August 17, 2003
Time is on whose side?

The Chronicle reiterates the Democratic strategy of running out the clock.

"The clock is ticking. The end game is: At what point does the clock run out on the Republicans' ability to pass a redistricting plan and have it in place for the next elections?" said Jeff Montgomery, a Democratic pollster unaffiliated with the boycotting Democrats.

Once a redistricting bill is approved by the Legislature, it must be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act, a process that normally takes 60-90 days. The legislation also is subject to federal lawsuits under the act. When state legislative districts were redrawn in 2001, four months elapsed between the maps' adoption by the Legislative Redistricting Board and final federal court approval.

Democrats believe that if they can delay the close of this process beyond the Dec. 1 start of primary election candidate filing, a federal court will be unlikely to order the new plan used in 2004. That also will give them the chance to fight the redistricting plan all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before the 2006 elections.

Jim Ellis, a political aide to Tom DeLay and one of the early voices pushing for new boundaries back in January when Lt. Gov. Dewhurst still considered it a "contagious flu", remids us all why this fight is important:

Noting that the GOP House majority now has a margin of just 12 seats, Ellis said the Republicans want to use gains in Texas as part of a plan to build a 30-40 seat majority such as the one that allowed Democrats to control the House for almost four decades.

"When you've got those kinds of margins, it's going to take a national tide to sweep you out," Ellis said. "We're looking to build a long-term majority."

The Express-News writes about the racial aspects of the battle.

All but one of the Democratic holdouts represent districts that are at least 61 percent minority, with three of them Sens. Shapleigh, Royce West of Dallas and Eddie Lucio of Brownsville in districts that are 79 percent minority or more. Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, a Hispanic lawmaker, is the only one whose district is majority Anglo.

Each of the senators still at the Capitol serves a district that's 40 percent minority or less. Eleven of those districts are 28 percent minority or less, bottomed out by that of Sen. Craig Estes of Abilene at 16 percent.

As others have written here and elsewhere, the impact of this squabble will be felt nationally one way or another:

"It started in Florida, and it's going on in California. There seems to be a Republican need to kick Democrats out of office by something other than fair elections," said Democratic political consultant Dan McClung of Houston, referring to the 2000 presidential fight in Florida and the recall election facing California Gov. Gray Davis.

House Democratic Chairman Dunnam said that makes the Ardmore and Albuquerque walkouts worthwhile even if the Democrats ultimately suffer a legislative defeat.

"It created a national dialogue on the abuse of power that is going on," Dunnam said.

"That will have more of a lasting impact than one congressional map."


The Statesman says that regardless of the intent, the fines levied by Republican Seantors on their colleagues raise the specter of racism.

An op-ed in the Express-News slams Tom DeLay.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 17, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack