December 04, 2003
They've got boundary issues

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.

It's still a dice roll from a candidate's perspective, since the filing deadline for Congress is January 16, and no one can say when the final word will be handed down from on high. Some of them can't wait to jump in where they think they belong.

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.

Well, on the bright side, at least Big Time Dick's location will be temporarily disclosed. Assuming he isn't beamed into the fundraiser by satellite, anyway.

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.

The possibility of Jim Turner running for Governor or the Senate had Greg all atwitter when it was first mentioned. He'd be a great candidate, but I'd be a little worried about him being out of the public eye for two years before running. All that said, I'd still rather have him in Congress, at least until a suitable Dem can run for the seat he'd be abandoning.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 04, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Can any Democrat win in Texas right now?

It's a question worth asking. John Sharp couldn't even beat David Dewhurst. And while Dewhurst spent a ton of money on the race, he also started with little name id.

Sharp is a moderate Dem who everyone liked, even got some GOP endorsements, had a successful record in statewide office, was wellknown statewide...and he still lost.

Ron Kirk was also a great candidate. If I weren't such a Republican, I might've voted for him.

Even though it was way downballot, few Republicans liked now- Texas Supreme Court Justice Smith. I refused to vote for him.

Turner, like Edwards and Stenholm, are moderate Dems. They might have a chance statewide. But it'd be awful tough for them.

Posted by: Another Rice Grad on December 5, 2003 3:28 AM

Right now? Unlikely. But soon, sooner than you think, very likely. See here for an excerpt from an analysis by a Republican on future voting trends. 2006 may still be too early, but the day is coming.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 5, 2003 9:04 AM

Whether 2006 is winnable at some level or not, the aim at this point should be in regaining trust with voters lost over time. On that front, someone's got to basically step into the void and start doing that grunt work. The appeal for a potential candidate is this: if you win, chances are, you will be at the forefront of helping to remake the party in your image. The odds are longer than normal at getting to that point, but the payoff is going to appeal to someone.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on December 5, 2003 2:45 PM

They day may be coming, but it's not at least until 2010, I think.

Legislatively: It took how many years for Republicans to take power in Texas? I'd imagine that it'll take a similarly long time for Democrats. We've managed to undo your gerrymander with our gerrymander.

Posted by: Another Rice Grad on December 6, 2003 12:51 AM