July 06, 2003
Weekend's over, time for redistricting again

OK, as the joke goes, "Break's over, back on your head".

The House Calendars Committee has voted to send the latest redistricting map (which you can see here, though you'll need IE to do it - it didn't render in Mozilla on my PC) to the floor for debate and a vote. The new map was presented on Saturday by Rep. Kent Grusendorf (R, Arlington) and approved by the redistricting committee on the same day, though not without more controversy:

Republican Committee Chairman Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, and [Rep. Richard] Raymond [D, Laredo] argued in a dispute over whether to continue discussion of the map or to take a vote.

Crabb recognized another committee member, Grusendorf, who asked for a vote. Raymond asked Crabb to continue discussion, but the committee clerk proceeded to take the vote.

"The rules do not allow you to overlook me just because I'm Hispanic," Raymond said to Crabb.

After the committee adjourned, Crabb departed without commenting to reporters.

Raymond said he believes that Crabb not recognizing him for continued discussion could be a possible point of order a parliamentary move that could stall passage of the plan on the House floor.

"This is probably going to be subject to a point of order as a result of that. The videotape (of the committee meeting) will show that I asked to be recognized before the vote was taken," Raymond said.

Raymond's point of order, if successful, would just be a speed bump. Any real delays may cause problems for the rest of the session's agenda, but this item will live or die based on what happens in the Senate.

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.

While I can see Ratliff or Averitt voting against this map, I have a harder time believing either would vote against bringing it to the floor. Pretty much any map that makes it to the Senate floor will pass, and as we all know, the fight is over getting it there. I could see Ratliff, who declined the opportunity to run for a full term as Lt. Governor and who has already been personally lobbied by Karl Rove, bucking his party on a vote to bring this to the floor, since he doesn't seem to want anything they could give or deny him. I don't know enough about Averitt to say the same, but it seems to me he could satisfy both his party and his constituents by voting to bring the bill to the floor, then voting against its passage.

All this may be meanigless anyway, since the Senate plans to debate its own maps. Ken Armbrister (D, Victoria) has promised one, and I'll bet that Jeff Wentworth (R, San Antonio), who sponsored the failed Senate map in 2001, will have one as well.

As for what this map does, it seems that Martin Frost, Lloyd Doggett, Gene Green, and Chris Bell (who gets Tom DeLay's unwanted black Precinct 2 voters this time, instead of Sheila Jackson Lee) would survive. Max Sandlin and Jim Turner would be moved into the same district, which one of them might win. Ralph Hall and Chet Edwards would probably be toast, while Charlie Stenholm and Nick Lampson would have a tough race. (On the plus side for Stenholm, his constituents oppose redistricting by a 2-1 margin.) Best case for the GOP is 21 seats, worst case (assuming one of Sandlin and Turner wins, assuming Stenholm and Lampson win - and I wouldn't count either of them out - and assuming Henry Bonilla loses his 23rd CD seat) is 17 seats, with 19 or 20 being the likely result. Byron suggests 20 or 21 seats for the GOP.

Just for fun, though, here's an interesting scenario for you. Galveston County shifts from the 9th CD to the 22nd under this plan. Though the county voted mostly Republican in 2002, Nick Lampson carried it by a 54.2 - 44.5% margin. It would be rather interesting if Lampson moved into the new 22nd district and challenged its current incumbent, no? Like I said, just an idle thought.

Finally, the DMN has a decent article that covers why all this matters on the federal level. It also has a glaring mistake, in speaking about the Democrats the GOP wants to dislodge:

East Texans Jim Turner, Nick Lampson and Max Sandlin, whose pro-gun, anti-abortion views and small-town ties have made it hard for GOP challengers to gain traction without the boost only redistricting can provide.

Lampson scored 80% and Sandlin 70% on Planned Parenthood's Action Fund Congressional Scorecard, which I'd hardly call anti-abortion. Turner got a 33%, so his description is more accurate.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 06, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack