I mentioned that the candidate filing season has begun, and it's brought with it a lot of confusion since no one knows for sure whether the new Congressional map will be in place or not.
Some Democratic incumbents filed for office using their old district lines, which might not exist in a month. But others held off, saying they'd rather retire than fight if the state's new GOP-drawn map survives a federal trial that opens next week.
Rival Republicans, unable to declare for the new districts until the court makes a decision, went ahead and campaigned in the districts they hope to represent.
"We are a little over four months away from the primary election, and no one can say what the congressional lines will be," Charles Soechting, state Democratic chairman, said of the March 9 primary. "This will create confusion and frustration among the voters."
Secretary of State Geoff Connor, the state's top election officer, said he considered the situation pretty clear. "Right now we have old lines. And we're going to have those old lines until the federal court and Justice Department say we have new lines," Mr. Connor said.
As filing began Wednesday, nowhere was the conflict over what lines to observe more acute than in Abilene. Aides to freshman Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, were preparing for a visit Friday from Vice President Dick Cheney that will help raise $150,000.
Abilene is the hometown of Rep. Charlie Stenholm, one of the seven or eight senior Democrats targeted by the new GOP map. He filed for re-election Wednesday in his current district and was fuming that Mr. Neugebauer – his probable opponent under the new map – would poach so brazenly on his turf.
"It is highly unusual to have as high-profile a fund-raiser in a district that is not even yours," Mr. Stenholm said, especially in light of the tab to taxpayers when the vice president travels. "I don't think it's going to go over too well in West Texas."
Mr. Neugebauer's chief of staff, Anthony Hulen, defended the site. "According to the new map it's as much our territory as it is his," he said.
Some fence-sitting from veteran Democrats:
Rep. Ralph Hall, D-Rockwall, the oldest member of the House at age 80, had said he would discuss his future with family at Thanksgiving. Spokeswoman Janet Perry Poppleton said Mr. Hall decided to keep his options open. "He feels like he should weigh all factors," she said. "He normally does not file until the very end anyhow."
Rep. Jim Turner, D-Crockett, also decided to await the court ruling. Spokesman Andrew Blotky said he "definitely looks forward to the opportunity to continue representing the district." But the new version of the 2nd District is so Republican that he would probably leave Congress, with an eye toward seeking statewide office in 2006.
In the 1st District, a spokeswoman for Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall, said the congressman would file within soon for re-election, though the new map cuts his chances dramatically.