January 07, 2004
Ruling roundup

So the court has ruled (incorrectly, in my opinion, but they didn't ask me) to uphold the godawful new Congressional map. There will be an appeal to the Supreme Court, but frankly I'll be surprised if they even bother to hear it. The new map is reality and we may as well get used to it.

Newspaper coverage of the ruling was fairly similar across the board. You can find them here, here, here, here, and here. The ruling itself is here (PDF). Beldar has waded through most of it already and picked out the key points. In short, all three judges rejected the plaintiffs' claims, Judge Ward would have left the old map in place this year and required the Lege to redo CD 23, Republicans rejoiced and Democrats cried foul. The one bit I want to quote is this statement from Attorney General Greg Abbott, taken from the Statesman article:

"I think that when minorities learn . . . the real facts and the law about how their voting rights have been protected and about how there are new potential electoral opportunities for minorities, I think you will find minorities of all kinds in the state of Texas will be very appreciative for what the Texas Legislature has done," Abbott said.

I believe the phrase you're looking for is "Thank you, sir, may I please have another." Hope that helps.

The Statesman article, plus sidebar stories in the Chron and the Star-Telegram, examine some of the political fallout. The Chron considers the future of Rep. Nick Lampson, whose 9th CD was destroyed:

[I]ncumbent Democrat Nick Lampson of Beaumont is considering seeking election in the new 2nd District, which runs from eastern Harris County to Beaumont and includes all of his current Jefferson County constituency.

Candidates for the GOP nomination in the district include former state District Judge Ted Poe of Humble, GOP party official Clint Moore of Spring and civic leader George Fastuca of Kingwood.

Lampson now represents the 9th district, which moves to southern Harris County in the map the court approved Tuesday. He has not announced whether he will run in the new 2nd District or take on U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in the 22nd District.

DeLay was the force behind the Republican redistricting efforts, successfully working to elect a Republican majority in the state Legislature and then pushing the body to redraw congressional lines.

Although the candidate filing deadline was last Friday for other offices on the Democratic and Republican primary ballots, the congressional deadline was extended until Jan. 16 because of the court challenges to the new maps.

"I will make an announcement regarding my plans prior to the filing deadline on January 16th," Lampson said Tuesday. "In response to the many people who have been asking me if I'm going to run against Tom Delay, I will tell them this -- anybody that is going to run in any of these districts is running against Tom Delay."

DeLay already faces Democratic opposition from Richard Morrison, a Sugar Land lawyer who so far is running his campaign mostly through a Web site that features a cartoon of DeLay as a gigantic gladiator with a bloody sword in his hand battling a much smaller and poorly equipped combatant.

The metaphor is appropriate, since the district has a history of voting 2-1 Republican and DeLay would be a formidable foe for any Democrat.

The Statesman only mentions the 22nd CD possibility for Lampson in its roundup of the Democratic incumbents' plans.

All but one Democratic incumbent vowed Tuesday to seek re-election, though several were still choosing in what district that will be.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, has already committed to the new District 25, which stretches from South Austin to the Mexican border. He was campaigning in McAllen — about 350 miles from his current district in Travis County — when the court decision was announced. Doggett countered by announcing endorsements from six South Texas mayors and other Hidalgo County officials.

"I've been campaigning in South Texas since November and was here most of December," he said. "I'm here now, so this decision did not come as a surprise to me."

Doggett could be challenged by state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, who plans a Thursday news conference to announce his intentions. He would not have to give up his Senate seat to run.

U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, is leaning toward running in a heavily Republican district that includes his hometown, though he may choose District 31, which includes Fort Hood. The new District 31, however, is based in Williamson County, a stronghold for Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.

"Waco is home, not a post office box," Edwards said. "I met my wife here; we married here, had our children here. But representing Fort Hood has been one of the greatest privileges of my lifetime."

At least one other Republican, Wes Riddle of Belton, is expected to run in the Williamson County district.

Doggett and Edwards were two of the GOP's targets in drawing the new districts.

Across the state, U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, is weighing a "gadfly" campaign against DeLay, who has trounced all challengers since his first election in 1984.

Of the 16 Democratic incumbents, only Rep. Jim Turner, D-Crockett, has not committed to re-election. Turner's rural East Texas district was carved six ways, and he has noted that he would have an advantage in none of the districts.

Republicans hold all 27 statewide offices and control both chambers of the Legislature. Until Rep. Ralph Hall of Rockwall switched to the Republican Party last week, Democrats held a 17-15 edge in the state's congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall, is now weighing whether to run in Hall's new district, potentially setting up a race between one-time compatriots.

The main Star-Telegram article suggests that Turner will not run again. This article discusses Martin Frost's future.

The redistricting map cuts into the heart of Frost's district, taking away sections of south and southeast Fort Worth and placing them in a district that includes affluent and Republican-leaning communities of Denton County as it meanders up to the Texas-Oklahoma border.

Frost said he may run in that new district, now held by freshman Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Highland Village.

Other "interesting options," he said, would be to run against U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, in a district that takes in all of Arlington; challenge state Rep. Kenny Marchant, a Coppell Republican whom the GOP recruited for Frost's heavily redrawn 24th District; or run against Republican Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas.

Frost said part of his reason for not immediately announcing what he will do is because "I'd like to see my Republican colleagues sweat a little bit."

Finally, the Quorum Report had written before the ruling came down that outgoing Austin Mayor Gus Garcia was considering a run in the new 10th CD. The filing deadline is next Friday the 16th, so we'll know soon enough who is and isn't in.

In the editorials, the Star-Telegram called the ruling "unwise", while the Chron says that the argument that any dilution of minority voting rights was merely a side effect of partisan aims "resembles the idea that it is OK to trample on people for personal gain as long as you don't look down to see what's happening". Both the Statesman and the Express News called again for a nonpartisan redistricting commission. The Morning News boggled at the breakup of the 24th CD and said it's time to move on. Special props to the Waco Trib for consistently getting it right, as they do here:

Hailing a three-judge panel's ruling on behalf of congressional redistricting, Gov. Rick Perry announced, “The Legislature has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility."

Maybe it did in 2003, in machinations that stretched through three special sessions and into 2004. But it didn't do its duty in 2001. That's when redistricting was supposed to happen. That's when judges did the Legislature's and Perry's job.

Mr. Governor, at the turn of the decade you turned up your nose at that opportunity — your constitutional obligation — as though the hors d'oeuvres were not to your liking.

Judges did your work in 2001, Governor. You took a hike.


This is an episode in which a Republican power broker, U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, at first skulked around in Austin trying to hide his involvement in the process. Then when Perry was out of town DeLay became a courier between the House and the Senate, a de facto governor.

During this process, lawmakers heard from local authorities like the Waco City Council, the McLennan county commissioners, the cities of Killeen and Lacy-Lakeview and more opposing redistricting. They ignored every word. In the case of the Texas House, a hearing wasn't even held in McLennan County.

In the upcoming election, and when Perry next puts his name before them, voters should remember this: The legislative process was hijacked. Partisans ignored the protests of citizens and local governments. And, contrary to Perry's spin, lawmakers only did their constitutional obligation when deemed profitable.

Amen. Finally, here's a FindLaw article which calls for the Supreme Court to find for the plaintiffs in Vieth v. Jubelirer, the Pennsylvania case in which the constitutionality of extreme partisan redistricting is challenged.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 07, 2004 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Ok, now we know: whenever you can redistrict, you should. All Texans can now look forward to two,three, four reshufflings of the district lines per decade.

You can bet yer ass that when the Republicans are demographically shifted out of power, they'll have cause to regret this little shennanigan.


Posted by: DocG on January 7, 2004 9:27 AM

One word: Waaaa, When the Dems controlled, they choose to let the courts handle the redistricting. The courts clearly said, per the Constitution (oh, that thing), that the Legislation branch to do the mapping. Also, why is it that Minorities are automatically tied to the Liberals. Or is it that the Libs throw that "M" word around sooo much that the mindless newseys just print the quotes? So please, can't we just MoveOn?!?!?!

Posted by: Michael Todd on January 7, 2004 9:42 AM

Typical rightwing comment: rewrite history. For your information, bub, it was Republicans who stymied redistricting when it was scheduled to occur about three years ago. Goodhair Perry and his cronies in the Lege thought they could get a better deal by letting a Republican-majority court to rewrite the district lines, so they held up redistriting so it would have to be referred to the panel of judges. Then, they complained when the judges didn't do the redistricting with sufficient partisan fervor.

Care to try again, maybe this time with an intelligent snarky comment?


Posted by: DocG on January 7, 2004 10:17 AM

Mr. Governor, at the turn of the decade you turned up your nose at that opportunity — your constitutional obligation — as though the hors d'oeuvres were not to your liking.

Judges did your work in 2001, Governor. You took a hike.

History is being re-written by the Waco newspaper here. What constitutional obligation did Governor Perry fail to act upon? It is my understanding that the legislature never passed a plan for Governor Perry to sign or veto.

Posted by: Greg V. on January 7, 2004 10:25 AM

Greg: Do you think that Perry played no part in the strategy of blocking the Democratic majority in the Lege from passing redistricting at that time?

Part of the Gov's responsibility is to urge the Lege to pass legislation that is needed by the state. Perry went the other way, and worked with minority leaders in the senate and house to block passage of the Dem redistricting plan, precisely because they thought they could get a better deal from the judges panel.

That's what the Wacao paper is referring to, accurately.


Posted by: DocG on January 7, 2004 10:32 AM

Part of the Gov's responsibility is to urge the Lege to pass legislation that is needed by the state.

Is this the Constitutional obligation the paper references? If so, could you please kindly direct me to the Constitutional requirement that obligates the governor to urge the legislature to pass legislation. I am not aware of the section to which you refer.

Posted by: Greg V. on January 7, 2004 10:36 AM

Founding father, Elbridge Gerry, inspiration for the term “gerrymandering”, would have been proud of the gerrymandering job the democrats managed to pull off in 1991.

Posted by: Michael Todd on January 7, 2004 10:43 AM

DocG: I don't think you can read this ruling as establishing the legitimacy of multiple legislative redistricting sessions per decade, as you seem to assert in your first comment. Although it is good to see folks here worried about limitations on the power of government for a change. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on January 7, 2004 11:00 AM

I don't think you can read this ruling as establishing the legitimacy of multiple legislative redistricting sessions per decade, as you seem to assert in your first comment.

I think's Doc's interpretation is on target with respect to legality. Page 5 of the opinion says, "[W]e cannot agree that either the Constitution or the voting statues restricts the states to once-a-decade redistricting". I would find it surprising for the court to find a restriction to twice-a-decade redistricting. I do, however, think Doc's fears of further redistricting are misplaced. I would be shocked if the legislature brought up redistricting again before the next census.

Posted by: Greg V. on January 7, 2004 11:11 AM

DocG writes,

Goodhair Perry and his cronies in the Lege thought they could get a better deal by letting a Republican-majority court to rewrite the district lines, so they held up redistriting so it would have to be referred to the panel of judges.

What "Republican-majority court" are you referring to, sir? If you refer to the panel of federal judges that ultimately decreed the 2001 map in the Balderas v. Texas case, you err in describing it as a "Republican-majority court," at least if one assumes that the judges' personal politics correspond to the party affiliation of the President who nominated them.

I assume this is an innocent mistake on your part, rather than an attempt to "rewrite history." Perhaps you got this bit of misinformation from one or another of the left-leaning or party websites that repeated it over and over again throughout 2003. But two of the three judges on the Balderas panel were appointed by Democratic Presidents — you can look it up if you don't believe me.

For the incurably cynical who believe that federal judges decide cases in accordance with the politics of the Presidents who appointed them, I'll also note that the present Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit — who selected the members of the Balderas panel in 2001, the Barrientos panel last August, and the Session v. Perry panel that announced yesterday's decision — is herself a Carter appointee. (I am not among that cynical group; rather, as I've said elsewhere in more detail, I strongly disagree with the notion that federal judges decide these cases based on their own party affiliations. But some people insist upon thinking that's true despite ample evidence to the contrary; and if you're going to float that argument, you at least ought to get your facts straight on which President appointed which judge.)

Another question: Because the composition of these panels changes from case to case, how exactly was Gov. Perry supposed to know in 2001 that the panel which would create two new districts following the Legislature's impasse would favor the Republicans? If that was actually his strategy, he must have been a pretty poor crystal-ball reader. If you actually read the Balderas opinion, you'll see that the court was very well aware that by protecting existing incumbents from the 1991 pro-Democratic gerrymander, the provisional map created by the Balderas panel had the practical effect of strongly favoring Democrats. And that of course is the exact reason that Republicans wanted to redistrict in 2003, and that Democrats have fought so hard in both the Legislature and the courts in 2003 to keep that 2001 map in place.

Posted by: Beldar on January 7, 2004 11:16 AM

Greg: Where in the Waco paper quote does it say "Constitutional?" Furthermore, why would you imply that, for any elected official, only the Constitutional responsibilities matter? Those matters explicitly stated in a State or Federal Constitution are important, certainly. But there's more to running a goverment than that. For instance, I bet it doesn't say anywhere in the Texas Constitution that a Governor or State Senator has to take visits or calls from constituents. But most of them do, quite often, and you can bet that they view this as an important responsibility that comes with the office.

Kevin: Why not? Hey, if it's good to do it once, and ok to do it twice, why not three or more times in decade? To go with Greg's logic, where in the state constitution does it expressly prohibit redistricting as many times as the Lege feels like it? Well, if there is no such restriction--open season, buddy!


Posted by: DocG on January 7, 2004 11:19 AM

Beldar: I stand corrected on the composition of the panel that ruled on the 2001 map. However, I still maintain that Republican legislators and Perry blocked redistricting at that time because they beleived that it was to their political advantage to do so. Thus, when they claimed there was some sort of pressing need or popular demand for redistricting this past year, they were claiming so only for their own benefit. The essential claim that is in the Waco paper quote, that Perry and others attempted to block and circumvent the normal redistricting process, is correct.


Posted by: DocG on January 7, 2004 11:31 AM

Doc: I have already quoted the offending part of the Waco article. It is also in Kuff's excerpt and in the original article. Search for "Constitutional".

Beldar: Turn on the comments section on your blog. I have a very narrow question about the opinion.

Posted by: Greg V. on January 7, 2004 11:31 AM

Greg: you're right, the article does say "constitutional." They are in error to use that term.

Posted by: DocG on January 7, 2004 11:37 AM

Greg V: Done!

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