August 05, 2003
The long and winding road

Took a day off from obsessing about redistricting yesterday. There really isn't much to report, and barring either legal action or a sudden turnaround by one side or the other I don't expect there will be anytime soon. Byron had you covered, with posts about El Paso Dems in ABQ, a weekend wrapup, and another trip to ABQ by UT students.

On to today's news. As noted, both sides appear to be unwilling to back down at this point.

"I don't think our 11 colleagues are in a position to ask for anything," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told reporters Monday. "They have broken the Texas Constitution. They need to come back. They were elected to do a job. Come back and do it."

Dewhurst was responding to questions about whether he would consider reinstating the Senate practice of requiring 21 senators, or two-thirds of the membership, to agree before any action is brought to the chamber floor for debate.


"To quote John Paul Jones, 'We've only begun to fight,' " said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, slightly altering the Revolutionary War hero's declaration. "We're strong, we're determined and we've been reinvigorated by the overwhelming support that we have received from the public in telling us that we are doing the right thing for all of Texas."

The article also notes that there is some resolution in the earlier court case regarding DPS:

On Monday, state District Judge Charles Campbell formally entered his ruling that DPS troopers cannot be used to apprehend missing House members. The ruling does not extend to the missing senators, but Dewhurst has said he has no plan to send DPS troopers to bring back the Democrats.

Meaning again that they'll be in Albuquerque until they no longer feel the need to be.

The renegade Senators are calling on colleagues to listen to their constituents about redistricting.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said 90 percent of the testimony in hearings around the state last month opposed redistricting.

"I'm telling you, Waco said 'No.' San Angelo said 'No.' Lubbock said 'No,' " Gallegos said.


Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, urged fellow senators in Austin to return to their districts and listen to what their constituents have to say about the issue.

At a news conference in Albuquerque, the senators said Republican state Sens. Robert Duncan of Lubbock and Kip Averitt of Waco should join them because of citizen opposition in their districts to redistricting.

"Where are those senators who need to be representing their constituents?" Gallegos asked.

Duncan's constituents oppose a redistricting plan passed by the state House that would put Lubbock in the same district as Abilene to create a congressional district that would be dominated by Midland. That plan is supported by state House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland.

Lubbock now dominates a district that includes Midland. About 30 West Texas officials met with Duncan and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last month to oppose any major change in the district.

"I figure we will eventually work out those issues in West Texas, and an overall map is the objective," Duncan said Monday.

Averitt said redistricting is a delicate issue in his district, but not one that would motivate him to go to New Mexico.

"There are a lot of people in my district who don't want to do redistricting," he said. "But for the most part, the Republican folks would see a benefit in sending President Bush reinforcements, people who are working with his program rather than against it."

Averitt said people in his district oppose the state House plan that divides McLennan County from other neighboring counties in the district now held by U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco. A Senate proposal keeps McLennan County and its neighboring counties together.

"This transcends Chet Edwards. This transcends the Republican Party," Averitt said. "What they don't want is a congressperson from Tarrant or Brazos or Williamson county."

State GOP leaders will be on the air today, talking to various radio show hosts, while the family of Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos has announced that there will be a rally 11:30 a.m. Saturday on the south steps of the Capitol.

Over in the House, Rep. Phil King, whose redistricting bill was passed by that chamber in each of the two special sessions so far, has officially filed a bill that would allow the Secretary of State to postpone the deadline for candidates to file for primary elections.

Like other legislation, it can go nowhere unless the senators return.

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said it's meant as insurance in case Democrats simply delay passage of a congressional redistricting plan.

Even if a bill is passed, it must be federally reviewed to ensure it doesn't violate the Voting Rights Act. In addition, it is likely to be challenged in court.

"I had been told that one of the Democrat strategies was to try to continue to back this thing up through different delay tactics ... so it couldn't get through in time for the filing deadline," King said.

"It just gives us some flexibility to not let someone take advantage of the system."

King said the measure was his idea but that he "ran it by the governor's office and by the speaker to make sure it was OK with them."

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said of the bill, "That means they're worried."

On a side note, the state GOP is going after a member of its Executive Committee for allegedly leaking embarrassing statements to the press.

Thomas Whaley of Marshall, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, has been instructed to appear before high-ranking GOP officials to answer allegations that he let non-SREC members listen in on party conference calls on April 7 and May 13.

He also has been given the option of resigning.

In the first call, later reported in the Chronicle, Texas GOP Chairwoman Susan Weddington downplayed the effects on the needy of state budget cuts advocated by the party. Many low-income Texans, she said, could purchase their own health insurance and "maybe have a little less disposable income or a little less inheritance from Mom and Dad."

The second call, also reported in the Chronicle, took place after more than 50 Democratic members of the Texas House had fled to Ardmore, Okla., to kill a congressional redistricting bill during the regular legislative session.

During that call, Weddington told SREC members that she was deliberately using language in public statements that suggested the runaway Democrats were guilty of "criminal wrongdoing," although she acknowledged that their quorum-busting act wasn't criminal.

The Chronicle reported both stories after obtaining tape recordings of the calls.

Now why would he do that? Well, here's a possible reason:

The businessman and longtime financial contributor to Republican candidates is holding his first party office. He was elected to the SREC at the state party convention in June 2002, defeating a candidate favored by the social conservatives who control the party hierarchy.

Any of my Republican friends want to comment on this?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 05, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack