noted.

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Will the Senators Bolt?

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman suggests that should Dewhurst move to suspend the two thirds rule, there might be an effort among senators to break quorum:

Just Dewhurst's hint of changing the way the Senate operates upped the ante in this game of political poker. One senator, who asked his name not be used, suggested senators might boycott the session rather than see the tradition abandoned.

"Stake out the airports," he said.

In May, 52 House Democrats killed congressional redistricting by leaving the state and preventing the House from having enough members to conduct business.

Although senators were not packing Monday, Dewhurst was back at the drawing board, trying to find a map that would get the support of the 21 senators necessary to debate any bill under the longstanding tradition.

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Dewhurst's Options

By Byron LaMasters

With 11 firm no's, it looks as if redistricting is dead. Not quite. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst still has several options to bring up a debate on redistricting. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Here's how Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst could get a redistricting bill to the state Senate floor and get around the tradition that two-thirds of senators must agree to bring a bill up for debate:

  • The rule is put into effect with a "blocker bill," an inconsequential measure put at the top of the calendar. As long as the bill is first in line, it takes a two-thirds vote -- 21 of the 31 senators if all of them are present -- to suspend rules and consider another bill out of order.

  • As presiding officer of the Senate, Dewhurst can ask sponsors of the blocker bill and any others ahead of a redistricting bill to withdraw them, putting redistricting at the top of the list.

  • If that doesn't work, Dewhurst also can ask Gov. Rick Perry to call another special session with redistricting as the only issue. Then Dewhurst can decline to refer any other bills to committee, so there would be no blocking bill.

The first option, the easiest option, will probably no longer be a possibility with 11 Senators firmly opposed to a debate on redistricting. That brings us to option two. The "blocker bill" is sponsored by Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington). He's pro-redistricting, and Dewhurst could ask him to withdraw the "blocker bill". However, there's a problem with that. One of the bills that would be up before redistricting is a bill carried by a Democrat opposed to redistricting. It's extremely unlikely that Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) would let his bill go anywhere if it were to become the "blocker bill":

The sponsor of the blocker bill is Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, who also is the sponsor of the redistricting bill. Harris and Republican sponsors of two other bills that were on the Senate calendar Monday could be recognized by Dewhurst on the Senate floor and then withdraw their legislation to clear the way for a redistricting debate.

But in other action Monday, a government reorganization bill sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, received approval from the Government Organization Committee and joined the other bills on the regular order of business. Ellis is among those Democrats who signed the letter.

If Ellis refused to withdraw his bill, it would become a blocker and force the two-thirds rule.

The final option, a second special session, seems to be Dewhurst's only real possibility to declaring defeat. I'd be shocked to see Perry call it, but after two and a half years of Governor Perry, nothing he does really shocks me anymore.

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Full Statement by Sen. Ratliff

By Byron LaMasters

Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) made the following statement yesterday upon joining 10 Senate Democrats in opposing redistricting.

"I have today advised Lt. Gov. Dewhurst that I am in possession of a statement signed by 10 members of the Texas Senate stating their unalterable opposition to any motion to bring a congressional redistricting bill to the Senate floor. I have advised the Lt. Gov. that I am adding my name to that statement.

"The Senate has now completed hearings across the state on this subject. Chairman Robert Duncan and the members of his committee have reported to the members of the Senate that the overwhelming majority of citizens appearing at these statewide hearings are opposed to such redistricting, including many local activist Republicans and locally elected Republican officials.

"It is clear that those who are leading this effort apparently have no knowledge of, or regard for, the representative balance between the urban/agricultural community. The maps produced so far have indicated a total lack of concern for the communities of interest in rural Texas.

"The current congressional lines produce 20 Republican seats, 19 of which have a Republican strength of at least 55%. The majority of the Senate members, in both parties, have indicated to me that the costs associated with this effort are not justified by the marginal gains to the Republican congressional delegation.

"Moreover, most members of the Senate fear that the costs of this effort are far more serious than the mere financial cost of the litigation which is sure to follow. The costs anticipated by these members are associated with the level of animosity and distrust among members of the Senate which will result from such a vitriolic battle.

"We, in the Senate, pride ourselves in being able to work in a bipartisan manner for the people of Texas-- the same bipartisan spirit which President George W. Bush nurtured so vigorously and of which he was so proud when he was Governor. I will not be part of the destruction of that spirit for the sake of a theoretical marginal partisan gain in the Texas congressional delegation."

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July 14, 2003

Ratliff a firm no on Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

The story is out on the AP wire, via the Dallas Morning News

Former Acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, now a Republican senator, said Monday he would join with 10 other senators in attempting to block a congressional redistricting bill from reaching the Senate floor.

Ratliff said he has told Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst of a statement signed by 10 other senators stating their "unalterable opposition" to any motion to bring up redistricting for debate.

"I have advised the lieutenant governor that I am adding my name to that statement," Ratliff said outside the Senate chamber.

Under longstanding Senate rules, two-thirds – or 21 senators – must agree to bring a bill up for debate before it can be considered on the Senate floor. It takes 11 senators to block a bill from debate in the 31-member chamber.

A few minutes before Ratliff spoke, Dewhurst said it was possible that he would consider changing those rules.

With existing congressional boundaries, Democrats hold a 17-15 edge in the congressional delegation. Republicans, led by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land, say they want a majority in the delegation and cite GOP-leaning voting trends in the past few statewide elections.

Ratliff has been outspoken against the House redistricting plan that was approved last week and sent to the Senate. He has said he wants to protect his rural district in northeast Texas and that the House plan obliterates representation for that region. He noted that Texarkana would be represented by someone in east Dallas County.

"The maps produced so far have indicated a total lack of concern for the communities of interest in rural Texas," Ratliff said.

Earlier Dewhurst told reporters that Ratliff had warned him he had "serious concerns" about redistricting.

However, Dewhurst said that although he had heard about the letter signed by the opposition senators he had not seen it. He said he was meeting with Ratliff later in the day.

Dewhurst said if it becomes clear that there are not the 21 votes to bring the bill up for debate, he would "consider all of our options." He indicated that could include changing the Senate rule.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry called the special session June 30, initially to address redistricting. He later expanded the agenda to include more than two dozen other items.

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"Redistricting on Life Support"

By Byron LaMasters

Dewhurst's press conference was not too eventful, as he basically said that he had had several conversations with Sen. Bill Ratliff, and that Ratliff had serious problems with supporting redistricting, but he didn't act as if he were too alarmed about it. Dewhurst did not confirm that Ratliff was a "firm no", but I felt as if their was something that Dewhurst wasn't saying. Sure enough, after the press conference, Ratliff seemed to have clarified the issue within the past hour, via the Quorum Report:

"I have advised Lt. Govenor David Dewhurst that I am in possession of a statetment signed by ten Senators stating their unalterable opposition to any motion to bring redistricting to the Senate floor."

"I have advised the Lt Governor I am adding my name to the statement."

This would certainly suggest that Ratliff has joined 10 Democratic Senators as being on the record as a "firm no" on bringing up redistricting for debate. That makes 11 opposed to suspend the rules, which has been the magic number all along for the anti-redistricting folks. It's not over, but things look a lot better for Democrats. Still, Dewhurst left open the possibility in his press conference that he might be willing to try to force the redistricting debate to the floor without a two thirds majority. That, however, would be a serious breach of Senate tradition, and is considered highly unlikely, but we'll have to see.

Update: You may watch the Senate Jurisprudence Committee live, here.

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Dewhurst Press Conference

By Byron LaMasters

The press conference has finally begun, here

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More from the Senate

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report is reporting that 10 Democratic Senators signed a letter to Dewhurst stating their intent to block debate on redistricting this morning at a caucus meeting, and that Bill Ratliff has written Dewhurst a similar letter for the same purpose:

QR is hearing that at a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting this morning, Chairwoman Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) got ten signatures to block the issue from being heard on the Senate floor. The two Democrats not on the list are Sens. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) and Frank Madla (D-San Antonio).

In addition, Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) has reportedly handed in his own letter to Dewhurst saying he will not bring the matter up. Ratliff fielded press queries today by saying that Dewhurst would be making an announcement.

Again, you can catch the Dewhurst press conference at 3:30, here. The video stream has already started, but it's basically an empty room at this point.

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Redistricting Rumors

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I'll be tuning in at 3:30 to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's press conference. There's a rumor floating around, as the Austin American Statesman reports, that 11 Senators (10 Democrats and Bill Ratliff) have signed a letter stating their intent to block debate of a redistricting bill.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has called a press conference for 3:30 p.m. Monday to respond to rumors that 11 senators have signed a letter saying they will vote to block debate on congressional redistricting.

Rumors swept the Senate floor Monday afternoon that 10 Democrats and Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, are opposed to debating congressional redistricting. Several senators, who asked not to be identified, were the source of the speculation that the primary issue for the special session may be dying — or dead.

"I am going to leave any comment to the lieutenant governor," Ratliff said when asked whether he delivered the letter to Dewhurst.

Ten of the Senate's 12 Democrats signed the letter after a Democratic caucus meeting Monday morning. The only two Democrats who did not sign were Sens. Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, and Frank Madla, D-San Antonio.

By Senate rules, it takes two thirds of the 31 senators to bring any bill up for debate. Eleven can block the bill.

Ratliff is one of several Republican senators who have voiced opposition to a House map that would produce at least 21 Republican members of congress but would split some local communities to accomplish that goal. Democrats now hold a 17 to 15 edge in the state's congressional delegation.

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, said, "I feel secure at this point that there will be 11 — at least."

If 11 or more senators agree to block debate, Dewhurst will face a dilemma. He could have the Senate consider rewriting its rules to allow a simple majority — 16 senators — to bring up the bill for debate. However, that would break a Senate tradition that dates to the 1950s and is considered sacred by many members in both parties.

Catch it live, here.

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By Byron LaMasters

I decided to take the weekend off in redistricting reporting. I set up my categories, and realized how one-dimentional this blog was becoming, so I took some time out to mix things up a little bit. But, I'll stay here to cover blow-by-blow coverage of the Senate action.

The Senate will meet today at 1 PM. You can watch the chamber live, here. The Senate website also recaps the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence (redistricting) hearing in Austin last week. They will be voting on maps tomorrow. Charles reported one possible Senate strategy via Civic Dialogues. The strategic idea was originally reported by the Quorum Report. The Austin American Statesman editorialized on the idea:

As we have mentioned before, the process of redrawing political boundaries motivates thinking that is base and bizarre, craven and creative. The attempt to redraw Texas congressional districts during the regular session ended when House Democrats fled the state to kill a quorum and therefore the bill.

Like a grenade, the quorum-busting weapon could only be used once. Now in special session to try again on redistricting, the House has dutifully voted on a map and sent it over to the Senate. That map puts senators, both Democrat and Republican, in a quandary. The redrawn House map is not as bizarre as the monstrosity killed by the quorum-busters during the regular session, but it creates problems for Republican Sens. Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Kip Averitt of McGregor and Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant.

Ratliff and Averitt have publicly voiced their concerns about the loss of influence that the House map would leave their constituents, and Duncan was on the receiving end of a message in the form of an editorial in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that declared the House map a threat to agriculture and the West Texas economy.

The kicker is that while the Senate can go through the motions of holding hearings, members understand that the map they've been showing people likely will bear faint, if any, resemblance to the finished product. Moreover, any changes the Senate adopts to make the map more politically palatable will likely be steamrollered in House-Senate conference committee.

What to do, what to do?

One way out was outlined on Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report newsletter. Kronberg reported that senators are considering sending a revised map back to the House and then promptly adjourning, in what is known at the Capitol as "sign-ee dye." (Actually, it's sine die, Latin for "without a day.") Adjourning for good would then put House members in a quandary. With senators gone, there would be no one to negotiate with, so it's either adopt it, or go home without having changed a thing.

Senators supposedly have been mulling a strategy for weeks now, but the talk became louder when they adjourned for the weekend on Thursday. The ploy would be a mainline fix for political junkies, but more important, it would make a loud statement of principle. It would be a strong message that the Texas Senate won't cave in to pressure from U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who hijacked both chambers and the Governor's Mansion during the regular session to try and ram a redistricting plan down our collective throats.

DeLay has been straightforward in declaring that congressional redistricting -- an attempt that failed in the Legislature in 2001 -- is necessary because Republicans deserve a bigger presence in the Texas congressional delegation.

He calls it fair; we think it's a quota system for Republicans who say they don't like them. Five districts that especially irk DeLay are dominated by Republican voters. The trouble is, voters keep re-electing Democrats. Some people might call that a free exercise of democracy. DeLay and his disciples call it heresy.

So as unorthodox -- or fanciful -- as the sine die strategy is, it could provide needed political cover for Republicans troubled by the plan, as well as spare Texans from subsidizing DeLay's temper tantrum power grab any further.

The Houston Chronicle has more on the undecided senators via Off the Kuff.

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July 11, 2003

Redistrcting Stops Here

By Andrew Dobbs

Hey kids, I know that I usually stick to Howard B. Dean stuff, but I figured I'd better weigh in on Tom DeLay's apparant allergy to representing the people of Texas. Move On is sending its members in Texas an email with the names and numbers of prominent Texas officials that could nail "The Hammer" on Redistricting. The end is near and any map passed, it doesn't matter if it makes all 32 districts solid Democrat (what an ugly map that would be...) because the conference committee will be stocked with DeLay's spineless ass-kissers and will end up kicking every white Democrat in Texas out of office. Call these people, have everyone you know who thinks that the crazy notion that cheating is wrong call these people. These calls works- they keep track of them and Senators listen to them. Here ya go:

Sen. Kenneth Armbrister D-Victoria
(512) 463-0118 (Capitol)
(361) 572-8061 (District)

Sen. Kip Averitt R-Waco
(512) 463-0122 (Capitol)
(254) 772-6225 (District)
(817) 326-1161 (District)

Sen. Robert Duncan R-Lubbock
(512) 463-0128 (Capitol)
(800) 322-9538 (Capitol-Toll Free)
(806) 762-1122 (District)
(915) 481-0028 (District)

Sen. Eddie Lucio D- Brownsville
(512) 463-0127 (Capitol)
(956) 548-0227 (District)
(956) 968-9927 (District)

Sen. Frank Madla D- San Antonio
(512) 463-0119 (Capitol)
(210) 927-9464 (District)

Sen. Bill Ratliff R-Mount Pleasant
(512) 463-0101 (Capitol)
(903) 572-1887 (District)

If we don't win, Texas loses. To the phones!

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Redistricting Updates

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Charles beat me in writing about redistricting today, and he covered all the bases, so check out what he has to say. Basically, nothing too interesting should happen until Monday or Tuesday, when the Senate Jurisprudence Committee will consider plans to sent to the full Senate.

One thing that has been of interest is how there seems to be a growing concern among Senate Republicans about the whole idea of redistricting. Not only is there concern about rural east Texas losing representation, but there's also concerns from Lubbock Republicans that Charlie Stenholm may beat Randy Neugebauer if they were paired:

In West Texas, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, the Plains Cotton Growers and Lubbock Mayor Marc McDougal, a former Lubbock County GOP chairman, have denounced the House plan because it would pair veteran U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene, and freshman Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, in the 19th District.

Mr. Stenholm is the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. Mr. Neugebauer also sits on the panel. Regional farm interests fear losing clout if they lose one of their representatives in Congress.

In addition, some Republicans worry that the well-known Mr. Stenholm might beat Mr. Neugebauer. That might reverse the results of last month's special election to replace U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, R-Lubbock, because Mike Conaway, a Midland Republican whom Mr. Neugebauer beat, could win in the redrawn, Midland-anchored 11th District.

Also in the Dallas Morning News was a report that Democrats received a favorable ruling, saying that state law overrode the Texas House rules that required for the arrest of House members breaking quorum:

The Texas Department of Public Safety lacks the legal authority to track down and arrest rebellious state lawmakers who break a quorum, a judge said Thursday.

Visiting state District Judge Charles Campbell in Austin ruled on a lawsuit filed last month by Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, one of 51 state House Democrats who fled to Oklahoma for four days in May to prevent a vote on a Republican-backed congressional redistricting plan.

After the lawmakers brought the chamber to a standstill by failing to show up May 12, state troopers went to their homes, to their family members' offices – and even to a Galveston hospital neonatal unit where Rep. Craig Eiland's newborn twins were under care.

Some DPS officers found the group that night in Ardmore, Okla., then acknowledged that they had no authority to bring them back.

But Texas law "limits the role of DPS to enforcing the laws protecting the public safety and providing for the prevention and detection of crime," Judge Campbell wrote in the ruling.

The judge said that law overrides a state House of Representatives rule allowing for absent members to be arrested by the sergeant-at-arms or an officer appointed by him.

DPS officials could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Mr. Burnam said he was delighted with the ruling.

"The bottom line is they had no authority to spend the thousands of dollars they spent on looking for us," Mr. Burnam said. "The major law enforcement agency in the state has to follow the law."

Mr. Burnam initially filed suit accusing DPS of violating the state's Open Records Act by illegally destroying documents related to the search.

Judge Campbell ruled Thursday that "those claims are dismissed as moot." Mr. Burnam said DPS has turned over what it says are all the remaining documents.

The DPS has come under fire by Democrats from Austin to Washington, D.C., for tactics used in the searches. But last month, investigators found no wrongdoing by a Department of Homeland Security agency that helped the DPS track down the private plane of Rep. Pete Laney of Hale Center, who also fled to Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, the Legislature is back in a special session to discuss the redistricting issue.

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July 10, 2003

Redistricting: The Latest

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, there was a Seante Redistricting Committee meeting in Waco, and guess what? Waco doesn't want redistricting! Imagine that. The Austin American Statesman reports:

In Waco about 300 people, some sitting on the floor, stuffed the Law School auditorium. Another 200 spilled over into other parts of the law center.

McLennan County officials voiced concerns about the House plan, which divides the county into two districts. Politicians from Bell County urged senators not to separate Fort Hood from its current congressman, Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco.

Killeen Mayor Maureen Jouett said losing Edwards could hurt Fort Hood over the next couple of years as the Pentagon reviews military installations for possible closure. Jouett also said redistricting now is unfair to the 20,000 troops from Fort Hood who are deployed.

"They're over there in harm's way, and here we are basically trying to cut the legs out from under the military base," Jouett said.

Edwards is the highest-ranking Democrat on the U.S. House panel that doles out federal money for military construction. As a Democrat who represents a district that usually favors Republicans in statewide races, Edwards is a key target for GOP leaders.

Democrats now have a 17-15 advantage in the state's congressional delegation, but the plan the House passed earlier this week could boost Republican ranks to 21.

GOP strength grew in the district last year when federal judges drew a map that gave Edwards northern Williamson County.

"How Republican does the 11th Congressional District have to be to be fair to Republicans?" Edwards asked.

The Waco Tribune Herald ran two stories on the hearing, here and here. They report that the McLennan County (Waco) Commissioners Court adopted a resolution opposing the division of McLennan County:

"We are concerned that we remain intact as a county and also look at our district and want to keep McLennan County, Bosque County, Coryell and Bell counties intact because we have so much in common"


"We have been this way for over 100 years. It would dilute our influence. It is really not a partisan situation. It is just the force of being together instead of being split. There is no need to split this county, and especially split it with the other counties."

Both the Hoston Chronicle and the Austin American Statesman ran stories today on Andy Taylor, the lawyer helping Republicans draw their maps, and also the man who would be paid $400 an hour in taxpayer money from the state of Texas to defend the map in court. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Houston lawyer Andy Taylor is advising Republican lawmakers behind the scenes as they draft congressional redistricting maps designed to defeat incumbent Democrats.

And if one of those maps passes in the legislative special session, Taylor will defend any legal challenges to the map for the state -- at a cost to Texas taxpayers of $400 an hour.

Taylor also is an attorney of record for Texans for a Republican Majority -- a political organization founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is a force behind the $1.7 million special session on congressional redistricting.

"If a Democrat was doing this, there'd be a moaning and gnashing of teeth. It's corrupt," said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

The Austin American Statesman gives a chronology of Andy Taylor's track record with redistricting, the Texas Republican Party, and Republican interest groups:

  • Taylor was first assistant attorney general under former Attorney General John Cornyn before Cornyn was elected to the U.S. Senate last year. Among other things, Taylor handled redistricting matters for Cornyn.

  • When the Legislature failed in 2001 to draw new lines for the Texas House and Senate, the matter went to the Legislative Redistricting Board, a five-member body of which the attorney general is a member.

  • Taylor quit the attorney general's office, and Cornyn hired him as a private lawyer to handle Cornyn's part on the redistricting board. Taylor's firm, Locke-Liddell, was paid $804,478.

  • After the redistricting was over, Taylor headed up the transition team for new Attorney General Greg Abbott -- whohad benefited from $1.5 million worth of "issue" ads against Democratic opponent Kirk Watson.
    Those ads were paid for by the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, a group created years ago by the National Rifle Association. The law enforcement group has been mentioned in Earle's investigation of the business association's ads, but no criminal charges have been leveled against the Virginia-based association.

  • Taylor also began defending the Texas Association of Business against Earle's investigation, losing every attempt in court, so far, to block the inquiry. While that was under way, he and Locke-Liddell parted company.
  • Taylor was hired to defend the Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee engineered by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. It kicked in $1.4 million in Texas legislative races last year. Several public interest groups complained that it violated the use of corporate money in political campaigns, but the group denies wrongdoing.
  • Recently, Abbott hired Taylor, at $400 an hour, to represent the state in matters concerning congressional redistricting.

So Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, who led the Democrats to Oklahoma to block congressional redistricting back in May, offered an amendment to limit the attorney general's office to using staff members in defending whatever map emerges from the special session. It would also have capped the rate that could be paid a lawyer to 110 percent of the average salary of the top 10 employees of the attorney general's office. That's $129,266 a year.

The other would prevent hiring a lawyer to represent the state if that lawyer had challenged state laws or the Texas Constitution in the past year.

"Under the law, any time you attack a state statute, the attorney general is required to intervene and defend the statute," Dunnam said. "So I had a second amendment that said that any attorney who within the last 12 months had attacked one of our statutes, that person can't be hired, because you would be taking one position against the state of Texas and another position representing the state of Texas."

Taylor didn't immediately return telephone calls this week, and his office said he cannot talk about redistricting.

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July 09, 2003

Editorials like Wentworth's Plan

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News editorialized today, and the Austin American Statesman editorialized yesterday in favor of Sen. Jeff Wentworth's proposal to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, and to place it into the the hands of a bipartisan committee. Congressmen Earl Blumenaur (D-Oregon) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa) co-wrote an op-ed that also appeared in today's Dallas Morning News supporting the idea of taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislatures. I believe that it's the right thing to do. There's a lot of good reasons to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, and Blumenaur and Leach tell us why:

Congressional redistricting is about as interesting as someone else's genealogy. But the subject occasionally produces headlines, as it did two months ago when Democratic members of the Texas Legislature fled to Oklahoma to avoid creating a quorum to address the issue.

Their desperate maneuver failed. Republican leaders have convened a special session on redistricting, and the Legislature is continuing to debate the issue.

Yet despite the public perception that the drawing of legislative maps is an insider's game of no particular relevance, the health of American democracy hinges on how state officials approach the issue. If competitive elections matter – and to much of the world, they are what America stands for – then redistricting also matters.

Using redistricting to gain an advantage over one's opponents has been going on almost since America was founded. "Gerrymandering," the term to describe the process of creating strangely shaped legislative districts, dates back to 1812 or so, when Elbridge Gerry devised a legislative map in Massachusetts to benefit his political party's interests.

The courts occasionally have waded into this legislative thicket, principally to protect the one-person, one-vote principle but also to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. But redistricting simply for a partisan advantage – so long as it doesn't result in less minority representation and isn't too geographically egregious – generally isn't considered grounds for court interference.

Still, it is a matter of profound importance to our system of government. A few partisans shouldn't be allowed to manipulate the landscape of state and national politics by legislative line-drawing.

Gerrymandering is a bipartisan pastime. In the wake of the 2000 census, candidates for governor and even obscure state legislators who would have a hand in drawing new legislative boundaries received unprecedented attention. In an unusual role reversal, some members of Congress even contributed money to state campaigns and hired their own lobbyists to represent their interests in state capitols.

The effort paid off. In big states that Republicans came to control, they were able to make gains. In Michigan, incumbent Democrats were forced into races against each other. In Pennsylvania, Democratic-leaning districts were eliminated altogether. And though the 2000 presidential election made clear that Florida is evenly divided on party preferences, it sends 18 Republicans but only seven Democrats to Congress.

Democrats, meanwhile, did their own manipulating where they could, picking up seats in Georgia, Maryland and North Carolina. Battles now are brewing in New Mexico and Oklahoma as Democratic state legislators try to tailor districts to their party's advantage – just as Republicans are trying to do in Colorado and Texas.

But more than either political party, the real winners in the redistricting games are incumbents. Nationwide, only eight incumbents were defeated in the 2002 general election – and four of those lost to other incumbents. On average, congressional incumbents won with more than two-thirds of the vote last year.

The consequences of entrenched incumbency should concern us all. Without meaningful competition in 90 percent of all races in the House, representatives become less accountable to voters and, citizens lose interest in democracy.

More subtle consequences also unfold. When control of Congress rests on the results of those 20 to 30 races that potentially are competitive, the political dialogue in those campaigns, and legislative strategies in the House, become skewed. The few competitive races become playgrounds for power brokers who specialize in divisive and manipulative campaign techniques.

In Washington, legislative initiatives frequently are distorted in an effort to keep the vulnerable few in the political cross hairs. Bills on issues like farm policy or free trade often are framed to force members to choose between constituencies – farmers and unions, for example. Bills on health care may force members to choose between doctors and lawyers.

There also is a profound problem that isn't subtle at all. Primary elections in districts that are overwhelmingly Republican produce candidates generally to the right of the average Republican, while more liberal Democrats usually emerge from primaries in districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic. The political center – where most Americans are most comfortable – gets the least representation in Congress.

In short, the current system produces a House that is both more liberal and more conservative than the country at large. Members are less inclined to talk and cooperate, much less compromise. The legislative agenda is shaped more to energize the political base than to advance the common good.

It doesn't have to be that way. Iowa, which has about 1 percent of the U.S. population and only five representatives in the House, saw as many competitive races in the last election as California, Illinois and New York combined. (For the record, those three states account for 101 seats in the House). Iowa is so competitive largely because it has an independent redistricting commission that is prohibited from considering where incumbents live when it draws new legislative maps.

What works for Iowa could work for the nation. The formula for avoiding inequities, undue partisan advantage and political dysfunction is the creation of independent redistricting commissions. Arizona recently followed Iowa's example, and such a commission has been proposed in Texas.

Those commissions offer the best hope for taking partisanship out of the redistricting process. The public should insist that candidates for governor and state legislatures favor the development of strong nonpartisan redistricting plans.

Competitive elections are essential to the American system of government. Just as antitrust laws are necessary for a strong economy, so redistricting reform is critical for a healthy democracy.

Update: Check out Off the Kuff for a full editorial roundup.

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Congressman Martin Frost

By Byron LaMasters

Martin Frost addresses the media and hundreds of supporters at a 2:30 PM press conference yesterday. Photo via the associated press. State Senator Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) stands in the background.

I did have the opportunity to say hello to Congressman Frost. As people arrived, I helped the Dallas County Democratic Party hand out fans (it was a hot day) to people as they arrived. Each fan had a picture of either Tom Craddick, Tom DeLay or Rick Perry dressed as a ballet dancer. I offered Frost a DeLay fan saying, "Congressman, would you like a fan?". I'm sad to say that he declined, but he did laugh for a second. Click Here for a picture from two years ago of me and several friends with Congressman Frost.

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Senate opposes House Map

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

And several GOP senators indicated Tuesday that they oppose the House's map.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, complained that it splits his home county, Brazos. He said District 31, which includes Williamson County, could be improved by including all of Brazos and excluding McLennan County.

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, has rejected the House map because it divides his home county, McLennan, into two districts.

Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, said the House map would leave many of his rural Northeast Texas constituents represented by U.S. House members from suburban Dallas.

"It just obliterates the commonality of interests in East Texas," said Ratliff, perhaps the only Republican to disagree with Perry's decision to call a special session on redistricting.

The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Houston Chronicle, Texarkana Gazette, Charles, Rob, Hope, Angry Bear and Ginger all have more on this... yes, it's late, and I'm too busy to sort all these out, but you news hounds know where to go!

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Dallas Senate Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

I'm about to go to bed (I know, it's late!), but I did spend about 10 hours at the Senate Redistricting Committee meeting today (2-12). There were about 500 people there, and I'd guess that between 95% and 97% opposed redistricting. U.S. Reps. Max Sandlin and Martin Frost were among the atendees. The committee was much more effecient than the House subcommittee hearings, and the senate committee had much more success maintaining order as the Republicans wisely let Democratic Sens. Royce West and Mario Gallegos do a lot of asking people to be quiet and orderly. The partisan Democratic crowd was more likely to listen to them, than say, Kenny Marchant at the House hearing.

Lots of local elected officials spoke, and I believe that all opposed redistricting. They included the mayor pro tem of Dallas, councilman John Loza (I worked on his 2001 re-election campaign. He's a nice guy, and former Republican, and came around from the dark side about five years ago). Loza spoke forcefully against redistricting. One of the more heated moments of the day, and the one time where I thought that the hearing might break down was when Max Sandlin spoke. After his five minute time limit was up, Robert Duncan, the redistricting committee chair asked him to wrap things up, according to the committee rules. Sandlin kept talking, and refused to wrap up. Duncan made a silly comment along the lines of, "I've never been spoken to like that before". That's when the crowd got into and some people started chanting "Let him speak! Let him speak!". Finally, Duncan just decided to let Sandlin finish speaking, the crowd quieted down, and everyone seemed happy.

A little later, the fire marshall came and made the people standing on the sides of the room and in the aisles to move to the overflow rooms. There were some objections, but most people were rather orderly. I left the room and did lots of wandering and talking. Several friends of mine had a Howard Dean table out and we got dozens of people to sign his ballot petition. Later in the evening, one of the brave Republicans who stayed started crying during her testimony when some Democrats called her a liar. She completely unraveled, cried, and directed her testimony more to the audience than to the committee. We were amused. I finally left around midnight. I was exhausted, and there were still several dozen people left waiting to testify.

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July 08, 2003

Dallas Redistricting Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

On my way to this:

Tuesday, July 8, 2003: The Senate Jurisprudence Committee will meet at 3:00 PM at University of North Texas at Dallas, Room 224, 8915 South Hampton Road, Dallas, Texas 75232. The Committee will meet to take public testimony regarding Congressional Redistricting.

I'll post on it tonight.

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Lovin' It..

By Byron LaMasters

Now, this is the map that they should have passed. I love it. It was a joke amendment by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), but its great. Her map creates about 20 seats where Democrats would have the advantage. Its extremely creative. It creates six border districts, creates a new Democratic district in Dallas, and pairs six Republicans. Best of all, it pairs Tom DeLay with Shelia Jackson Lee in a Black plurality district. It's quite beautiful.

Disclaimer: Sure, this map was fun, but for the record, I don't think that this map is appropriate, and I advocate taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, and puting it in the hands of independent panels. I think that Iowa has a near perfect system, but I favor the systems used in Arizona and New Jersey as well.

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Redistricting Passes House

By Byron LaMasters

The House adjourned at 12:03 AM after passing the Grusendorf amended King map by a vote of 84-61 (second reading, 83-62, third reading). The Houston Chronicle reports more. It looks to be near party line. I'll have to see who other than Ron Wilson crossed party lines.

Update: More in my post on Political State Report. I did find out who crossed party lines via the Austin American Statesman:

Two Democratic House members voted for the map, while five Republicans opposed it. The two Democrats in favor of the plan were Rep. Ron Wilson (D- Houston), and Rep. Vilma Luna (D- Corpus Christi). The five Republicans opposing redistricting were Reps. Mike Hamilton (R-Mauriceville), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Bob Hunter (R-Abilene), Delwin Jones (R-Lubbock) and Sid Miller (R-Stephenville). Rep. Tommy Merritt (R-Longview) voted Present. Wilson has been a supporter of redistricting all along, as he wants another Black plurality district in Houston, so his vote was assured. Luna's vote surprised me, because I thought that in the end, she'd vote with Democrats, but then again, she is a conservative. Hamilton and Hughes's votes make sense, as both are Republican freshmen from swing districts in east Texas where redistricting is very unpopular (the new map guts rural east Texas representation). Hunter represents Abilene, where Charlie Stenholm is popular, and Miller represents parts of Chet Edwards district. Jones and Merritt are relative moderates.

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July 07, 2003

Justice DeLayed is Justice Denied

By Jim Dallas

There may be some Burnt Orange readers who may see Texas redistricting as a novelty, a numbers game, a soap opera, or maybe a little bit of all three. I've got news - it's really a very serious issue.

Under the King/Grusendorf map passed out of the redistricting committee on Saturday, my hometown of Galveston will be moved out of the 9th district (Galveston has been an anchor of the 9th going back for over a hundred years) into a reconfigured 22nd district dominated by conservatives living in Katy, Sugarland, and Fort Bend County. And represented by none other than... Tom DeLay.

I will go from living in a 50-50 district to a district which is 75 percent Republican. And I won't even have the comfort of knowing that, even if my congresscritter is a Republican (and there are some good Republicans), he'd be trying to represent me. Tom DeLay doesn't represent his district, he represents himself, his fat cat friends, and the very worst of the right-wing reactionaries.

Consider this an open invitation to my pity party, gentlemen.

But also know that if this redistricting passes, I will be working very, very hard to find a quality challenger to Mr. DeLay, and barring that, I'll be waiting in the wings to run in 2008, because I'm not going down without a fight.

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Corpus Christi Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report has posted some interesting news this afternoon regarding the Corpus Christi Senate Redistricting Committee hearing. The hearing started amid lots of protests and at the hearing, Sen. Kip Averitt (R-McGregor) called the house map unacceptable:

Protest from activist leads to brief halting of hearing

Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) and other Republicans on the redistricting committee hearing currently being held in Corpus Christi briefly walked off the stage.

Susie Luna of the Felix Longoria chapter of American GI Forum, began to speak before she was called on by the chairman. Luna said she wanted to protest the attendance of Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio).


Senator Kip Averitt (R-Waco) said in Corpus Christi today, "The House map is totally unacceptable. I do not know what their priorities were but they diced up Central Texas pretty brutally. In my opinion this is unacceptable. I think our plan will be a lot more sympathetic to communities of interest, including West Texas, Central Texas and along the Gulf Coast.

Update: More info, here and here.

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House Floor Action

By Byron LaMasters

I finally was able to get access to the live stream at 2:55 PM. Rep. Jim Dunnam is questioning Phil King on the map. Jim Dunnam's questioning is mostly concerning the split in McLennan County. They are debating this map. My commentary on this map is here.

Rep. Al Edwards (D-Houston) qustioned Rep. Phil King on the map, and asked him why it was necessary. King said that it was needed because the legislature failed to redistrict in 2001 and the courts did. Edwards said that Republicans were hypocritical as they approved of letting the courts decide the 2000 "election" of George W. Bush, but thought that court intervention here was wrong.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) was angry and asked several questions relating to redistricting law.

Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) suggested that if the plan was ruled unconstitutional, then the map would end up back in the courts.

Rep. Paul Moreno (D-El Paso) questioned King on redistricting law.

Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) questioned King on the bill analysis and said that it was inaccurate.

King's time expired and Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) gave his report as the vice chair of the redistricting committee. He made a motion to send the redistricting bill back to committee. He stacked the witness affirmation forms collected around the state on the podium with the forms against stacked twelve inches high and the forms in favor of redistricting about one inch high.

Villarreal then took questions from Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio). Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) told Villarreal that he considered the process a sham as the public testimony from the public hearings was not considered.

Rep. King moved to table the motion by Rep. Villarreal. Rep. King was questioned by Rep. Thompson, Rep. Raymond and Rep. Naishtat. Villarreal argued that the map and the process was unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court would overturn the legislature's actions.

Villarreal took more questions and launched into an attack against Tom DeLay. Villarreal took questions from a few Republicans including Joe Nixon (R-Houston) and Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington).

The vote was taken on King's motion to table Villarreal's motion to recommit the bill to committee. There were 87 Ayes and 56 no's to the motion, so King's motion to table Villarreal's motion carried.

Dunnam then made a motion to postpone consideration of the bill. During debate on Dunnam's motion, Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) raised a point of order relating to the redistricting subcommittee. It was overruled after a 15 minute delay. King moved to table the motion by Jim Dunnam to postpone. King's motion carried with 88 Ayes to 56 Nays.

Several amendments were introduced including one by Rep. McClendon (D-San Antonio) that would move to adopt the current plan.

I'm done with this thread, because I got tired of watching it.

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Redistricting on the House Floor at 2 PM

By Byron LaMasters

This will be nasty. I'll be here to blog on the action.

Update: It's 2:30 and the House has reconvened, but the live house stream isn't working.

The Austin American Statesman has a good article today about redistricting and race.

Update: It's finally working (2:55 PM). Phil King is speaking and Jim Dunnam is questioning him. I'll post more in a new thread.

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July 06, 2003

Calenders Committee Passes Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

In less than five minutes, the House Calendars Committee voted 8-1 on Sunday to send a GOP-backed congressional redistricting bill to the House floor for debate on Monday.

The proposed map would change current congressional lines that give Democrats a 17-15 advantage to put more Texas Republicans in Washington. It was approved by the House Redistricting Committee on Saturday.

Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, was the only dissenting vote on the calendars committee.

"We can't just sit down and not say anything," Menendez said. "I'm here to make a statement that this is not OK with me and its not OK with millions of Texans."

The chance that House Democrats would once again flee in a political walkout against the proposed map is slim, Menendez said.

"I don't have a problem with doing it, but I think that many of my colleagues have already put their careers at risk in the last walkout," Menendez said.

Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, said she expects a tense atmosphere on the House floor.

"Judging by the committee hearings, I'm sure there will be lots of objections," Woolley said. "But I believe we've got a map that does represent the population of the state."

The House convenes at 2 p.m. Monday.

There are seven Republicans and four Democrats on the calenders committee. I'm not sure which Democrat voted with the Republicans to send it to the floor. I'd guess that it would be Turner or Luna. I'll update when I find out.

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Houston Chronicle on Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

Here's the latest:

With almost no discussion, the House Redistricting Committee on Saturday approved new boundaries for Texas congressional districts that would elect as many as 21 Republicans in next year's elections.

For the Houston area, East Texas and North Texas, the map is in many ways dramatically different from anything the committee considered earlier in the week.

"My goal and the goal of this committee is to design a fair plan," said Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, sponsor of the latest Republican vision of Texas' congressional districts. "The intent is to have a map that meets legal muster and can withstand court scrutiny."

Democrats blasted the plan as unfair to minorities and rural Texas.

"It's the systematic disenfrachising of minorities around the state and rural Texas is just getting killed," said Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo.

Democrats also continued to claim the latest version is not the real map that Republicans want passed. Republicans have denied that they are holding back a map for a later vote.

The House Calendars Committee today is expected to set the plan for debate by the full House on Monday or Tuesday. The Legislature is meeting in a special session called by Gov. Rick Perry to redraw the state's congressional district boundaries.


Grusendorf then offered a complete substitute Saturday that met with King's approval. The committee approved the map on a 10-4 vote, with Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, as the only Democrat to vote in favor of it.

Committee Chairman Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, gaveled the vote through over objections from Raymond that the committee had not had an opportunity to debate Grusendorf's proposal or offer substitutes. Raymond said he will try to use Crabb's actions to halt House debate on the map on point of order that parliamentary procedure was violated.

After the vote, a woman in a wheelchair in the audience loudly said toward the panel, "Joe Crabb, the Nazi chairman." Others in the sparse Capitol auditorium audience joined in catcalls against the committee.


If the proposal passes the House, its future in the Senate is uncertain.

At present not enough senators support redistricting to get the two-thirds majority necessary to bring a bill up for debate. If all 12 Democrats in the 31-member chamber oppose debate, they can stop it.

But three Democratic senators have said they might vote to debate, and one Republican, Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, has said he might vote against it.

The map approved Saturday is unlikely to win Ratliff over because it puts his rural part of northeast Texas into a congressional district that would be dominated by Dallas.

The map also might cost the support of Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, because it splits his home territory of McLennan County into two districts, diminishing its influence.

The Senate already has announced that it plans to draw its own map after holding hearings around the state.


Democratic representatives who would face likely defeat under the new proposal are Ralph Hall of Rockwall, Chet Edwards of Waco and Charles Stenholm of Abilene.

King said Democratic U.S. Reps. Max Sandlin of Marshall and Jim Turner of Crockett both would be in a newly configured 1st District.

He said the power of incumbency might allow one of them to survive in a district with a 55 percent Republican voting history.

The article gave similar analysis to my own. They believe that Sandlin or Turner could win the redrawn 1st district. I'd probably agree that one of them could win that district, but it would be tough. I thought that their analysis of Bill Ratliff's postition was interesting. I hadn't thought of it, but Ratliff (who is from Mount Pleasant) is placed in a district dominated by Dallas suburbs, drawn for Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton). That fact would certainly make Ratliff less inclined to support the plan. Of course, I expect the Senate to come up with their own plan, and I'm sure that they'll find a way to make both Ratliff and Averitt happy, and if Dewhurst is smart, he'll find a map that Armbrister and Madla will support, too.

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July 05, 2003

Another Day, Another Map

By Byron LaMasters

Today, a new map was proposed as a committee substitute to the King plan substitute to HB 3. The new map, by Rep. Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington) can be seen, here. The new map was adopted in committee today with the support of Phil King and the majority of the committee, by a vote of 10-4 (all Republicans and Ron Wilson in favor, Vilma Luna was absent and the other Dems opposed). The Republicans have shown increasing creativity - this map found a way to protect all of the DFW area incumbents (including Martin Frost, excluding Ralph Hall - if you consider him "DFW area") AND create that seat for the annointed one, Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton). It's done by basically eliminating Ralph Hall's 4th district, and by shifting the center of gravity of several DFW area districts to the east to make up for it (see districts 3, 5, 6, and 32). The 4th district is completely removed from north Texas, as it is now a Houston suburban / east Texas seat, and the 2nd, formerly an east Texas seat, now finds itself in north Texas. The 2nd would be the new Kenny Marchant seat, taking in Carrollton, Coppell, Addison, Irving and Farmers Branch in Dallas county, then moving north to take in several Denton County suburbs, then stretching out along the Red River to include ten more counties (What do Paris and Carrollton have in common again?). Most of the existing districts in the DFW area would change significantly. The 24th would look similar to the current 24th, although it completely removes Arlington (Frost's home) from the district, and connects the Dallas and Fort Worth portions of the district by a four block thread. Should this plan be adopted, Frost would likely move back into the 24th and win easily. The 30th district (EBJ) changes little, but the 32nd (Sessions) moves eastward to include Rockwall County (Hall's home) in this suburban Republican north Dallas-dominated district. The 5th (Hensarling) and 6th districts shed some of their southern Metroplex counties and move eastward to take in counties currently in the 4th district of Ralph Hall. The 5th goes all the way from Lake Highlands (east Dallas) to Texarkana (Again, what do they have in common?). At several points in Dallas County, the 5th and 32nd are only connected to themselves by several blocks. The 3rd district (S. Johnson) also moves east from Collin County to also include Hunt County.

The west Texas districts remain the same as the latest King map. Stenholm is paired with Neugebauer in the new 19th, including Lubbock, and favoring Neugebauer. The new 11th would be open, favoring a Republican from Midland - Odessa. I'm looking at the new 17th, and I'm trying to figure out it's logic. It divides Waco again, placing Chet Edwards in the Williamson County based 31st district district held by John Carter. The map throws the Black community in Waco into the 31st, and most of the rest of the city is in the 17th. The new 17th no longer includes Fort Worth suburbs in Tarrant or Johnson County, and would likely see a contest between Edwards (if he moved back), and a Waco Republican (unless I'm missing something). Without the Black community, Edwards would probably lose, unless he could incite a revolt among white Republicans angry with the division of McLennan County. Lloyd Doggett's 10th district remains in tact, as do the south Texas districts.

That brings us to East Texas. The new 1st District pairs Reps. Sandlin and Turner into a Republican district in east Texas based in Tyler. Turner could run in the 8th, but he would be forced to run against Rep. Kevin Brady in a hopelessly Republican district based in Montgomery County. The new 4th would pair Gene Green and Nick Lampson into a district with 337,000 suburban Harris County (read: Republican) voters. Green would run in the Hispanic majority 29th, and Lampson could run in the new 9th, but that district, while preserving more of his current district, also contains nearly 400,000 suburban Harris County (read: Republican) voters. Again, Chris Bell is put in the 7th with John Culberson, but he would likely run and win in the 25th.

Overall, this map would likely see the loss of Charlie Stenholm, Ralph Hall, Max Sandlin, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson. Chet Edwards would probably lose as well. It would likely see the election of a Midland - Odessa Republican, Kenny Marchant (suburban Dallas Republican), a Tyler Republican, a Waco Republican and two suburban Houston Republicans. The 23rd District, held by Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio) would remain a competetive district where a strong Democratic challenger could defeat Bonilla. I've been rather surprised with the Republican Party's lack of interst in creating a safer boarder based district for Henry Bonilla.

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July 04, 2003

Happy Fourth of July

By Byron LaMasters

I'll have light blogging this weekend... this link will let you listen to the subcommittee hearings for all of the House subcommittee hearings except Dallas. I listened to parts of the Brownsville hearing. Two points of interest. Go to about 27 minutes into the Brownsville hearing audio file to hear the protest there, as they shout, "Shut it down! Shut it down!". At 3:26 the chair, Joe Crabb asks a Hispanic veteran his social security number.

I plan on having a happy fourth of July with family, and friends. We have a lot to be thankful for. I love this country, and I'm proud to be an American, even though I've been ashamed of our country, and our President many times over the past year or two. Hopefully, that will change in 18 months. Still, its a privilege to be able to tell the world that I think that the President of the United States is a lying corporate whore, an unintelligible idiot, an inept statesman, and has a brain the size of a pea. Ah, America! Again, Happy Fourth of July!

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July 03, 2003

Latest Map

By Byron LaMasters

This is the latest King map. It is similar to the previous map in many ways. However, the new map leaves Martin Frost's 24th district alone. While protecting Frost, the new map targets Ralph Hall (who had a district he could win in the previous map). The new map gives Hall 238,000 suburban Republican Dallas County voters. The new map also endangers the re-election prospects of Max Sandlin, Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson (as the previous map also did). Most everything else remains the same from the previous map. While the heavily minority communities of Tarrant County are reunited into Martin Frost's 24th district, the Black communities in Waco and Beaumont are still divided in this plan.

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Another Redistricting Committee Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

The House Redistricting Committee will meet again at 2 PM. Expect a new map from Rep. Phil King. I'll be away from my computer for most of the afternoon, so follow it live on the Texas House website.

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Debate on House Rules

By Byron LaMasters

The Texas House of Representatives is now debating a resolution (HR 7) that would change the rules to not allow for house members in committee hearings to ask people their social security numbers. Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) introduced the resolution, in reaction to Redistricting Chair Joe Crabb (R-Atoscocita) asking a Hispanic veteran his social security number at the redistricting meeting in Brownsville. Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin) spoke against the measure, using a slippery slope arguement, that it might be necessary at some points, especially with the general investigating committee. Rep. Robert Talton (R-Pasadena) also spoke against it, because it was not well thought out and was political in nature. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) surprised me in saying that he favored it (he had called Rep. Raymond "son" in yesterday's redistricting committee hearing). Raymond ammended his rule change to exempt the general investigating committee. Keel spoke against it again. The ammendment passed without objection. Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) spoke in favor of the resolution. Rep. Delwin Jones (R-Lubbock) made a motion to table the resolution. Rep. Raymond opposed tabling the resolution. Craddick called a record vote on the motion to table. The motion to table failed with 65 Ayes to 66 Nays.

Raymond then continued, asking for a record vote. Keel, again, spoke against the resolution. Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) spoke in favor of the resolution, questioning Keel. Both Keel and Raymond have had a tendency today to exagerage and hyperbole. Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) spoke in favor of the motion saying that it was important not to intimidate witnesses. Rep. Ruth McClendon (D-San Antono) spoke in favor of the resolution, because of her concerns about identity theft. McClendon and Talton debated for several minutes. Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angelton) voted against the motion to table earlier, now made a motion to reconsider, as he felt that the resolution needed to go through the committee process. Rep. Farrar (D-Houston) spoke in favor of it. Rep. Lon Burnham (D-Fort Worth) attacked Republicans that complained that the resolution was political in nature, as he noted that this entire session was political in nature, and that the taxpayers were funding it. Rep. Jaime Capelo (D-Corpus Christi) spoke in favor of the resolution, defending his constituent who was asked his social security number by Joe Crabb. The motion to reconsider (motion to table) was brought up and passed by a vote of 75 to 48 (in what I'm guessing is a party line vote). It will be interesting to see if this becomes an election issue. I could see Democrats painting Republicans as racist and anti-Hispanic for their treatment of Hipanic veterans, and the House's refusal to change their rules to prevent such behavior in the future.

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More on the withdrawn map, Ron Wilson

By Byron LaMasters

The Dallas Morning News recapped yesterday's events in an article here:

House Republicans withdrew their proposed congressional map Wednesday, saying it may violate federal law by diluting the political clout of minority voters in four districts, including one represented by Democrat Martin Frost of Arlington.

The map would have decreased the combined black and Hispanic voting strength in Mr. Frost's 24th Congressional District by 4.1 percent, to 50.5 percent.

The district would lose blacks in southeast Fort Worth and gain younger Hispanics in Dallas County.

Democrats fret that Mr. Frost, one of the longest-serving Democrat in the state's congressional delegation, could not win re-election because about 56 percent of the proposed district's voters cast ballots for Republicans in last fall's statewide races.


"If this moves forward, it will hold in it the seeds of vindictiveness and retribution and vengeance that will carry forward for generations," said Rep. Barry Telford, D-DeKalb.

"This map completely disenfranchised the minority vote," said Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio. "It's sending this state back 100 years."

Ms. McClendon cited how the proposed 24th District would shed minority-rich areas in Fort Worth, Arlington and Duncanville and pick up Carrollton, Coppell and Irving.

The new district, though still with a majority-minority census population, would tilt toward the GOP because of the party's mature voting base in the area.

Many of Mr. Frost's black voters would be placed in the 30th District, now represented by Dallas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, and the 26th, a seat won last year by Republican Michael Burgess of Highland Village.

"They have cut it, cracked it and shattered it," said Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo. "They've taken the third-largest concentration of African-Americans in the state, in Tarrant County, and put it into an overwhelming Republican district where their voices will never be heard."

But Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, said he liked the GOP plan because it allowed for a "minority opportunity" district in the Houston area. "I don't know how it can be a racist exercise when it creates a minority district," he said.
Mr. Wilson, one of Mr. Craddick's top lieutenants, would live in the proposed minority opportunity district, but he said Wednesday that he was not interested in running for Congress.

He scoffed at suggestions that the loss of several white senior Democrats would hurt minority causes in Congress.

"That's speculation," he said. "There are a number of Republicans up North that vote better than the Democrats they are trying to save up here. I'd much rather have one Barbara Jordan or one Mickey Leland than four of anybody else's."

Wow! Ron Wilson's just building more and more of a record to attack him in any election. He's comparing himself to Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland on one hand and then he's trying to say that people like Pete Sessions or Joe Barton better represent minorities than Martin Frost? Fortunately, Wilson doesn't speak for the vast majority of Blacks.

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July 02, 2003

Averitt opposes dividing Waco

By Byron LaMasters

The King plan would divide McLennan County (Waco), as mentioned earlier. The Republican state senator for the district has stated that he intends to oppose any plan that divides McLennan County. The Waco Tribune Herald reports:

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, said he opposes any redistricting plan that splits McLennan County. Averitt sits on the Senate committee that is likely to produce a congressional redistricting map that looks different from the plan King laid out.

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Redistricting Committee Meeting Now

By Byron LaMasters

They're meeting again today. Watch, here.

Update: Phil King has withdrawn his redistricting map from the committee. He'll be redrawing it, and submitting a new map. He's concerned about districts 24 and 25. He's worried that he would retrogress minority voting rights in 24 as district 24 is 4% less minority. Apparently, his attorney's have told him that that could be a problem. King also realized that the 25th is not a Black majority district as originally thought. The committee has also asked an expert to testify on the effects of Ashcroft v. Georgia.

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Redistricting Committee Meeting Yesterday

By Byron LaMasters

The Appalachia Alumni Association blog gives a good overview of yesterday's committee hearing in Austin. So does Charles Kuffner on Political State Report. The hearing began late, around 8 PM. There was a large crowd, and I believe that they had to switch rooms to accomodate everyone. Rep. Raymond (D-Laredo) immidiately called the map a fake map, in that it would be changed multiple times before a vote would be called. Rep. McClendon (D-San Antonio) said that the map divided the minority communities in Fort Worth, Waco and Beaumont. Rep. McReynolds (D-Lufkin) testified before the committee to say that the map gutted rural Texas. He complained that the water and timber interests of rural east Texas counties would come into conflict with the suburban interests of the congressmen that would likely represent them in the new map. Rep. Dunnam (D-Waco) called the map racist in the way that it divided Waco along the Brazos river, a historical racial dividing line. He said that Waco's senator Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) would vote against that map, or he would not win re-election. The meetings lasted 8 hours, going until approximately 4 AM. I haven't listened to all of the tapes, and don't plan to, but that's a good overview.

The map, in effect, targets Reps. Frost, Stenholm, Turner, Sandlin and Lampson. The map pairs Frost and Barton in an Ellis / Tarrant County seat that favors Barton. It pairs Neugebauer and Stenholm in a Lubbock based seat favoring Neugebauer. It pairs Bell and Culberson in a district favoring Culberson. It pairs Brady and Lampson in a Montgomery County based seat favoring Brady. It pairs Edwards and Carter in a Williamson County based seat favoring Carter. It pairs Jackson Lee and Green in Jackson Lee's 18th district seat. Turner is placed in a new district 1 that is dominated by suburban Houston. Sandlin is placed in a new district 2 that is dominated by Tyler - Longview. Doggett's district 10 is left alone. The new 24th district is drawn with Kenny Marchant in mind, based in Carrollton (northwest Dallas County). Still, the district is over 40% Hispanic and it would not be a sure thing for Marchant in my opinion. The new 17th is drawn with Arlene Wohlgemuth in mind. The new 11th would be a new Midland - Odessa based open-seat possibly with Speaker Craddick in mind.

So, playing the game of speculation, what would happen if these maps went into effect? Well, first off, Chris Bell could move back into the 25th and win easily. Ron Wilson's house district is now in the 25th, but he would have little support in a primary for the seat. I would expect Nick Lampson to move to run in district 9, which would still be an uphill fight. I would expect Gene Green to move back into the Hispanic-majority 29th, and win. Stenholm has said that he would run against Neugebauer if he were paired against him. Stenholm would run, but I don't see him having a chance in hell. Sandlin and Turner would probably run uphill fights in their districts. Edwards wouldn't have a chance in hell to run against for Congress under this map. I wouldn't be surprised to see him challenge State Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) if Averitt votes for the redistricting map dividing Waco. Even if he wouldn't run, it would be a good threat for Edwards to make, either publically or privately. Finally, the new 24th would probably lure Martin Frost to move back into Dallas County and run against Kenny Marchant. This would be a very interesting race, should it happen. The new 24th would be 8% Black and 47% Hispanic, and based on 2002 numbers is about 56% Republican, as most of the Hispanics in the district are not citizens, not registered, or are not yet of voting age. If this map were passed, Republicans can forget about winning any countywide races in Dallas County in 2004. Martin Frost would likely organize the Hispanics in that district, register them, and turn them out in a way never done before. I'd almost look forward to it.

Anyway, here's the map again.

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More on McAllen Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

The McAllen Senate Redistricting Hearing yesterday was shut down for an hour and a half before it started. Here's the report from the McAllen Monitor:

A public hearing before the State Senate Committee on Jurisprudence was delayed for an hour and a half while hundreds of protestors representing the United Farm Workers and the G.I. Forum of America beat a drum and chanted “We want DeLay” and “Shut it down.”

The protestors, who arrived on buses from Corpus Christi, left the McAllen Civic Center quietly after Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, chairman of the committee, agreed to have a public hearing in that city on Monday afternoon.

Their chants referred to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who has been accused of driving the congressional redistricting issue in Texas in an effort to try and gain more Republican seats in Congress.

Congressional redistricting usually occurs every 10 years, or after a U.S. Census, to reflect changes in population numbers. The current lines were produced by a federal court just two years ago after the State Legislature failed to produce a map of its own.

As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, more than 500 people had signed up to testify on the congressional redistricting matter. Once the protestors exited the building and the hearing officially began at 4:30 p.m., about 200 people remained in their seats to hear public comments that began with elected officials.

State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, at first tried to calm the crowd so testimony could begin.

“Please stop the drum,” Ruben Hinojosa said. “I promise your voices will be heard.”

But the drum and chants continued.

McAllen police officers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers flanked the stage where the committee sat. More troopers waited in the wings. Juan Jalomo of the McAllen Fire Department tried to keep the aisles clear of crowds.

Juan Hinojosa watched the demonstrators with a concerned look on his face, but said the committee did not want to use police force to bring order to the hearing.

“They have the right to demonstrate and they’re protected by the Constitution,” Hinojosa said. “There is nothing wrong with what they’re doing.”

The state senator said the committee encountered similar situations in other public hearings around the state. He also said the committee members did not have travel plans for Tuesday night and were prepared to stay and listen to testimony all night if necessary.

Duncan already looked weary as he banged his gavel three times and Ruben Hinojosa appeared at the podium as the committee’s first witness. Hinojosa’s congressional seat, anchored in Hidalgo County, is threatened by the Republican-backed plan.

“The current GOP plan is igniting a massive outcry,” Hinojosa said. “About 75 percent of people have implored the state Legislature to vote against redistricting.”

The congressman reminded the committee about past sessions in which the subject came up.

“In 1981, after the census the governor called a special session to deal with redistricting,” Hinojosa said. “In 1991 another special session was called again for redistricting. In 2001 Gov. (Rick) Perry had his chance, but he decided not to, and now it is too late.”

McAllen Mayor Leo Montalvo told the committee he did not testify as a Democrat or Republican.

“We have over 652,000 people here—the so-called magic number needed to have our own congressman,” Montalvo said. “If you must redistrict I urge you to keep Hidalgo County whole and add another district. We not only expect it, we deserve it.”

State Rep. Miguel Wise, D- Weslaco, said redistricting was nothing more that a corrupt, taxpayer-funded power play.

“The people keep saying they don’t want redistricting, and yet we continue to have public hearings, as if what we’re saying is being ignored,” Wise said. “We want to make sure the public testimony is not just a pacifier.”

Wise said he believed Rio Grande Valley senators would vote against the matter and that Perry’s offer of considering funding for the Regional Academic Health Center was nothing more than an offer to give in to redistricting.

“I don’t think our senators will take those 30 pieces of silver,” Wise said. “They will not be called Judas.”

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, was the most outspoken member of the committee. He responded to public comments, asked questions and asked for copies of presentations to include in the testimony.

“First let me say I am not for redistricting,” West said. “I am part of this committee and I respect the other members and I respect the committee process. We are here to listen to you. It’s important that you understand that America is watching because this is important to the rest of the country and what the leaders in Washington, D.C. want.”

West’s comments were met with applause.

During the first hour of testimony six witnesses said they were against congressional redistricting.

Just how much the public comments will influence the committee members is unknown, because other committee members did not appear as interested. State senators Todd Staples, R-Palestine, and Chris Harris, R-Arlington, looked at candy in a dish on the table where committee members sat, while State Rep. Aaron Peña, D- Edinburg, testified.

“We need to create districts where voters have a choice,” Peña said, while the two senators talked and compared candy choices in the dish. “Moving to safe districts is not providing a choice, it’s pulling up apart.”

During introductions, Staples told the audience the committee process worked for all Texans, but his mind is probably made up on the matter.

On Monday, Staples issued a written statement obtained by The Monitor that said Texans should demand the Legislature fulfill its constitutional responsibility and that it should draw the district lines, not the courts.

In Austin on Tuesday, work continued with the State House Committee on Redistricting to produce a map by Thursday and bring the controversial issue up for debate in the House.

State Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Mission, Hidalgo County’s only representation on the redistricting committee, said members were supposed to meet at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

“At 2:30 p.m. we were told to stand at ease until 7 p.m. because the map we’re supposed to work with is not ready,” Flores said Tuesday afternoon. “About 200 people booed because they had driven long distances to testify before the committee and now have to wait about five hours to do that.”

As of 8 p.m., Flores said the public hearing had not begun in Austin because of protestors.

Flores said the committee is working on two maps. One of these has Hidalgo County at 77 percent with U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, still representing the western part of the county. The other map has the county at 92 percent intact.

“Of course, it changes like the hour hand changes,” Flores said.

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July 01, 2003

Newest Map

By Byron LaMasters

This is the map proposed by the Phil King as the committee substitute. It's a little bit better. It keeps Lloyd Doggetts district in tact, but still retrogresses minority voting rights in Tarrant County. Blacks and Hispanics in Tarrant County do not have an opportunity to influence elections under this map, as they do now. This map also divides McClennan County, and Jefferson County (Waco and Beaumont). In both counties, I believe that it also retrogresses Black voting rights, as in both counties, the Black populations are divided into two districts.

I'll update this later as I make more observations.

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7 PM: House Redistricting Committee Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

Listen to it, here.

Update: I think that it didn't get started until 9 PM or so. I think that they had to move it to a larger room to accomodate the crowd.

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McAllen Senate Redistricting Hearing Shut Down

By Byron LaMasters

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times is now reporting on the story:

About 300 members of the American GI Forum and United Farmworkers Union took over a state hearing on congressional redistricting, shouting, chanting and expecting to be arrested.

Texas state troopers and McAllen police flanked each end of the six exits to hall where the hearing was scheduled this afternoon. Members of two Corpus Christi chapters of the GI Forum along with residents of the Rio Grande Valley prevented state officials, including state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, from speaking by shouting and chanting.

Leaders of the groups had promised civil disobedience and said they expected to be arrested.

The crowd, opposed to a Republican attempt to redraw congressional districts to give the Republican Party a greater advantage, wore t-shirts and carried signs disparaging U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay, R-Sugar Land, has been the primary instigator of the redistricting effort.

Among the chanting crowd were U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz's chief of staff, Lencho Rendon, and his brother Mike Rendon, who is chairman of the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority and runs Ortiz's security company. Ortiz's district is among the expected targets for a redraw to his disadvantage. Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, has represented the district for more than two decades.

Also among the chanting crowd was state Rep. Miguel Wise, a Valley Democrat, who wore a t-shirt that said, "Deny Delay. In America, voters pick their congressmen. Congressmen don't get to pick their voters."

This story is being reported by the Quorum Report. Apparently the hearing was supposed to start at 3 PM. However, by 3:30 PM the senators were unable to get people quiet, despite pleas by U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Mercedes). There is a quorum of the senate committee present, but they are unable to hear testimony. The crowd is chanting "We want justice! Shut it down!". Before the hearing, there was a press conference where the Tejano Democrats chair called the redistricting process racist. The GI Forum and the United Farmworkers both organized their memberships to attend the hearing and their presence is contributing to the environment.

This was reported by the Brownsville Herald

Some 1,500 people are expected in McAllen, and Rubén Hinojosa said he expected the United Farm Workers and various veterans groups to be present. An average of 200 people have attended other public hearings around the state, he said.

They were angry in today's Austin hearing, too. The Austin American Statesman reports:

An angry crowd hissed Texas lawmakers after a public hearing was dismissed Tuesday afternoon because a Republican congressional map was not ready as expected.

The audience, mostly from Austin, had gathered to testify after receiving e-mails from endangered U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, the Sierra Club and other organizations. Doggett is one of several Democratic incumbents that are expected to be drawn into Republican districts.

Rep. Joe Crabb, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, dismissed the hearing shortly after 2 p.m., saying the GOP map was not ready. He told the crowd they could return at 7 p.m. Tuesday to testify.

Crabb, R-Atascocita, dismissed the hearing as Democratic members of the House Redistricting Committee were trying to object.

A member of the audience joined in.

"Point of order!," said Shudde Fath, a longtime Austin environmental and community activist. "Could you hear from the public who came to testify?"

"You can testify tonight at 7 p.m.," Crabb said. The hearing will take place in Room E2-036 in the Capital Extension.

Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat who is not a member of the Redistricting Committee, ran to the front of the committee room, shouting, "I'm ashamed of the Texas House of Representatives."

Democrats have complained that the special session, called by Gov. Rick Perry to redraw the state's congressional, map, is rushed and has excluded the public. Last week the Redistricting Committee divided into three subcommittees to take public testimony in six cities. Democrats complain that the transcripts of the hearings, however, won't be available before the Redistricting Committee votes on a map.

Down the hall from the committee room, in the bowels of the Capitol, Republican map-makers are working.

The office has a sign that reads. "Closed. Open Door Policy. Just knock. And it shall be opened unto you."

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, is the author of the new map. He hardly is drawing it by himself.

King is balancing the desires of House Speaker Tom Craddick, U.S. Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican members of Congress and his legislative colleagues who may want to run for Congress.

Sources familiar with the map say of the process: "It's a nightmare."

King's version in May prompted 51 House Democrats to flee to Oklahoma and boycott any House action on redistricting.

That map split Travis County, which now is shared by Doggett and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, into four districts. One sprawled to the Mexico border, another stretched to the suburbs of Houston and two reached into San Antonio.

Members of the redistricting committee who have seen King's latest version of the map say Travis County is split three-ways and that Doggett would not be able to win any of the districts. But that could change as Republicans huddle over a map still in the making.

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By Byron LaMasters

Waco Tribune Herald and the McAllen Monitor.

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Redistricting Committee

By Byron LaMasters

Today's redistricting committee meeting lasted only 5 minutes. Chairman Crabb called the meeting to order, and told the committee that the map being drafted by Phil King had not been completed, and that the committee would stand at ease until 7 PM.

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Redistricting Committee Monday Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

The House Redistricting Committee held a meeting yesterday where they heard the reports from the six subcommittee hearings. At each hearing, the people were overwhelmingly opposed to redistricting, including at the hearings in heavily Republican areas such as Lubbock and Nacagdoches. After that Rep. Ruth McClendon (D-San Antonio) made the following motion:

Based on the numbers from Lubbock being reported as being three to one against redistricting, and based on the numbers from Dallas being 375 against and 77 for, in San Antonio three fourths of the people who testified were against redistricting, in Houston three fourths of the people who testified were against redistricting, in Nacogdoches 7 were for, and 65 were against redistricting, and based on the fact that there was no quorum at the meeting in Brownsville, I move that this committee not consider redistricting and adjourn.

Rep. Raymond (D-Laredo) seconded the motion. The motion failed with 4 ayes, 8 no's, 1 present not voting, 2 absent. Voting aye were Flores, McClendon, Raymond and Villarreal (all D's). Voting no were Crabb, Grusendorf, Isett, King, Krusee, Marchant, Morrison and Talton. Voting present was Luna (D). Absent were Pitts (R) and Wilson (D).

There was also a shouting match at one point between Rep. Talton and Rep. Raymond. Today's hearing begins in several minutes. You can watch it here.

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28 Issues Added to Special Session

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Governor Perry added 28 issues to the special redistricting session:

Gov. Rick Perry today announced the addition of 28 issues to the call of the current legislative session. The governor’s action allows the Texas House and Senate to consider legislation relating to these issues during the special session.

“By opening the call to these specific issues, I am confident representatives and senators will make efficient use of this time in Austin to make state government more efficient for the people of Texas,” Perry said. “Of the 28 issues added today, 21 are topics that were discussed and debated in a government reorganization bill last session.”

Issues added to the special session agenda include:

· Legislation relating to corrections to HB 3588 from the just completed regular session concerning transportation and trauma issues.

· Legislation permitting the reorganization of legislative support agencies and offices.

· Legislation relating to a transfer in the oversight of Regional Planning Commissions to the State Auditor’s Office.

· Legislation relating to the abolition of the Texas Commission on Private Security.

· Legislation relating to the abolition of the Office of State-Federal Relations and transferring its functions to the Governor’s Office.

· Legislation relating to the abolition of the State Aircraft Pooling Board.

· Legislation permitting the Legislative Budget Board to meet by teleconference.

· Legislation permitting the Governor to designate the presiding officers for executive branch agencies.

· Legislation modifying the Governor’s budget authority.

· Legislation relating to legislative and executive branch working papers on the budget.

· Legislation creating a study on private prisons.

· Legislation modifying the organizational pattern of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

· Legislation designating the Texas Department of Public Safety as the agency to establish school bus safety standards.

· Legislation modifying the scope and function of the State Office of Risk Management.

· Legislation relating to a modification in the qualifications for the Commissioner of Insurance.

· Legislation appropriating fees established by legislation during the regular session that remain unappropriated.

· Legislation relating to the abandonment of proceeds on demutualization.

· Legislation to re-establish the runoff primary election date to the second Tuesday in April.

· Legislation to provide one uniform deadline for receiving late ballots for all elections and one uniform time period for the ballot board to convene to count late mail ballots.

· Legislation to provide for one uniform day for canvassing elections for the general election for state and county officers and for all other local elections.

· Legislation to re-establish the first Saturday in May as the May uniform election date.

· Legislation relating to civil claims involving exposure to asbestos.

· Legislation directing the Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education to review the organization and operation of each university system office.

· Legislation streamlining the environmental permitting and regulation process in Texas for competitiveness with other states.

· Legislation relating to the procedures followed in condemnation proceeding in a county civil court at law in Harris County.

· Legislation relating to a reconstitution of the membership of the Texas Building and Procurement Commission.

· Legislation relating to a modification in the qualifications for membership on the Texas Veterans Commission.

· Legislation relating to a modification in the qualifications for membership on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

The Texas Constitution authorizes the governor to set the agenda during a special session of the legislature. This called special session began June 30 with congressional redistricting as the only issue on the agenda.

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Redistricting and Football

By Andrew Dobbs

Alright, I'll put up a Dean-themed post in the very near future, but I figure I'll stay on topic and share a handy little redistricting analogy I came up with.

Think of it this way. The Dallas Cowboys line up against the Houston Texans to play a football game. The Cowboys won the toss so they are on offense, the Texans on D and the Cowboys' head coach Bill Parcells takes a look at the Texans' formation. He doesn't like what he sees, so he calls over the ref and says "Hey ref, I want you to eject their strong safety, their middle linebacker and weak linebacker, their nose guard and one of their tackles." Most would expect the ref to tell Parcells to get bent, but in this scenario the ref is owned by Parcells and scared pissless of the guy. So what does he do? He ignores the rules of the game and fair play and kicks out those 5 players, in fact he lets the Cowboys put an extra five players on offense. We'd be outraged, as well we should be.

The Cowboys, of course, are the GOP (I am a die hard, live and breathe fan of the Cowboys and an equally passionate enemy of the Republican Party, but the analogy works) and the Texans are the Democrats. Bill Parcells is Tom DeLay and the ref is Tom Craddick. Those 5 defensive players are Chet Edwards, Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Nick Lampson and Martin Frost. In sports we realize that there are rules, and you play by those rules whether you like it or not. The rules exist to make sure that everyone has an equal shake and that you win because you are smarter, tougher and more skilled than your opponent. The Republicans don't want to play by those rules- rather than trying to run qualified, intelligent, winning candidates against Democrats, they want to have the ref change the rules and throw them out of the game. Well that is bullshit, top to bottom.

Finally, let's remember that the last time the two teams in my analogy played the Houston Texans pulled out an upset victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The GOP is doing something that no Democrat has ever been able to do- unify all Democrats- black, white, brown, rural, urban, suburban, conservative, moderate, liberal- with one cause and one goal. If we can keep the rules fair and the officials impartial, we might just have a fighting chance next time we step on the field.

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Daily Texan Supports Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

While I have been pleasantly surprised by the Daily Texan editorials under Kevin Kushner thus far, I was quite disappointed by yesterday's editorial:

It's easy to see why Texas Republicans want to redraw congressional district lines. Despite winning all 29 state-wide elections and 57 percent of the total statewide congressional vote in November, Republicans won only 15 of 32 Texas U.S. House of Representatives seats.

Those results indicate flaws in the congressional districts drawn by a federal three-judge panel prior to the November 2002 elections. Republicans are ready to correct the errors.

Errors??? Please. That's so lame. I'll repeat again. Texas Democratic Reps. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Ralph Hall, Charlie Stenholm and Chet Edwards represent congressional districts that are not only Republican leaning, but should be safe Republican. All five districts were won by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (the lowest Republican vote-getter in 2002, who won with 53%). Furthermore, all five were won by George W. Bush with over 60% in 2000. These districts are Republican districts. In fact, of the 32 congressional districts in Texas, 20 are Republican majority. The current plan favors Republicans. I'll repeat... the current plan FAVORS the Republican Party. Geez.

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June 30, 2003

Here it is: Dallas Redistricting Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

I missed parts of the hearing, but I attended the vast majority of the hearing between 8 AM and 11 PM. The part in which I missed, I’ve used other reports to fill in the details. I've included excerpts of reports obtained via email by Tom Blackwell (a Dallas County Democratic precinct chair) and Collin County Democratic Party Chair Deborah Angell Smith.

I arrived at the Dallas redistricting hearing at UT-Southwestern a little bit after 8 AM on Saturday, when there were about 30 Democrats in the parking lot. By 8:30 AM two buses had arrived from Waco and Temple with supporters of U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco), and the crowd swelled to over 100 Democrats. At that time, State Rep. Terri Hodge (D-Dallas) had organized a press conference, as the hearing was being held in her district. Flanking her were State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) and U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (D-Arlington), whose district would be chopped apart in the Republican redistricting proposal. Also joining the press conference were State Rep. John Mabry (D-Waco), House Democratic leader Jim Dunnam (D-Waco), State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth), Redistricting subcommittee member State Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo), and U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas). The entire north Texas Democratic legislative delegation was united in opposition to the re-redistricting. Martin Frost received an especially warm welcome. During the press conference, a truck drove up with a 15 foot blown up rat with “Rick ‘the rat’ Perry” written on it. That drew quite a reception, and distracted everyone from the press conference for a few minutes. A friend of mine also dressed in a Darth Vader costume and held up a sign reading “Darth DeLay”. Several others dressed in storm trooper costumes. Before we were allowed into the hearing, we were handed sock puppets to hold up when Republicans were speaking to symbolize that they were puppets for Tom DeLay. We were also, all given “Deny DeLay: In America voters choose their Congressmen, Congressmen don’t choose their voters” stickers.

By 9 AM, the crowd had grown to several hundred, and everyone was allowed inside the building. I almost felt like I was in an African American church for a few minutes as a group of several dozen African Americans sang some Black spiritual songs softly, while we filled out witness affirmation forms and waited to enter the auditorium. Only 250 people were allowed into the auditorium due to the firecode. Shortly after 9 AM, the auditorium filled up, and no more people were allowed to enter. I was able to get in at the beginning, but had to leave shortly in order to attend the executive board meeting for the college caucus of the Texas Young Democrats. After the meeting, I had to wait in line for nearly 30 minutes to get back into the hearing. I signed a petition for a potential lawsuit saying that I was denied access to the hearing room.

The hearing began with a bang. Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) was mad as hell, and he represented how about 90% of the audience felt. I’d say that the audience was about 90/10, Democratic / Republican. Redistricting subcommittee chair Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton) didn’t call the meeting to order until nearly 10 AM. Marchant tried repeatedly to get everyone quiet, which was not an easy task. One woman in the back kept complaining about the sound, and shouted “I can’t hear you” repeatedly for about five minutes. Finally, Marchant asked if someone in the front would switch seats with her. Within a few seconds, someone offered, and the problem was solved. Still, heavy heckling continued for awhile. After Marchant gave an introduction, Richard Raymond was recognized to speak, and said that this unprecedented hearing was illegal, and a sham, but that he intended to cooperate to allow the voices of the people of north Texas to be heard. After the “illegal and sham” remark, 90% of the crowd rose to give him a prolonged standing ovation, something that occurred dozens of times throughout the day.

After a couple of somewhat civil exchanges, things got really heated when Raymond called on Kenny Marchant to step down as subcommittee chair, since Marchant had a conflict of interest, as he would likely run for one of the redistricted seats. Marchant will likely run in the new 24th district if the proposed map is adopted. He had intended to run in the current 32nd district in 2002, but U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions decided to run in the 32nd instead of the 5th. By playing along, and not challenging Sessions, Marchant was to be rewarded by Tom DeLay with his own seat. The exchange between Marchant and Raymond went back and forth for about 30 minutes as the audience taunted Marchant, and repeatedly shouted "Give it Up! Give it Up!". Finally, Raymond made a motion to remove Marchant as subcommittee chair that was not seconded. The second Democrat on the subcommittee, Ruth McClendon (D-San Antonio) was absent all day. All three Republicans, Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton), Carl Isett (R-Lubbock) and Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington) were present, along with Raymond. Other state representatives attending the hearing were allowed by the chair to participate on the panel, could question witnesses, and submit documents and information for the recond (although they did not have a vote on the committee). So, throughout the day Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth), Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas), Terri Hodge (D-Dallas), Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) and Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) participated on the panel. Burnam wore a “Deny DeLay” t-shirt under his suit.

Finally, the hearing got underway. U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) riled up the crowd early with her passionate opposition to the re-redistricting. The elected officials spoke until about 3 or 4 PM. The Democrats were generally applauded, while most Republicans speaking were shouted down and heckled. The Dallas County Republican Party Chair Nate Crain really riled up the crowd when he responded to a question by Lon Burnam asking him if he could name one Republican president since Abraham Lincoln that had done anything for minorities in this country. Crain answered by saying “George W. Bush” which was followed by about five minutes of pandemonium as the vast majority of the African Americans and Hispanics in the audience were incensed. Shortly after Crain, a former Democratic State Representative from Fort Worth, and current Republican spoke, saying that redistricting was good for Black people, because it gave Blacks a new district. He received similar fury from the audience, where he was called "Uncle Tom" and worse. Later, the (former) state representative from Fort Worth that defeated the pro-redistricting Black former rep spoke, saying that he defeated his predecessor, because he was a sitting Democrat who endorsed the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

One of the more powerful speakers was the independent mayor of Waco who urged the committee to not change the 11th district, represented by Chet Edwards. She said that the re-redistricting proposal would have moved the power base of the district to the Fort Worth suburbs, and that the Fort Worth suburbs, and Waco did not share common interests. City Councilmen from Temple and Killeen also spoke in opposition to changes in Chet Edwards district. All of them were upset that redistricting hearings were not held in central Texas. Waco, Temple and Killeen urged the subcommittee to hold hearings in central Texas, but the Republicans on the committee showed little interest. Raymond made a motion, which was not seconded, for the subcommittee to hold hearings in Waco and Laredo. Jim Dunnam made a statement for the record that he thought that the treatment of his constituents that had travelled from Waco to testify at the hearing was atrocious. Dunnam said that only two or three of the dozens of his constituents that attended the hearing had the opportunity to speak before their bus left.

Other speakers included Dallas County Democratic Chair Susan Hays, the Republican and Democratic County Chairs of Tarrant County, and Republican and Democratic national, and state committee men and women. City councilmen from Dallas, Forth Worth, Denton and McKinney all spoke in opposition to redistricting. A city councilwoman from a small exurban town of 1200 was ridiculed for speaking in favor of redistricting, but then asked the committee to change the map, because the proposed map would have divided her town. Well boo-who. After she spoke, she came back to gather her things in the row behind me, and I said to her, “Excuse me ma’am, but your testimony was really dumb. If you don’t want your little town to be divided, then you don’t want redistricting. You’re an idiot”. She didn’t say anything, and walked out hastily. An elderly woman sitting next to her thanked me for what I said.

Others testifying included former Dallas City Councilman Al Lipscomb who repeatedly compared the Republicans to Hitler. Former Congressman Bob Gammage gave us a history lesson, and suggested that Speaker Craddick planned to break quorum himself when both Gammage and Craddick were members of the "Dirty Thirty", a bipartisan group of rebel house members in the early 1970s. Rep. Roberto Alonzo, who defeated Garcia in the primary, was present for much of the testimony, and asked good questions of the witnesses. The response to testimony by Dallas School Board member / Democratic Precinct Chair Joe May was that the 24th Congressional District was a minority opportunity district. Some witnesses spoke about the practice of Gerrymandering by 'packing and cracking.' In this case it was to pack minorities in the 30th Congressional District (EBJ) and divide up or 'crack' and divide their neighborhoods into areas that are absorbed into Republican districts. This “cracking” was especially evident in Tarrant County where the minority neighborhoods were cracked into multiple suburban districts. One Hispanic woman said that she would mobilize her friends, her family, her chicanitos and chicanitas to kick out Republicans. Local LULAC and NAACP leaders testified in opposition to re-redistricting. One Republican precinct chair made several offensive comments. One, she said that Republicans had become the majority party the right way, through hard work and grassroots organizing, while the Democrats resorted to vote stealing and buying votes. That caused quite an uproar, and Richard Raymond asked her what she thought of Republican voter intimidation and vote stealing in Florida in 2000. Raymond also referred to Bush’s 2000 “election” as a Supreme Court selecting, “if the Supreme Court can select our president, what’s the problem with the Court drawn maps”. Two, the Republican precinct chair made a comment saying that “people of your ilk” were responsible for a lot of bad things, as she looked directly at Richard Raymond. The audience was stunned. Terri Hodge asked her what exactly she meant by “people of your ilk”, and the lady said “well, Democrats”. We laughed. Right. Another racist Republican.

One of the more interesting testimonies was by a Rice professor that said that the proposed DeLay / King map was going to be a court map even if adopted by the legislature, because the courts would undoubtedly make revisions to the map, because he believed that in its current form, the map violated the Voting Rights Act. One of the arguments that many Republicans have made for redistricting is that they believe that the legislature, not the courts should be responsible for drawing the maps. This testimony seemed to refute much of that argument. Richard Raymond questioned that argument every time a Republican made it. Raymond asked each Republican using that logic how they felt about Rick Perry skirting his constitutional duty by not calling a special session in 2001 to address redistricting. Only one Republican, some severely balding guy from the Tarrant County Young Republicans said that Perry should have called a special session in 2001. Around 8:30 PM Marchant decided to introduce a proposal to limit the testimony of the remaining witnesses to five minutes. Raymond objected, and said that he thought that it was unfair to the people remaining to limit their testimony, when others spoke for much longer. The LULAC guy shouted out, "if you're willing to stay all night, stand up"! About 75% of the crowd stood up and started chanting "All Night! All Night!". Eventually, Marchant's proposal passed 3-1. Around 9 PM the court reporter stumbled up to the panel and notified Kenny Marchant that he was about to pass out (he had been working 12 hours straight, as the committee decided to skip the scheduled lunch recess). That propted a lawyer friend of mine to say "lets give him a hand, he's been working hard all day". That prompted applause by everyone in the room. Raymond asked that it be put in the record that the court reporter received a standing ovation for his work.

The Dallas County Democratic Party did a great job of getting people out there. The party sent out emails and made phone calls. They provided lunch for Democrats at the hearing. I truly believe that the current Republican overreaching is causing the Democrats in this state to unite in a way that I’ve never seen before in my lifetime. Black, White and Hispanic Democrats stood together yesterday, united in our opposition to re-redistricting. We all realize that we have much more in common than not, and that we all share similar goals and dreams for our party and our country. The hearing gave me a great opportunity to meet with other Democrats, and make progress towards getting young people, and college Democrats on board with the College Caucus of the Texas Young Democrats. There were leaders from SMU and UTD at the hearing, and we made progress in bringing them on board with our organization. Anyway, I left the hearing at 11 PM. I was tired, hungry and exhausted. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to testify. I had intended to testify in opposition, and tell the subcommittee that this type of behavior is why so many young people don't get involved in the process. People of my generation often feel that our votes don't make a difference, and that politicians don't care about our issues. Nothing makes that more evident than the proposed redistricting map which divides the student populations at UT into three districts, two Represented by San Antonio Republicans, and one by a Hidalgo County Democrat. The hearing lasted until 1:45 AM. At that point Richard Raymond made a motion that the subcommittee report that they take no further action on redistricting. At first he was denied a vote, then Marchant allowed it. It was denied on a party line 3-1 vote.

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Houston Redistricting Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

As I write on the Dallas Redistricting hearing, Charles Kuffner has everything you need to know about the Houston hearing.

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Rep. Hopson: Plan would gut Rural Texas

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Democratic State Rep. Chuck Hopson (D-Jacksonville) issued a press release opposing redistricting for many reason, among them, that the DeLay / King plan would "gut rural east Texas":

During the course of the regular session, the leadership’s proposed plan would have gut rural East Texas. The map would have Cherokee County represented by a member from Dallas. Panola County would be split into two districts, one which would be represented by someone from Houston. Someone please tell me, what Dallas and Houston have in common with East Texas other than they want to take our water.

You can be sure that rural Democratic reps will use this as an election issue in 2004, regardless of what happens with redistricting. Neither rural Democrats, nor rural Republicans want to be placed into suburban dominated districts, as is done by the DeLay / King plan.

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First-hand Account of Brownsville "Hearing"

By Byron LaMasters

This was an email forwarded to me by Tom Blackwell, which was forwarded to him by David Van Os:

The following is a personal report by Susan Reeves of Corpus Christi who attended the Brownsville redistricting hearing. This moving account of an American citizen encountering fascist totalitarianism right here on Texas soil is a must read.

Quorum? We Don't Need No Stinking Quorum!

I attended the redistricting committee hearing in Brownsville Thurs June 26. I was one of the people who arrived on the first of three buses from Corpus Christi / Nueces County. We got there at about 9:30 am, so we were not immediately aware of the fact that one of the Republican representatives, Pitts of Waxahachie, was not there. When the Democratic state reps who were in Brownsville realized that the Republicans would be forced to depend upon Democratic State Rep Kino Flores for a quorum, they quickly decided that we had an unexpected opportunity to control the debate by preventing an official meeting from being held. They hastily called a press conference and were waiting for the media to arrive when we got to the hearing location.

All that we knew was that, for some reason, there was a plan in the works to shut down the hearing.

I admit I was a little upset at first, because I had spent a lot of time preparing my remarks to the committee, to say nothing of getting up at 4:30 am to make a three hour bus trip to the hearing location.

Then I started watching the Republican version of participatory government and finally realized why the Democratic state reps felt they had to take such drastic measures.

At about 10 am, we went to the press conference held outside the building on the UT-Brownsville campus which served as the hearing location. I listened to the state reps explain how the Republicans had bloc-voted to deny their request to have full field hearings with all members of both the House and Senate Redistricting Committee present. They explained how the Republicans were violating provisions of the Voting Rights Act by refusing to have these field hearings, by refusing to reveal the true map under consideration, and revealing the lengths to which Tom DeLay had gone to coerce the Republicans into carrying out his wishes. The state reps at the press conference were united in their determination to let their constituents know about the unethical and illegal tactics DeLay was using to force through an unconstitutional redistricting scheme which will cost Texans over $7 million that could have been used to provide health care to children, to purchase new school books, or to provide care to poor elderly people in nursing homes.

We returned to the hearing room, and I was astonished to see that, while we were absent, Reps Crabb and Krusee had decided to convene the meeting despite lacking a legal quorum. We immediately began shouting that there was no quorum established; therefore the meeting was illegal. Many of the papers are reporting that Crabb advised the audience that the meeting was unofficial and not for the record, but I heard both Crabb and--in particular--Krusee say repeatedly to those in the room not to be concerned about the lack of quorum. He--Krusee--would see to it that their comments would be entered into the official record. Of course, he did not answer shouted questions from the approximately 150 people in the audience at the time (I agree with press estimates of total attendance at 300 throughout the day,) how comments made outside an offical hearing could possibly be entered into an official record. After just a few minutes, it became clear to Krusee and Crabb that it was impossible for them to hear any testimony over the shouts of the crowd. They "recessed" the "meeting" and retreated behind the curtains at the rear of the stage. One person outside told me later she had overheard Krusee outside shouting into his cellphone, "Get me the Governor! I need to speak to the Governor immediately!"

As soon as most of the people had stepped out of the room, Crabb again attempted to illegally convene the sham hearing. From what I saw it was actually Krusee calling the shots and telling Crabb what to do. By now, it had become obvious that Crabb and Krusee had no intention of calling upon anyone directly involved in the dispute to testify.

A Hispanic man who is a veteran and a member of the GI Forum (a civil rights organization,) stepped up to the microphone and began to address the crowd. Krusee was furious and told him that he had not been called to speak. The man reminded Krusee that this was not a meeting, just a gathering of people in a public place, and anyone had a first amendment right to speak freely. The man said that since there was no legal meeting, he had as much right to talk to the group as Krusee and Crabb. At this point, Krusee demanded that the man either sit down or leave. The man told Krusee he had no authority to say that. Krusee looked around and demanded that someone do something to get this man away from the microphone. One of the University police officers walked up very close to the man in an aggressive manner--he later told me the officer had actually pushed him with his chest or stomach. Susie Luna-Saldana of the GI Forum rushed to the mic, and started shouting, "Are you going to arrest a veteran, Rep Crabb? I ask you Rep Crabb--are you going to arrest a veteran?" By this time, most in the audience were shouting, and the man from the GI Forum who made the impassioned speech about our right to free speech had walked up on stage and bowed his head as if in prayer, followed by about 5 other GI Forum members carrying signs opposed to redistricting. Many news reports said the police were called, but I never saw anyone other than about 4 University peace officers in the room. However, at the time, I felt like they were going to start arresting us all at any moment. An official with UTB came into the hearing room at this time, and Krusee demanded he come to the microphone. When he got to the mic, (I did not hear the official's name due to the noise) Krusee said that--since the "meeting" was being held on the UTB campus, the reps did not have the "responsibilty" to maintain order, and that it was the responsibility of UTB officials.

The official responded by asking for people to sit down and be quiet, to no avail. He then said something about it being difficult to do anything about the protests, since UTB was only providing a venue, and as long as people were only shouting, there was not much the University could do about it--he seemed to be saying as long as we were peacefully protesting, we had the right to speak out. Krusee was furious--once again, he and Crabb disappeared behind the curtains in the back of the stage. As they left, the GI Forum members began to sing "God Bless America." Strangely enough, Crabb sang along with them as he was collecting his papers from the table onstage. A few minutes later, at 12:30, they announced they were breaking for lunch and would return at 2:30 pm.

At 2:30, Crabb and Krusee started the show. By this time, the second bus from Corpus Christi had arrived. We allowed Crabb and Krusee to speak without more than scattered words of dissent. We were willing to listen to what they had to say; it was the illegally-taken testimony from witnesses we opposed. Krusee seemed to take this as a sign we had given up. Once again, he said that he would make sure that any testimony taken in this "hearing" would be entered into the official record. A few shouts of "No Quorum! " "Illegal testimony!" and "No record!" were heard. Then another witness called by Crabb--of course, it was no one from the Corpus Christi buses--started to speak. Once again, sporadically at first, but rapidly building to a roar, were the shouts of "No quorum!" It became a cheering, hand-clapping chant, with no more than 10--15 people sitting silently. Since the witness had stopped speaking, the chants began to die out.

Krusee then tried again to ask the witness something. This time, the crowd chanted, "Si se puede!" (rough English translation: Yes We Can!) As that chant died out, Krusee said that he was sorry, but the witness would need to file written testimony with the committee because he did not feel that he should ask him to testify when he was being "verbally and physically intimidated." Then Krusee spat, "These proceedings are NOT illegal." I was so shocked by what I was hearing that I wrote those two statements down, in order to remember exactly what Krusee said. I realized--with horror--that I was watching Krusee rewrite history to his liking. He wanted the "approved" record to show that witnesses were "physically intimidated." THAT IS A LIE. He wanted the record to show that "these proceedings" were "legal." THAT IS A LIE. It was a true Kafka moment: I was in the old Soviet Union, not America; I was through the looking glass, and the Queen was yelling, "Off with her head!"

Then, an Hispanic gentleman from the GI Forum walked to the microphone. All the other members of the Forum lined up behind him with their signs. (They were easy to identify because they were wearing their distinctive red and blue military-style caps.) Krusee was absolutely determined to force us to accept the "legality" of the "hearing." He asked the man to state his name, address, and Social Security number, although he had NEVER asked another witness to do so, and one's Social Security number is NOT required in order to speak. The man refused, saying again that this was not a legal meeting; therefore, he was not required to identify himself. Krusee asked again for this information. Again, the man refused, saying it was not a legal meeting and he had a First Amendment right to say whatever he pleased. He then began to talk about how Hispanics were not stupid people, and realized what the current redistricting plans would do to them. Krusee then completely lost his temper. He stood, looking down on the group of about 25 Hispanic Americans with an expression of (what I considered) absolute hatred upon his face. I was stunned by his venomous expression. He then glared at the person in the sound booth in the back of the auditorium, and drew his hand across his neck in a slashing motion, telling the sound man to turn off the microphone. In less than 10 seconds, the microphone went dead. As Krusee disappeared in fury behind the curtain, the GI Forum members called out for us all to join in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance; then once again, joined by Crabb, they sang "God Bless America."

Although we had managed to send Krusee packing, Crabb stayed, seated quietly at the table onstage. We spent the rest of the afternoon chanting slogans, in both English and Spanish. We went outside again for a live appearance on two early local news programs at 5 pm. We then had a short meeting where Jerry Hebert (not sure of the spelling,) an attorney, representing US Reps Solomon Ortiz (my rep) and almost all of the other US Democratic Representatives in Texas, told us that we had done something today akin to the public version of the "Killer D" walkout, which had exceeded anyone's wildest expectations. We repeated our appearances on both 6 pm broadcasts, and then those of us who were on the first bus loaded up and left (although we might as well have stayed, since we broke down and had to wait for the later bus to rescue us.) The rest of our group stayed until the "close" of the "meeting" at 8 pm.

So what have I learned after an unbelievable journey and only 9 hours sleep in the last 2 days? I have learned that I love my country--actually, that I love the ideals upon which my country is based--equality, democracy, and the brotherhood that exists between all of us who strive to ensure our freedoms remain intact. I have learned that there is a concerted assault to deny those of us who do not hold a rigid, authoritarian view of government a place at the table. I fear for the soul of my country. I can tell you that I will never forget this trip to Brownsville, not because it was pleasant, but because it was there that I realized what it means to stand up for the ideals of this country in the face of official oppression. I pray that I will continue to have the courage to stand up against all those who seek to suck the very soul out of America through totalitarian tactics like those I witnessed. I can now say wtih total assurance that I am PROUD to be an American patriot.

Susan Reeves

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House Adjourns

By Byron LaMasters

The House has adjourned until 10 AM Thursday. Beforehand, Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) asked to ammend the House rules so that representatives could not ask people at hearings for their social security numbers. Redistricting committee chair Joe Crabb (R-Atascocita) had asked a Hispanic veteran in Brownsville for his social security number on Thursday.

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Crabb refuses to answer questions

By Byron LaMasters

Redistricting committee chair Joe Crabb (R-Atascocita) announced that the redistricting committee would meet at 2:30 PM today.

Crabb then refused to answer a question on the floor by Rep. Paul Moreno (D-El Paso). Moreno asked whether full committee redistricting hearings were held across the state of Texas. Crabb answered that six subcommittee hearings were held. Moreno said that Crabb wasn't answering his question and asked again. Finally, Crabb walked off refusing to answer the question further.

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Sen. Lucio to run for Re-election

By Byron LaMasters

Senator Eddie Lucio Jr (D-Brownsville) announced his intent to run for re-election for the State Senate last Friday. This lessens the speculation that he'll support re-redistricting. Perhaps Lucio saw Thursday's demonstration in Brownsville, and realized that he'd have quite a few enemies if he supported re-redistricting. Hopefully, this is a sign that Lucio will oppose any redistricting proposal:

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, announced Friday that he will seek a sixth term in the Senate next week. His announcement lessened speculation that he might be one of three Democrats to break ranks and vote to bring up a redistricting bill.

Other Democratic Senators who might vote with Republicans are Frank Madla of San Antonio and Ken Armbrister of Victoria. On the Republican side, Sen. Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant is considered most likely to vote against a map he views as unfair.

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House Resolution 3

By Byron LaMasters

Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) had a motion (HR 3) that would be that the speaker would appoint two committeees to notify the Senate and the Governor that the House has convened and is prepared to do the business in which they were called to do. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) noted his opposition. Garnett Coleman (D-Houston) noted his opposition based on the fact that his constituents in hearings opposed taking up the matter. Paul Moreno (D-El Paso) noted his opposition because their were no hearings in El Paso in his questioning of Garnett Coleman. Moreno also said that the Voting Rights Act required that full committee hearings be held in all of the major population areas of the state, where the voting rights of minorities would be changed. Since their was no hearing in El Paso, Moreno believed that this redistricting bill was a violation of that act. Coleman and Moreno also noted that no hearing was held in South Texas (the Brownsville hearing did not have a quorum). Rick Noriega (D-Houston) believed that the subcommittee hearings were unconstitutional. He also took a shot at Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) in saying that the redistricting hearings and the session were held hastily in order to further the political ambitions of people wanting to run for mayor (like Sylvester Turner). Turner went on to defend himself his resolution as just a curtesy and a formality, and attacked anyone that would misrepresent his position, as Turner opposes redistricting. Turner was defended by Al Edwards (D-Houston), but then decided to withdraw the resolution.

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Quorum Present

By Byron LaMasters

Speaker Craddick has just announced that a quorum is present at today's special session.

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Watch the Session Online

By Byron LaMasters

Starting at 10 AM the special re-redistricting session will be broadcast live online, here.

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June 29, 2003

Dallas Hearing Overview

By Byron LaMasters

I've been hosting several people from out of town this weekend, and I've had little time to post. I plan to post a full report this evening on the Dallas hearing, which I attended from 8 AM until 11 PM with a few breaks. The crowd was about 90% Democratic, and it was a quite a circus. Check back this evening or tomorrow.

This is the Dallas Morning News article on the hearing, here.

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June 28, 2003

Dallas Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

I will be attending the Dallas redistricting hearing today. Friday saw the State Democratic Party chair accuse Republicans of rigging the subcommittee hearings in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reports:

State Democratic Party chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm said an e-mail by Collin County GOP chairman Rick Neudorff sent to fellow Republicans was proof that legislative hearings on redistricting are "nothing but a sham."

Mr. Neudorff said his e-mail was only an effort to rally speakers and help prepare them for Saturday's all-day redistricting hearing at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

The hearing is being conducted by a five-member panel of the House Committee on Redistricting. The hearings are part of a GOP-led congressional redistricting effort that will dominate a special session that begins Monday.
Mr. Neudorff said his efforts were similar to Ms. Malcolm's handiwork this week when she sent a mailing to Democrats with suggested wording for letters to the editor in local newspapers.

"I'm not trying to pull a fast one," Mr. Neudorff said.

In his e-mail sent Friday morning to supporters in Collin County, Mr. Neudorff asked for volunteers to testify at the hearings.

"You can either write your own testimony, or our retained [volunteer] group of speech writers will be happy to draft remarks for you," he wrote.

He said that if supporters planned to go, they should let him know, "as I will need to get you a place in speaking order AHEAD of time," he said.

Ms. Malcolm said the e-mail shows that "Collin County Republicans and perhaps even the committee itself are rigging the process."

Speakers, except for elected officials, are usually taken on a first-come, first-served basis at such committee hearings.

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June 27, 2003

Redistricting Senate Committee Hearings

By Byron LaMasters

There will be re-redistricting Senate subcommittee hearings in Austin, Laredo, San Angelo, McAllen, Houston and Dallas over the next few days. Times and locations, here.

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Brownsville Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

Ok, well here's what happened. On Wednesday, three Democrats on the House Redistricting Committee sent the following letter to the chairman, Rep. Joe Crabb (R-Atascocita), notifying him of their intention to attend hearings other than the ones in which they were assigned:

June 24, 2003 The Honorable Joe Crabb Chairman, House Committee on Redistricting Austin, Texas

Chairman Crabb:

We are writing to express our concern about the Subcommittee assignments for the Redistricting Committee hearings scheduled later this week. We were elected to provide effective representation for our constituents, but your subcommittee assignments make that virtually impossible.

Each one of us is represented by a Member of Congress who resides in San Antonio. We are the only members of the Redistricting Committee whose Member of Congress lives in San Antonio. However, two of us have been assigned to attend a hearing in Lubbock and the other has been asked to travel to Brownsville, making it impossible for any of us to attend the San Antonio hearing should we all go where we were assigned.

We note that Rep. Marchant and Rep. Grusendorf are both assigned to the hearing in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area where they live. Rep. Isset is assigned to the Lubbock hearing in his home town. Both Rep. Talton and Rep. Wilson, the Democrat who most consistently supports Republican redistricting plans, are assigned to the hearing in Houston, their home town. Given this subcommittee system, certain travel and geographic difficulties are inevitable, but we are concerned that our assignments may result from our being the three committee members who have most vigorously opposed this unprecedented mid-decade redistricting effort.

In addition, Rep. McClendon and Rep. Raymond had first been told they would go to San Antonio, then that was changed. Both Raymond and McClendon were then informed they were going to Lubbock. When Rep. McClendon inquired about this change, her staff was informed she had agreed to this change when in fact she has never agreed to go to Lubbock and would not have agreed to be assigned to Lubbock over San Antonio.

Our situation underscores the fact that the process of splitting into subcommittees for simultaneous hearings is inherently flawed. Instead of providing individual committee members with an opportunity to most effectively participate in a hearing process involving the full committee, this process is a feeble attempt that puts haste ahead of inclusive participation.

We trust that it is your intention to allow us to fully participate as committee members should one or more of us choose to attend a different subcommittee hearing that allows us to better represent our constituents. Thank you for your consideration.


Mike Villarreal - Vice Chairman
Richard Raymond - Member
Ruth Jones McClendon - Member

The five members of the committee assigned to the Brownsville hearing were the chair, Joe Crabb (R - Atascocita) and committee members Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock), Rep. Jim Pitts, (R-Waxahachie), Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), and Rep. Kino Flores (D-Mission). Villarreal attended the subcommittee hearing in San Antonio, although he was not on that subcommittee. Pitts was unable to attend the Brownsville meeting because of a "personal conflict". With only three of the five committee members in attendence, Flores decided to leave the hearing, in effect, breaking the quorum of the subcommittee. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram had the best overview of events in Brownsville:

An angry group of South Texas activists and a Democratic state representative shut down a public redistricting hearing Thursday, hurling insults at Republican House leaders and turning the hearing into a boisterous pro-Hispanic rally.

The hearing was halted before it ever started when state Rep. Kino Flores, D-Mission, walked out to break the subcommittee's quorum, evoking memories of last month's Democratic walk-out that shut down House business.

"What has happened is that a sleeping giant has been awakened," Oliveira said.

The committee had been scheduled to take 11 hours of testimony on redistricting, in anticipation of a special legislative session called by Gov. Rick Perry to take up the issue beginning Monday.

After waiting an hour for a quorum, state Rep. Joe Crabb, R-Atascosita, the committee chairman, declared the hearing would not be official but that all testimony would be taken down by a court reporter and shared with other committee members.

Instantly, more than 50 people waiting to testify stood up and walked out. A few minutes later, as Oliveira was blasting the proposed redistricting plan, they walked back in and - with shouts, whistles and cheers - demanded that Crabb shut down the meeting.

"It's unofficial, it's illegal, you're wasting our time," said Joe Ortiz, a South Texas activist. "Shut it down."

Crabb recessed the meeting, but he and state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, the other committee member waiting to hear testimony, said they wanted people to have a chance to testify anyway if they so desired.

"It was the governor, not this chairman, who called the special session on redistricting," Krusee said, as the crowd booed and hissed. "The chairman is doing his duty ... (the protest) has denied the people of South Texas the right to free speech, a voice."

University police were called to the auditorium in the school's Science, Engineering and Technology Building in case the group of about 50, which Krusee compared to "a mob," posed a threat to the two GOP House members who were hearing testimony. No arrests were made.

Moments later, Oliveira joined the protesters and called the hearing "a sham" because the entire redistricting committee wasn't present. Crabb had broken the 15-member committee into three subcommittees and sent them to three different cities on Thursday to begin the hearings.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also wrote that Texas LULAC announced that it planned to fight redistricting.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee accused the Harris County Republican Party of race-baiting.

The Abilene Reporter News writes that Abilene would lose clout under The DeLay / King redistristricting plan.

For further reading, here's what other papers wrote on the redistricting subcommittee hearings yesterday:

Austin American Statesman: here
Brownsville Herald: here and here.
Dallas Morning News: here.
Harlingen Valley Morning Star: here
Houston Chronicle: here and here.
San Antonio Express-News: here

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Get your Deny DeLay T-shirt

By Byron LaMasters


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June 26, 2003

Brownsville Re-redistricting Hearing Shut Down

By Byron LaMasters

Information, here.

People familiar with both sides in Dallas have described what they expected the Dallas hearing to be like using words like "circus" and "pandemonium".

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Ok, back to re-redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

There's redistricting hearings today, and I plan on posting on them tonight / tomorrow. I'm pretty much done writing about sodomy for now, and I'll go back to redistricting and all in my next posts, but I'll probably be gone for much of the rest of the day, so expect more on redistricting tonight / tomorrow. If things get really interesting, expect a post on the political state report.

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June 25, 2003


By Byron LaMasters


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Re-Redistricting Update

By Byron LaMasters

With the special re-redistricting session less than a week away, there does not appear to be any Democratic plan to break quorum again. The Austin American Statesman reports.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reports on Sen. Jeff Wentworth's (R-San Antonio) proposal to create an independent commission to deal with redistricting, taking it out of the hands of the legislature, much like what is done in Iowa, New Jersey, and several other states. It's a great idea, but I doubt that it will go anywhere. Here's what the Houston Chronicle says about it:

Hopeful but realistic, a Republican state senator from San Antonio is preparing two proposals for his colleagues during the upcoming special session on congressional redistricting.

For the seventh time in 10 years, Sen. Jeff Wentworth will sponsor legislation that, beginning after the 2010 Census, would take redistricting out of the hands of lawmakers and place it with an independent, bipartisan citizens commission.

He also is drafting a redistricting map that, for now, would give Republicans the opportunity to increase their share of Texas' congressional districts.

Wentworth said he believes, especially in view of the contentious fight over redistricting this year, that the citizens commission is the way to go. On Tuesday he prefiled a constitutional amendment and a related bill that would create one.

They were the first pieces of legislation filed in advance of the special session, which Gov. Rick Perry has scheduled to begin on Monday.

Wentworth said several other states have redistricting commissions. But he admitted he was under no illusion that his idea will finally catch on in Austin, since it has been rejected in every legislative session since 1993.

Wentworth said the redistricting map he is drafting would allow Republicans to win 19 of Texas' 32 congressional districts, a proportion similar to the 19 Republicans who now hold seats in the 31-member state Senate.


Wentworth said the bitter congressional redistricting fight prompted him to renew his push for a different approach.

"I am more convinced than ever that Texans will be better served if the redrawing of legislative and congressional lines is placed in the hands of men and women whose political futures do not depend on the outcome," he said.

The commission Wentworth is proposing would include four Republicans and four Democrats selected by state legislators and a nonvoting presiding officer selected by the other commission members. Members could not have served in public office or a party leadership post during the previous two years.

I like Wentworth's plan for the redistricting commission. If any good comes out of this special re-redistricting session, it would be taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature. Democrats should have done this in the early 1990s when they were in charge. Wentworth is generally considered a moderate Republican. He narrowly won his primary challenge against a ultra-conservative opponent who had the support of the state party chair. Wentworth has made appeals to the conservative base this session, as he authored the Texas Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and made the following statement:

People talk about discrimination as though it were a bad thing. It is something we do all the time.

Fortunately, the Lesbian, Gay Rights Lobby of Texas attacked him nearly daily for the statement, which pissed off Wentworth, but he's really not that anti-gay. He's just scared to death that he'll lose a Republican primary, as he is pro-choice, and generally moderate, and not beholden to the state party leadership.

The Houston Chronicle also writes that two senators, Frank Madla, D-San Antonio and Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant were unsure of their vote on redistricting.

The Dallas Morning News writes that Democrats are counting on the senate to kill re-redistricting.

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June 22, 2003

Republican Redistricting Logic

By Byron LaMasters

Usually, I'll reply to my comments in the comment threads, but this comment to Redistricting Politics was worth its own entry.

AHEM, Tarrant County, with just slightly more population now, is divided into three Congressional districts (Granger, Barton, and Frost). The latter's district is especially gerrymandered on blatanly racial lines, so that I could drive from my high school in East Fort Worth (Stop Six Dunbar HS), south on 820 loop into Barton's district, than back up north to Granger's. The division of Travis County that you claim to be so egregious is routine in more Republican parts of the state.

Now, the comment was written by TX Pundit, a usually reasonable Republican blogger (and UT student, I'm guessing), whose site I visit on occasion. Yeah, I have several Republican bloggers on my blogroll, because, quite frankly, Democratic political masturbation, and liberal groupthink sites like the Democratic Underground get tiresome after awhile. It's good to see what the other side is up to every now, and then.

But, this is just a perfect example of Republican lies, and flawed logic in redistricting.

Let's get started:

"Tarrant County, with just slightly more population now [than Travis County]"

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Tarrant County has a population of 1,446,219, whereas the Travis County population is 812,280. Well, I guess it all depends on what your definition of "slightly" is. 633,939 people may be slightly if we were comparing the size of Texas to New York (i.e. Texas is slightly larger than New York), but when it comes to county size, well "slightly won't cut it. Tarrant County is nearly twice as large (ok, 78% larger) as Travis County.

So, lets do some more math. The average Congressional district in Texas has 651,619 people. Thus, Travis County should have 1.25 congressional districts, which it does. It has Lloyd Doggett's district representing the heavily Democratic eastern and central parts of the county, and the western half of the county is represented by part of Lamar Smith's district. Doing our division for Tarrant County tells us that it should have 2.2 congressional districts. Which, guess what? It does, well, maybe:

"[Tarrant County is] divided into three Congressional districts (Granger, Barton, and Frost)."

Almost. Actually it's four. Granger, Barton, Frost and Burgess (3 Republicans, 1 Democrat in a 60% Republican county, and you're still complaining). Hmm, next:

"The division of Travis County that you claim to be so egregious is routine in more Republican parts of the state."

But, it's not. Tarrant County is fairly represented. It has parts of four congressional districts, and three of them are Republican in a county that is 60% Republican. Would you rather two Democrats? Didn't think so. Would you rather have only three congressional districts in Tarrant County? Redistricting won't do it. Because the King plan would have five congressional districts (one whole, four part) in Tarrant County, with five Republican congressmen. How fair... How unconstitutional. It violates the Voting Rights Act by retrogressing minority voting rights. Under the Republican plan, Blacks and Hispanics in Tarrant County would no longer have the opportunity to vote for the Congressman of their choice. Their votes won't matter as their communities are divided into lockstep Republican districts.

"[Martin Frost's] district is especially gerrymandered on blatanly racial lines"

And you're saying that the King plan is better?? Take a look 9th district in the King plan. Or the 15th. Or the 30th. Talk about racial packing. Good lord. Martin Frost's current district is a very reasonably shaped, compact district, representing communities of interest. The district is a minority opportunity district. A plan to eliminate his district and create a new Hispanic majority district in the DFW area would probably pass the constitutional test, but the King plan doesn't come close.

As for the "egregious division" of other Republican counties. The one most frequently mentioned is Williamson County (North Austin suburbs) which is divided into two congressional districts despite a population of only 249,967. Well, I think that if Republicans were really concerned about communities of interest as opposed to partisan politics, then Williamson county could easily have its own district that John Carter would be happy to represent, and Chet Edwards would be happy to shed. Republicans in northern Williamson County complain that they're represented by Chet Edwards, but in fact, those voters are the reason that, even without redistricting, it's unlikely that Chet Edwards will make it through the decade without defeat. Without the northern Williamson County precincts added in 2002, Chet Edwards could easily (ok, maybe not easily) cruise through the next decade in congress, but because of their addition to his district, he'll be a top target every two years.

Anyway, TX Pundit, I enjoy reading your site, and your comments, but this was too hard to resist. By the way, you ought to add comments to your site. I see that you wrote about me last week...

Posted at 02:13 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (5)

June 21, 2003

Redistricting Politics

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman writes of the upcoming redistricting battle. The Republicans in the legislature say that they don't want Tom DeLay to draw the maps, but DeLay's aide, Jim Ellis helped draw the proposed map during the regular session, and he's going to be back for the special session. Meanwhile, it suggests that Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) could be bought off by the Republicans. Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) who was the author of the DeLay Redistricting proposal, still can't understand why the people of Travis County wouldn't want to be represented by two San Antonio Republicans, a Hidalgo County Democrat and another Republican from somewhere in an ugly district including Austin suburbs, Houston suburbs and a lot of land stretching towards the Gulf Coast at Aransas Pass. However, King might just get it now, as he thinks that it might only be necessary to divide Travis County into three districts. Surely, these people don't actually want Lloyd Doggett to represent them!?!

"My thought was you are getting four votes for Travis County in Congress," King said. "I think the local residents made it abundantly clear they don't want that." Travis County residents had some legitimate concerns about his map, King said, but it may still be necessary to cut the county into three districts.

Lord. Some people are bad liars. Or just stupid. Maybe a little bit of both.

Posted at 02:12 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1)

Open Letter from Doggett and Barrientos

By Byron LaMasters

Thank you for your tremendous efforts over the last several months to fight Tom Delay's redistricting plans. Your actions not only inspired Texas Legislators, but citizens from around the state who weren't able to make their voices heard during the last session. The Republican Party is doing everything within their power to cut the guts out of Travis County and the Democratic party. We must continue to stand and fight for what we believe or face 15 to 20 years of Republican’s rule.

We understand that everyone is anxious to get back to the fight to stop the newest redistricting efforts. We will need to rally our troops again, and prepare to fight another round of the Republican Party forcing the issue of redistricting. While some have suggested that Austinites might attend hearings in other cities around the state, we would urge you to conserve your energy for the big fight the week of the special session that begins June 30th. We will need every activist and volunteer that we can find to participate in events at the Capitol during the special session, whether it lasts a week or 30 days, and lobby against this redistricting effort. These efforts could include everything from testifying before committee’s, mail and phone campaigns and rally’s where needed.Plans are being developed, and tasks will be distributed shortly to all those who want to help. In the meantime, please begin setting up your network of colleagues, friends and family who woul d be willing to help. You will hear from us shortly on how you can make the most impact during this battle for our state's future.


Congressman Lloyd Doggett State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos

Posted at 01:53 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on Tom DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

Regarding the Texas Monthly Best / Worst list from today's Austin American Statesman, here.

Posted at 02:32 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legislative Black Caucus Chair Opposes Redistricting Session

By Byron LaMasters

This press release was released today from the office of State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont). Deshotel is the chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Redistricting was decided two years ago. Texas newspapers, its voters – even the Republican leadership itself – believed a decision was reached fairly through the courts – an impartial and neutral institution. This upcoming $2 million meeting is a partisan and divisive attack on Texas. There is no emergency. There is no compelling reason to redistrict except that partisan politicians in Washington, DC, demand an outcome to their liking.

Posted at 02:30 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 20, 2003

Redistricting Columns

By Byron LaMasters

From today's Dallas Morning News

U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (D-Arlington) - here

Texas Republican Party Chair Susan Weddington - here

Posted at 04:01 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Our Fearless Leader, Rick Perry, Part 2

By Byron LaMasters

"when Tom DeLay told Perry, as he often does, "Jump." And Perry, as usual, asked, 'How high?'"

Here's what John Kelso says what Rick Perry's daily schedule during redistricting will be. From his column in the Austin American Statesman:

A lot of people may figure Perry won't have much to do during the special session that will start June 30 because lawmakers will be focusing on legislative redistricting, so that Republicans can grab more U.S. House seats, as well as dealing with the budget.

But it's not true that Perry won't have a busy schedule. We've managed to get a copy of the chores list DeLay has presented for Perry during the session. Here's part of it.

Perry, by the way, has to perform this stuff while dressed in a cute little butler's outfit.

7 a.m. — Practice bowing, scraping and genuflecting.

7:30 a.m. — Polish Tom DeLay's loafers, press his shirts and help him with his coat and tie.

7:36 a.m. — Walk Tom DeLay's dog.

7:38 a.m. — Walk Tom DeLay.

7:42 a.m. — Light Tom DeLay's cigar and fluff Tom DeLay's pillows.

7:44 a.m. — Fluff Tom DeLay's ego.

7:46 a.m. — Make coffee for Tom DeLay, and ask, "Would you like cream and sugar with that, Mr. DeLay? How about a muffin, Mr. DeLay? Is there anything at all I can get for you, Mr. DeLay? How about a couple of cartwheels or a handstand, while we're at it, Mr. DeLay?"

7:49 a.m. — Hand-wash, polish and wax Tom DeLay's car.

8:10 a.m. — Resume practicing bowing, scraping and genuflecting.

Posted at 10:53 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3)

Editorials Slam Redistricting Session

By Byron LaMasters

Today's Austin American Statesman editorial:

In a terse -- amusing, but nonetheless terse -- letter, the governor set in a motion a rancorous session, the bitter fruit of which will be a lawsuit.

"I believe duly elected officials, not federal judges, should be responsible for drawing district lines," Perry wrote. We couldn't agree more, but we're amused that Perry is willfully ignoring history, recent and otherwise.

Redistricting is a magnet for lawsuits. Federal judges over the past 30 years have had to take charge of the mapping chores.


In such raw exercises of political power, however, the first interests to be sacrificed are those of the noncombatants, those Texans who have no direct stake in which party predominates but always get stuck with the bill for the muscle-flexing exhibition.

So pull up a chair on June 30 and enjoy the session. You're paying about $1.7 million for it.

Today's Dallas Morning News editorial also encourages raising revenues to balance the budget:

If Texas is going to have a special session on redistricting – which is a lousy idea, unless you enjoy watching political bloodbaths destroy carefully nurtured working relationships – then GOP Gov. Perry should put the budget in that session as well. And legislators should do the budget right this time.

Today's San Antonio Express-News editorial opposes redistricting, but is also critical of Democrats past manuvers in redrawing congressional lines.

Posted at 02:06 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 19, 2003

Sen. Eddie Lucio

By Byron LaMasters

Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) is a swing vote in the upcoming redistricting debate. He suffered a heart attack yesterday. More on his condition, here.

Posted at 07:13 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Redistricting Poll

By Byron LaMasters


Posted at 05:48 PM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dewhurst to use two-thirds rule

By Byron LaMasters

More evidence that Dewhurst will keep the two-thirds rule, that would require 21 votes to bring up re-redistricting. From the Dallas Morning News:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican who has been cool to the governor's plan to take up the divisive measure, plans to keep in place a Senate rule requiring a two-thirds vote to take up a bill because of its long-standing tradition.

"He's going to keep it," said David Beckwith, his spokesman. "It will be a challenge to get the votes, but he said if a good map comes from the House, he thinks the Senate will pass it."

Dewhurst still might be pressured to drop the two-thirds rule, but at this point, he plans to use it.

So what can Dems in the Senate do? Here's one idea:

With the two-thirds rule in place, Republicans will have to win over two Democrats to bring a redistricting bill up for debate.

"Eleven senators could sign a letter and put an end to this thing before it starts," said Ed Sills, a spokesman for the Texas AFL-CIO, which as a labor organization has supported efforts to defend Democratic seats.

Posted at 11:30 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1)

Our Fearless Leader, Rick Perry

By Byron LaMasters

Today's Houston Chronicle cartoon:

Posted at 03:39 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Houston Chronicle on Special Session

By Byron LaMasters

This is today's editorial in the Houston Chronicle:

WRONG PRIORITY Special session on redistricting wasteful, divisive Many Texans, particularly conservatives, resent the meddling of Washington politicians in matters that are clearly the state's business. Gov. Rick Perry, however, is not among them.

An attempt to pass a congressional redistricting plan demanded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land disrupted the Legislature's regular session. Rather than see an unreasonable and destructive plan become law, many Democrats in the Texas House decamped to Oklahoma, breaking a quorum. Subsequent excesses by state police and Republican leaders in Austin and Washington served to confirm their unreasoning intent and widen the partisan divide.

Now the governor has called a special session, to begin June 30, in a second attempt to do Congressman DeLay's will and slight the interests of all Texans of both parties.

The reasons against redistricting more than once every 10 years have been frequently and laboriously recounted:

· Redistricting this year would needlessly confuse voters thrown into new districts and confronted with unfamiliar candidates.

· It would set a precedent for disruptive redistricting any time control of the Legislature changed hands.

· A special session will cost taxpayers $1.7 million that could be better spent on health care for children or some other vital need shortchanged in the budget the Legislature just adopted.

· The plan DeLay wishes to impose would carve up the state into grotesquely shaped, absurdly elongated districts that would not reflect community and regional interests. Many Texans, both urban and rural, would be deprived of adequate representation and the opportunity to send one of their neighbors to Washington.

Perry said he is confident that Republicans and Democrats can work together to draw a map that is fair, compact and reflects community interests. If that is true, why did Perry try to pass a redistricting scheme that was none of those things?

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, like all other statewide officeholders a Republican, deserves credit for his commitment to let Democrats in the Senate have a voice in shaping state policy. Dewhurst says he will observe the Senate's tradition of allowing any 12 senators to block legislation they deem unacceptable, a rule that encourages some semblance of healthy consensus and prevents a single faction from railroading harmful legislation.

Although Texas is a heavily Republican state, and the current district lines favor Republican chances, the Texas congressional delegation has 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. This counterintuitive result can be attributed to this phenomenon: Some long-serving Democratic incumbents enjoy widespread support among their Republican constituents.

Given the polls showing most Texans satisfied with their representative in Congress, the governor is wrong to call a special session on redistricting. Texas faces many difficult challenges -- school finance and overhaul of the tax system are the most pressing -- that should take precedence.

Posted at 03:34 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reaction from the Senate

By Byron LaMasters

While the Texas House will probably quickly pass a re-redistricting plan on a near part line vote, the Texas Senate is more unpredictable. The Austin American Statesman reports what some of the senators are saying about redistricting.

State Sen. Bill Ratliff (R- Mount Pleasant):

Underscoring the stakes, White House political adviser Karl Rove called a key Republican senator, Bill Ratliff, on Tuesday.

"He was not advocating any particular plan, but he thought there ought to be redistricting to more closely reflect the voting patterns of the state," Ratliff said Wednesday.

Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, said Rove asked whether a reasonable plan could pass the Legislature.

"I told him I would have to see the plan and that it would depend on whose interpretation of 'reasonable' he was using," Ratliff said

Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine):

Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, said he was pleased that the governor made redrawing the congressional map the primary reason for calling the session instead of disguising it with other topics.

"We need to be straightforward about it," Staples said.

Senate Democratic Leader Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin):

"It will be up to each individual member to know who they are, where they come from and what it means to be a Democrat," said Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio):

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a San Antonio Republican who represents a portion of South Austin, said he believes that the Legislature should consider a new congressional map. But he said he objected to how the House proposed cutting up Travis County last month.

He said lawmakers should draw maps with compact districts that keep communities together.

"If we follow those guidelines, we will have a good map," he said, "but it won't shred Travis County."

Posted at 03:26 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

McNeely: Blatant Partisanship

By Byron LaMasters

David McNeely's column in today's Austin American Stateman expresses some degree of surprise with the "blatantly partisan" nature of the way in which Gov. Perry announced the redistricting session:

Perry's call for a June 30 special session on congressional redistricting, at U.S. House Majority Leader DeLay's behest and in the face of editorials against it in virtually every Texas newspaper, is the most blatantly partisan act of Republican Perry's governorship.

Some thought he would at least veil his intention, calling the session on something else and adding redistricting.

"But why put lipstick on the pig?" one unsurprised observer said. "They've either got the votes or think they can pressure them better here than when they're scattered around the state."

Even more blatant is Perry's hint that he might open the session to consider funding for a border academic health center in El Paso.

The health center is a major life's work of Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, who has been wavering on whether to help provide the two-thirds vote needed to bring up a bill for consideration in the 31-member Senate. Lucio, who earlier said he might vote to bring it up, recently said he won't.

Though Lucio had been thought susceptible to the bait of a district that he could possibly win, he'd have to risk his Senate tenure to do so, since he drew a two-year term after redistricting in 2001. He couldn't run for Congress next year without quitting the Senate.

Recently, Lucio's been saying he plans to seek re-election.

As we see, the wheeling and dealing has begun... and Eddie Lucio is the number one target.

Posted at 03:17 AM to Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

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