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.
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.
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 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."
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.