July 01, 2003
And they're off

Here's the full Chron report on the start of the special session. It's got a couple of choice quotes in it:

"[Redistricting is] only divisive to those who don't like to see the state of Texas have its rightful representation," [Tom] DeLay said. "Some people will do anything they can get away with in order to protect their political skins."

Man. Project much, Tom? Your shrink is holding on Line 1.

"Do I want to be here? No, I don't want to be here. Let me be very clear for those who have any hidden agendas. I do not support congressional redistricting. I would rather be back in the city of Houston," said [Sylvester] Turner.

Turner's gotta be feeling the heat from his core supporters for not going to Ardmore. On the other hand, the story notes that Garnet Coleman plans on supporting Turner's mayoral bid. That means he's probably already done some penance.

There's good news and bad news if you're looking at the Senate to hold the line:

Sometimes wavering Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, seemed to firm up his support for the Democrats on Monday, saying he would only back a plan that was approved by the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Both groups have opposed the Republican redistricting efforts.

Lucio said he believes Republicans may be about to pick up support from Democratic Sens. Frank Madla of San Antonio and Ken Armbrister of Victoria.

"They (Republicans) are probably real close to having the votes," Lucio said.

Madla said his district is 52 percent Democratic and 48 percent Republican. He said he realizes that however he votes, he could draw an election opponent.

"I have not made up my mind. I'm praying on this," Madla said.

Armbrister said he will introduce his own version of congressional redistricting. He said the bill will protect rural interests, something he said Republican proposals do not do.

"I've made it clear that if rural Texas is not taken care of, I don't care about R's and D's," Armbrister said.

Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant, also is undecided because Republican proposals divide his portion of Northeast Texas and put it into distant Dallas suburbs.

"I want to see what I'm voting on," Ratliff said.

Talk about who may or may not support this plan or that plan is a lot like the polls of George Bush versus an unnamed Democrat. We can spin them any way we like, but until there's an actual map to be voted on it's all hot air.

Such a map may come today:

Rep. Phil King, a Weatherford Republican who is drawing a map for the House leadership, said he expects to offer a revised map today. It was King's map that prompted the House Democrats to boycott in May. U.S. Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, initiated the map and is expected to play a behind-the-scenes role during the special session.

King promised changes. Instead of splitting Travis County into four districts, King said, he expects the county to share two or three districts.

"I really think when everyone looks at it, you'll say, 'Oh, that's not so bad,' " King told the House Redistricting Committee.

He said his goal is to increase Republicans' share of the congressional delegation by four, five or six additional seats.

King said his new map has been delayed because he is trying to determine the impact of last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision on minority voting rights and weighing the results of public hearings. He also said there are many politicians and special interests to satisfy.

"Believe me, I'm getting phone calls from House members, Texas House members, congressional members and about half of the other people in the state," King said.

I have no sympathy for Phil King, but I still wouldn't want to be in his shoes. No matter what happens, there will be people pissed at him. If he's lucky, it'll be mostly Democrats. King will have some company - in addition to Sen. Armbrister, Rep. Diane Delisi (R, Temple) plans to file a redistricting plan.

In related news, the Austin grand jury has nobilled DPS for its document-shredding extravaganza. Lesson learned: Always destroy the evidence!

Josh Marshall notes the national coverage, namely this WaPo editorial which criticizes the special session and condemns Homeland Security's internal investigation of its dealings with DPS as a sham, and this NYT article, which features the usual frothing quotes from the vile Grover Norquist. Here's one to chew on:

The Republican lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate and is considered the most powerful official in the state, has signaled his intention to honor the two-thirds vote requirement, and says he fully expects to obtain the 21 needed votes for redistricting.

But Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, who has cultivated a reputation for consensus-building, has not flatly rejected the idea of bypassing the two-thirds requirement in favor of a simple majority.

From Washington, at least, Republican partisans say they are confident that Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, if pressured, will do the right thing for his party if it falls short of 21 votes. "The whole world is watching," said Mr. Norquist. "He can't possibly screw up."

Nice to know that redistricting will be purely a state legislative matter, right?

Last but not least, the so-called "Death Star" government reorganization bill is now also on the agenda for this session. Frankly, if I'm a Democratic legislator, I'd be at least as frightened of giving more power to Rick Perry as I am of redrawing Congressional boundaries. Will any of them see it that way? Given than Rodney Ellis filed the bill, I doubt it.

UPDATE: There are now 28 more items on the agenda, all having to do with government reorganization. Via Burnt Orange.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 01, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Charles, where is Madla coming from with his 52-48 numbers?

Madla said his district is 52 percent Democratic and 48 percent Republican. He said he realizes that however he votes, he could draw an election opponent.

I just don't see it. I took a look at Madla's Senate webpage where the 2002 election numbers are stored, and its a district that Kirk carried with 57%, Sanchez with 56.5%, Sharp with 61%, Watson with 56.5%, Bernsen with 59%, Yanez with 60%, Mirabal with 61%, etc. Even Tom Ramsay won it with 52% and the only Republican to win the district was Strayhorn with 51.5%.

What Dems ought to do is get someone to publically state their intent to challenge him in his next primary if he votes with Republicans.. how about Pete Gallegos or one of the San Antonio reps...

Posted by: ByronUT on July 1, 2003 7:13 PM

Good question, Byron. I have no answer for that. Perhaps someone ought to ask Sen. Madla where he got those numbers from.

May I suggest Henry Cuellar as a primary opponent if Madla screws us?

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 1, 2003 10:03 PM