November 13, 2003
As God is my witness, I'll never redistrict again!

Well, that's not quite what Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told the Dallas Morning News, but it's pretty close.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst vowed Tuesday never to allow congressional redistricting to revisit the Texas Senate this decade, even if the freshly redrawn boundaries fail to survive legal challenges.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has told GOP leaders that the new boundaries are sound and will not buckle under legal scrutiny.

But Mr. Dewhurst, a Republican who presides over the state Senate, allowed for the possibility of defeat Tuesday in addressing the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News.

"He says it's defensible," Mr. Dewhurst said. "It's difficult for me to argue. ... I know I'm going to take some criticism of this, but if it's not defensible, we are not going to take this up again this decade."

A three-judge panel is expected to decide the legality of the map, designed to bolster Republican strength in the Texas congressional delegation by up to seven seats, by Christmas. The plan also is undergoing review by the Justice Department.

Mr. Dewhurst said Tuesday that he had preferred a safer Senate proposal over the more aggressive House approach that was adopted by the Legislature.


"I preferred the map that came out of the Senate, in which we [Republicans] would have elected the same numbers in Congress as we do in the Senate right now, 19 or 20, and not touched any of our minority districts," he said. "I think that's better public policy and, quite frankly, better politics."

Bob Richter, a spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, defended the aggressive new map.

"We feel like the map is legal and will survive in court," he said. "If it doesn't, then we will have to revisit it. If the Senate is not willing to do it, then it probably wouldn't happen."

I doubt this is buyer's remorse on Dewhurst's part, so if I were to guess I'd say he's trying to inoculate himself against criticism in the event that the new map gets shot down by the courts. It's wasn't my fault that we passed that bad old map, it was those nasty greedy Congressmen!

Mr. Dewhurst said congressional leaders played a key role in persuading state lawmakers to choose the more aggressive proposal.

"We were besieged by visits from members of Congress," he said. "We had a groundswell in the House that carried over into the Senate to go to a map favored by a lot of members in Congress."

See? It's not Dewhurst's fault! They made him do it! I'll bet those scoundrels even triple-dog dared him!

While Congressional lines may be in place one way or another until 2011, keep your eyes open for a possible attempt to redraw court jurisdiction boundaries, as this may be a backdoor effort to unseat or disarm Travis County DA Ronnie Earle.

Earle...oversees the state Public Integrity Unit and thus has the authority to prosecute state leaders for any official misconduct. This makes Earle pretty much the last Democrat in Texas with statewide power, and some Republicans -- including those in Travis Co.'s House delegation -- don't hide their desire to get him out. Past efforts to strip the Public Integrity Unit from Earle's office have been unsuccessful, if only because the efforts have been seen as retaliation for Earle's specific prosecutions of such state officials as U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Under cover of a wholesale redistricting effort, this time may be different.

Earle's office refuses comment on the possibility. Few expect [House Speaker Tom] Craddick's plan to include a gross attempt to drive Earle from office -- like pairing Travis and Williamson counties under one DA. Far more likely is that a bill that remaps judicial and prosecutor districts across the state will include a provision placing the Public Integrity Unit under the control of the Texas attorney general.

It's always something, and with another special session on school finance expected in April, an opportunity for mischief may arise. Stay tuned.

DMN link via Byron.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 13, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Wonder if he's also trying to innoculate the Senate against attempted redistricting by Dems, in the off-off-chance Dems recapture the Senate while he's still the Lite Gov? (wishful thinking on my part....)

Posted by: Jeff on November 13, 2003 8:56 PM