The tour, financed by the Internet-based liberal activist group MoveOn.org, will complement the organization's radio, TV and newspaper ads. MoveOn.org will spend about $1 million on the campaign — money raised in one week from an Internet appeal sent to the group's 1.6 million members, said Zack Exley, director of the MoveOn.org political action committee.
Exley said at least one of the boycotting Texas senators will travel to each city on the tour, using his or her marquee appeal to rally Democrats and tell a new crop of reporters that Texas redistricting is a power grab sanctioned by President Bush and quarterbacked by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.
The ads and tour will focus on states important to the 2004 presidential election, particularly those with cities that have large Latino populations, including Phoenix, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, Exley said.
The senators will carry the message that GOP-led redistricting efforts would disenfranchise 1.4 million minority voters by packing African Americans and Hispanics into a handful of districts or by moving minority communities into districts "where they would have no effective voice," said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.
At a news conference on the Senate floor, the Houston Democrat said his colleagues had asked him to join them on a national tour before he left New Mexico earlier this week. He said he turned them down.
"That's not what I was elected to do," he said "It's a mistake. We should put Texas first."
As far as attacking the president, he said: "George Bush is probably the most popular Texan today."
Whitmire said those attacks would make it more difficult for the Senate Democrats to work with their Republican colleagues when they return.
If you're interested in hearing Whitmire speak about his decision to return, this streaming video is what you're looking for. Over at the BOR, they're split on Whitmire's decision, with Andrew accepting it and Byron rejecting it.
For a different view on the Texas 11 holdout, check out this Daily Show clip, in which Sens. Van de Putte and Ellis get interviewed by Steven Colbert. Hilarious!
Finally, as also noted by Byron, read this article about Lauren Kasprzak, a former assistant clerk to State Rep. Jow Crabb (R, Atascocita), the chair of the House Redistricting Committee. Kasprzak quit in disgust and sent Crabb a letter outlining her reasons after realizing what an utter nutball her boss is and what a total sham the public hearings on redistricting were. Here's a taste:
"The process that we went through during the regular session was a joke," she said in the letter. "The public was excluded in any real decision calculus of the committee. Sure, we held public hearings... on a plan that we never intended to go to the floor.
"And then we introduced the new plan... while someone was writing the other map that we actually intended to be voted out of the committee in a back room," she wrote.
She and her parents are Crabb's constituents. Lauren says her parents are Republican. She now calls herself an independent.
Earlier this summer, hundreds of people lined up to testify on a redistricting plan that Crabb knew was a sham, she says. The hearing lasted all night. People hung around to 4 a.m. ... 5 a.m. .. 6 a.m. to testify on a phony plan, unaware that backroom architects were drawing the real plan.
"They wasted the people's time. ... You have to honest with the public," she says. "You are changing their lives as well as other politicians' lives. There should be openness and honesty."
It would be appropriate at this point to share Crabb's perspective and his response.
But a meeting this week in his Capitol office didn't go very well. Crabb interrupted before any question about the letter and other observations by his former employee.
"What you are doing is evil. Leave my office," Crabb, an ordained minister, said while booting this reporter into the Capitol corridor.