September 02, 2003
Approaching the end?

Monday's Chronicle had an article that paints a pretty bleak picture for the Texas 11.

With almost all hope gone that state or federal courts will intervene on the Democrats' behalf, the self-exiled senators now appear to have two basic options:

Remain in New Mexico until Christmas, as some have pledged, to keep the Senate from meeting to pass the redistricting bill.

Return home and declare victory for having blocked the Republican leadership through two special legislative sessions, saving face with the claim that whatever redistricting bill passes now will be too late for use in the 2004 elections.

"Now the question is what do we do from here forward, and that's a big question," said [Sen. Mario] Gallegos.

Gallegos said he does not believe any final decisions will be made before a three-judge federal court panel hears the Democrats' voting rights lawsuit sometime in the next two weeks.

Even if that lawsuit fails, Gallegos said, there is a "magic date" sometime between mid-September and mid-October after which any redistricting bill passed by the Republican majority probably could not be used in the 2004 elections. He said the senators may have to stay out of state that long.

"That is the golden period," Gallegos said. "That's the breathing room that we're being asked to give them ... the lawyers, the congressmen, the people who support us and us, the Texas 11."

This timetable is based on the fact that any redistricting plan will require U.S. Justice Department clearance under the Voting Rights Act, and will inevitably be challenged in court.

The best they could ever do was to kill any redistricting for the 2004 elections. That remains an attainable goal, and I'll be surprised if they return to the state before a date on which they can feel confident that they've achieved that.

Interestingly, the Chron picked up that Park Cities editorial, then shot down the idea that Sen. Hutchison would challenge Governor Perry in 2006.

A Scripps Howard Texas Poll released last week showed Republicans support Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the redistricting battle, and Democrats are strongly backing the boycotting senators.

But the poll suggested that the populace as a whole is not happy with either side -- Texans oppose redistricting by a narrow margin but think the Democrats did the wrong thing by going to Albuquerque to stop it.

The same poll showed Perry's job approval rating dropped 6 percentage points since he called the first special session in June. Of those surveyed in early August, 48 percent disapproved of the job Perry is doing as governor, while 44 percent approved.

Perry said he was not worried because he tries to do "what is right" without fretting about a particular poll.

What Perry might fret about is an editorial in the Park Cities People Newspaper, a neighborhood newsletter for an affluent Republican area of Dallas that includes the home of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

"Won't you come home, Kay Bailey?" read the headline on an editorial urging Hutchison to return to Texas and challenge Perry in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary. It cites the redistricting standoff as a major cause of concern for Perry's leadership.

"The governor's political clumsiness has created a legislative crisis that leaves Texas unprepared and unarmed to fend for itself," the editorial said.

But while Perry's handling of redistricting may cause discomfort among the Republican elite, it apparently is playing well with the grass-roots members who vote in primaries. Perry received a positive job approval rating from 65 percent of the self-identified Republicans who responded to the Texas Poll.

Actually, 65% positive from Republicans seems low to me, given that President Bush regularly scores around 90% positive from Republican voters. It's still a high mountain to climb if you want to take someone on in a primary, however. I still believe that if Hutchison decides to run for Governor in 2006, Perry will run for her Senate seat, thus eliminating the primary battle anyway.

Finally, buried near the bottom of this Express News story is a note that the pro-Texas 11 ads for which MoveOn had raised a million dollars will begin running this week.

UPDATE: Ginger notes what could be a trial balloon for the Strayhorn-for-Governor campaign.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 02, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack