August 26, 2003
Two down, who knows how many more to go

Today is the last day of the second special session, the fourth such session ever to end without a bill being passed. It's unclear as yet when the next session will be called, as Gov. Perry has made no announcement and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has called for a "cooling off period" first. The Democrats say they'll stay away as long as they must, and called on Dewhurst and Perry to be specific about their plans.

The Star-Telegram is now reporting a Scripps-Howard poll that the Quorum Report mentioned a few days ago. The poll shows general opposition to the Democrats' walkout, and general opposition to redrawing Congressional lines.


According to the Scripps Howard Texas Poll, 62 percent of those surveyed oppose the decision by 11 Democratic senators to leave the state in order to strip Republican leaders of the quorum necessary to conduct business. Only 29 percent said they supported it.

On the flip side, just 40 percent of those polled support redrawing congressional lines now, compared with 46 percent who expressed opposition.

[...]

Other findings in the Texas Poll:

Sixty percent of Republicans polled support redrawing congressional lines now, and 27 percent oppose it. Only 19 percent of the Democrats support it, with 68 percent against. Thirty-two percent of independents polled said they want it now, and 32 percent don't.

A whopping 89 percent of Republicans opposed the Democratic boycott, and 7 percent supported it. Sixty-two percent of Democrats supported it and 27 percent expressed opposition.

A narrow plurality, 47 percent, agreed with Perry's decision to call a special session on redistricting, compared to 44 percent who didn't. But 49 percent opposed a second special session on redistricting, and 43 percent approved.

Many of that 43 percent who expressed support for a second special session changed their minds when told it costs $1.7 million in taxpayer money: 65 percent still favored it, but 30 percent said they now did not.

Among ethnic groups, blacks were the most likely to support the walkout. Some 49 percent said they agreed with the decision, and 39 percent opposed it. Anglos opposed it 68 percent to 25 percent; 54 percent of Hispanics disagreed with the boycott, compared with 36 percent in favor.


The message I take from this is that the Democrats need to do a better job of explaining why walking out was their only viable strategy. The Republicans have obviously done a good job at getting their base to toe the line. Of course, the only opinions that really matter right now are those in the 11 Senators' districts, and there are no indications that I've seen that would indicate they have anything to worry about there.

Perhaps the million dollars raised by MoveOn to run ads in Texas and elsewhere will have an effect on public opinion. I have my doubts, since I don't think it can buy nearly enough air time to make a difference, but it probably can't hurt to try. Given the large personal cost of the boycott, I'd like to see a few of those dollars tossed at the Senate Democratic Caucus to help defray them.

Both sides are claiming victory in the aftermath of a district judge dismissing a case that everyone apparently wanted dismissed.


In an example of the legal quicksand surrounding the standoff, lawyers argued for two hours Monday in state district court in Austin over the dismissal of a lawsuit that both sides agreed should be dismissed.

District Judge Darlene Byrne finally ended what she called the "ping pong" match and handed down the dismissal sought by both parties, leading both sides to declare they'd won a significant victory.

Democrats had sought to bar authorities from forcibly returning them to the Capitol and challenged Mr. Perry's authority to call a special session for redistricting. Republicans had countersued, asking for a court order to compel the senators' return. Ultimately, both sides agreed that the state judge should dismiss the case while each side pursues the matter on other fronts.

With that decision, attention will shift to Laredo. The Democratic senators hope that they can persuade a judge to empower a three-judge panel to determine whether the removal of the two-thirds rule violates the voting rights of minorities.


The federal lawsuit in Laredo, which should have some sort of ruling by tomorrow, will clear things up a bit. Or not. That's just how it's been lately.

Finally, some misdirection from Sen. Jeff Wentworth:


Wentworth says he tried to reason with his San Antonio colleague, Democratic Caucus Chair Leticia Van de Putte, before Gov. Rick Perry called the current special session and the Democrats left for Albuquerque. "I told her I had 201/2 senators willing to vote for my fair map," Wentworth recalled -- a number that included Republican Bill Ratliff, Democrat Ken Armbrister, and "almost" one more Democrat. "She said she couldn't accept a fair map because, she said, 'I have to give my guys a win.'" Wentworth insists that his map could have prevailed against the less-fair proposals already adopted by the House and Senate. "My concern is that a fair and balanced map may not be on the table when [the Democrats] return."

I'd really like to believe Sen. Wentworth. Unfortunately, the problem with his premise is that his "fair" map wasn't approved by the redistricting committee. Sen. Staples' map was. I never read any story that indicated his map was ever even up for consideration by the committee. There's also no evidence that I'm aware of that indicates his map would have been approved by the House, mostly because it was never up for consideration in the House. If David Dewhurst were to stump for Wentworth's map, then he'd have a case. Until then, he's kidding himself.

UPDATE: This is curious. The Star-Telegram said "Thirty-two percent of independents polled said they want it [redrawing congressional lines] now, and 32 percent don't", but this graphic in the Chron shows independents saying "No" to that question by a 53-32 margin. I'm not sure what accounts for the difference.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 26, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack
Comments

62 percent opposition to the walkout is general opposition, and 46 percent opposition to redistricting is general opposition?

Is this the "new math" that so many of my conservative brethren used to decry? :)

Posted by: Kevin Whited on August 27, 2003 8:08 AM

It's still a plurality, and a larger plurality opposed the second special session. Throw in the 30% of the supporters who change their minds when told of the cost, and over 60% opposed the second special session (30% of 43% is about 13%, which when added to the 49% who already opposed gives you...62%).

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 27, 2003 10:11 AM

Crunching the numbers from the Chron's graphic (http://www.chron.com/content/news/photos/03/08/26/graphics/txpoll.), if 53% of independents, 27% of Repubs and 68% of Democrats oppose redistricting, that equates to 41.5% of voters opposed overall. That is LESS than the 46% opposed indicated in the upper panel.

If only 32% of independents opposed redistricting, it would mean only 33.5% oppose redistricting, thus in even greater disagreement with the stats in the upper part of the graphic. Note that in either case, it appears only 35.4% of voters support redistricting, compared to the 40% quoted in the upper figure.

Therefore I suspect that the 32-32 quoted in the Star-Telegram's article is a misprint, but that there must be still more errors in the graphic/article/poll than that. I grant that the questions in the two panels do not appear to be exactly the same (note the "now" in the lower panel), but the questions are not provided verbatim anywhere that I could find.

Posted by: Tibor Roberts on August 27, 2003 10:21 AM

Tibor - There's still 11% of voters unaccounted for, since the breakdown was 36% R, 25% D, and 28% I, which adds up to 89%. Don't know who they are, but they must be the other 11%. Taking your math into account (which I agree with), 40% of those folks would have to oppose redistricting to make the grand total add up to 46%.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 27, 2003 10:47 AM