October 02, 2003
Sniping and griping

If there's a more beautiful sound right now than Republicans sniping and griping at each other over a new Congressional map, I don't know what it is. Governor Perry's self-imposed deadline of Wednesday has come and gone, and the joint committee is no closer to approving a new map than they were when they started. Here's a taste, from the Statesman:

For now, however, Senate and House negotiators seem focused on West Texas.

Sen. Todd Staples complained that the narrow focus is detrimental to the rest of the map.

That's why Staples, R-Palestine, and Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, jumped on what they considered a compromise on West Texas. They claimed the West Texas portion of a map by Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, as a "promising advance."

"We trust this is a serious plan and not another ploy to divert attention from real progress," Staples said. "How could a top Republican leader, part of the leadership team, author a compromise for West Texas that the speaker had rejected?"

The House wasn't biting.

"I'd like to remind Senators Staples and Duncan, however, that Representative Wohlgemuth is not a member of the House Redistricting Committee, has not participated to date in the House-Senate negotiations on redistricting and did not speak to me or for me or the House in drawing her map," Craddick said.

Wohlgemuth, through a spokeswoman, said Staples and Duncan had changed her version of West Texas. She said her map was an attempt to help the counties in her district near Fort Worth and did not represent the speaker's position.

From the Express News:

[H]ardly had Sens. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, and Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, told reporters they were reluctantly accepting a House compromise map, when House Speaker Tom Craddick and the author of the House-passed measure said they hadn't offered any such thing.

"It is not a map that the speaker would support," said Bob Richter, Craddick's press secretary.

The "compromise," it turned out, was a combination of the Senate-drawn map and a map suggested by state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, one of Craddick's top lieutenants.


The senators argued that Wohlgemuth's map was identical to one favored by the Texas Republican congressional delegation, which could change the delegation to 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Currently, there are 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

"That being the case, and (Wohlgemuth) being a top member of the House leadership team, how could a top Republican leader offer a compromise on West Texas that the speaker has rejected?" Staples questioned.

But a Wohlgemuth aide countered that the legislator had no idea the senators were going to take just the West Texas part of her proposed map. It's not even the part she wanted changed.

"She had no indication they were going to take her map and graft it like they did, and she is a little surprised, needless to say," said Erica Phillips, Wohlgemuth's legislative director.


Told that Craddick had rejected their plan, the normally soft-spoken Duncan sounded exasperated.

"It would be nice to be able to negotiate, instead of this take-it-or-leave-it stance," Duncan said. "We have not been able to negotiate with the speaker, and no one else seems to have the authority to make any decision about West Texas except him."

Well, it's good to be the Queen, after all. Here's more from the Morning News:

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, swatted aside the Senate's version of an olive branch, a proposed plan his spokesman said "would not do any of the things that the speaker would want."

"They're absolutely apart" on the specifics of a plan to boost the number of Republicans in Congress, said Bob Richter, Mr. Craddick's press secretary.

Senate mapmakers, in announcing their offer of a compromise over West Texas districts, accused their House counterparts of stubbornness.

Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, the author of the Senate's map, said Mr. Craddick appears ready to block passage of any redistricting plan if he doesn't get his way on every detail of a Midland-dominated congressional district the Senate's already agreed to create.
"We believe that position is unreasonable," Mr. Staples said.

Another Senate negotiator was more harsh about the bickering between House and Senate Republicans over a final plan to boost GOP representation in Congress.

"The House has been negotiating in bad faith," said Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of McAllen, the lone Democratic senator on the House-Senate conference.

Likewise, Mr. Staples accused the speaker's office of "insensitivity" to the need for quick approval of a map.

Sing it, brothers. Meanwhile, farther down in the DMN story, we see Governor Perry exhibiting his usual level of leadership:

Last week, Mr. Perry called next Monday a "drop-dead" date for passing a bill. As his timetable appeared in jeopardy Wednesday, the governor downplayed his opposition to shifting the primary date.

"If that is what's required, then that is what's required," he said. "When we have that election is not as important as having the election" using a map drawn by elected legislators instead of the current map, which was drawn by judges, Mr. Perry said.

"Now with that said, I would rather them not have to be changing primary dates," he added.

Here's a prediction for you: If the third session ends (on October 14, if I'm counting correctly) and there's no map in hand, Perry will accept no blame for this debacle regardless of whether he calls a fourth session or not. (As it happens, I'll be in France on that date, so someone else will have to keep an eye on this for me.)

Perry alluded to deadlines that would affect the primary date. Here's the scoop from the Chron.

If a compromise is not reached among Republicans in the next several days, they likely will have to move the Texas 2004 primaries from March 2 to March 9 to be able to use a new redistricting plan.

If the debate goes beyond next week, the primaries likely would have to be moved to March 30, according to a letter by Secretary of State Geoff Connor.

While President Bush is unlikely to face a major challenge for renomination in the Republican primaries, the battle for the Democratic nomination could be held as late as March 9. But some candidate likely will have sewn the nomination up before March 30.

Hinojosa said moving the election date would have the effect of suppressing minority turnout in the Democratic primaries.

Staples said Republicans are aware that could cause problems implementing a new redistricting map under the federal Voting Rights Act.

"We know that moving election dates could possibly involve a pre-clearance issue with the Department of Justice," Staples said. "We know there would be an additional expense to moving the election date."

Here's what House map author Phil King says to that.

"I don't think the public cares whether the primary is in early March, late March, April or September," King said. "I'd rather we take our time and not rush it here in the last hour, even if it means we have to keep going for a couple of more weeks in another special session."

The Statesman has that quote as "I don't think it makes a hill of beans to 99 percent of Texans if the primary is in March, April, May, June or August", an assertion that fails the laugh test unless you believe that getting a new map done is something that 99% of Texans want to have happen before the 2004 election. I'm also willing to bet that every single county clerk in Texas wants to know as soon as possible when the primary will be, and they'll want to know who's going to pay for it if they have to hold a separate primary just for Congressional candidates. Moving the dates may or may not be an issue to Perry and his ilk, but doing so ain't free.

Finally, some muddled thinking from Karen Hughes in the Chron:

Meanwhile, presidential adviser Karen Hughes weighed in on the Texas redistricting battle. She said it would be good for Bush to erase the 17-15 majority Democrats currently hold in the state's congressional delegation.

"Our congressional delegation frequently votes in a way that is opposed to what the president supports and to what the people of Texas, polls show, support," Hughes said.

Are you saying that a state's Congressional delegation should mirror that state's support for the President? If so, then shouldn't Florida, a state whose support for Bush in 2000 was fairly evenly divided with opposition to him, have a delegation that's closely balanced between the parties, instead of the 18-7 advantage Republicans currently enjoy? Besides, "supporting the President" is not the Congress' job. Their job is to pass laws and represent their constituents' views. Those constituents who live in districts that support Bush and yet reelected Democrats either think their Congressmen already show an appropriate level of support for him, or they think other issues are more important.

"This is not as a White House official. This is not as an adviser to President Bush. This is as Karen Hughes, who lives in Texas and would like my congressional delegation to represent my views," she said.

Hughes is represented by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio.

Your Congressperson already represents your views (I presume). Everybody else's Congressperson is none of your damn business.

UPDATE: That last bit about Hughes and her Congressman is even funnier than I originally thought. I was emailed the following article from the Statesman, but I can't find the URL right now (I'm still looking). Apparently, when Hughes made this complaint, she didn't realize who her Congressman was:

She's worked at the White House, traveled the world with the president and
played politics at the highest level.

But, like many rank-and-file Americans, Karen Hughes of Austin discovered
Wednesday that she didn't know who represents her in the U.S. House.

At a news conference with Gov. Rick Perry, Hughes, an adviser to President
Bush, complained that local Democratic congressman Lloyd Doggett doesn't
adequately represent her in the House.

Hughes later determined that Doggett doesn't represent her at all.
Republican Lamar Smith of San Antonio does.

Hughes' comments about Doggett had come as she discussed the congressional
redistricting effort under way at the Texas Capitol. She sided with
Republicans trying to draw a new map that will give them a majority of the
state's 32 U.S. House seats.

"I don't believe he frequently represents my point of view, but individually
that happens," Hughes said of Doggett, who is as ideologically anti-Bush as
anyone in the House.

When Hughes got home, she pulled out her voter registration card and found
she lives in Smith's district. Doggett did represent Hughes until the
congressional maps were redrawn in 2001.

Hughes dutifully called around to correct her error.

"This is terribly embarrassing but I believe I told y'all my wrong
congressman today," she said. "I think I may be in Lamar Smith's district,
which I'm sure is a big relief because I'm sure (Doggett) didn't want to try
to represent me anyway," she said.


UPDATE: Here's the link, courtesy of Byron.

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

Shouldn't these repub smarties figured out all of this while waiting on the dems? How much momey did taxpayers spend on special sessions? What were the repubs doing? Oh yeah, fundraising. Classic.

Posted by: Mustang on October 2, 2003 10:54 AM

I finally found the link. I couldn't find it any of the normal ways... I tried all the news/metro-state/national/local/legislature sections, then I tried a search on "Karen Hughes" and "Lloyd Doggett". That didn't work. So, finally, I checked out the Lasso, and the link was there. It's here.

Posted by: ByronUT on October 2, 2003 3:52 PM

Kuff wrote:

Everybody else's Congressperson is none of your damn business.

I can't deny that this is a funny story. The one-liner I've quoted, however, is pretty harsh and, I think, just wrong. You, I, and Karen Hughes all have a legitimate interest in what the overall maps look like for Congress, the Texas House, and the Texas Senate. I'll grant you that who one's own Congressman, state rep, and state senator are is a matter of higher personal interest, but there are very real, very substantial (if indirect) effects upon each of us that flow from the way the overall composition of the Texas Congressional delegation and the Legislature shake out. Saying that's "none of my damn business," or none of Karen Hughes' — or none of yours! — is just not the case. And if it were true, nobody would bother to read what you or I are blogging about redistricting, Kuff.

Sorry to obsess over one line — it's not a big deal, and I doubt you meant it to be. As always, I not only appreciate your diligence in pulling together the press accounts, but enjoy your commentary (even when it skewers the team I'm rooting for).

Posted by: Beldar on October 3, 2003 7:48 PM

That's a good point, Beldar. What I meant was more along the lines of that it sounded to me like Hughes was criticizing the voters in other districts for not electing a Congressperson who supports the President sufficiently for her liking, and I strongly object to that. It's not her place to judge the people of Charlie Stenholm's district for electing him any more than it's my place to judge the people of Sugar Land for Tom DeLay. You're right - we all have a vested interest in who these folks do and don't vote for, but once they've done so I think we ought to accept it.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 4, 2003 1:44 PM

Addendum - Accepting that some other people have voted in someone you don't like doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't try to change their minds for next time. If that's what Hughes was trying to do, then I'll withdraw my "none of your damn business" line. If it was (as I took it) intended as "I can't understand why you morons don't do what I want you to do", then I'll stand by what I said.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 4, 2003 1:50 PM