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Democrats will return

The remaining members of the Texas 11 in Albuquerque announced late last night that they would return to Texas on Thursday for the hearing in front of the three-judge panel in Laredo.

“We will say goodbye to the great people of New Mexico, probably on Wednesday, and then we will be in court on Thursday” in Laredo, said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic caucus.

The runaway senators had vowed to stay out of Texas until another redistricting session was called and a quorum established on the Senate floor. However, Ms. Van de Putte said, the decision last week of Houston Democrat John Whitmire to return to Texas changed the other Democrats’ thinking.

They will still stay out of Austin until Mr. Whitmire helps the Republicans reach the 21-member quorum needed to do business but will return to their families in Texas, she said.

“We’re not at risk of being captured,” Ms. Van de Putte said.

Earlier versions of this story showed some differences of opinion regarding a return trip, but apparently that’s been worked out. The next question is when a third session will be called.

A Senate source said there is little chance of a special session this week. Though there are many possible reasons for delay — including the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a Thursday federal court hearing on a lawsuit filed by the Democrats — the source said the biggest reason for the delay is that the Republicans who control the Legislature haven’t agreed on a map.

To recap the reason for why the Republicans still haven’t agreed on a map, we go back to the Chronicle article:

One of the biggest problems facing the Republicans is a dispute between Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock and [House Speaker Tom] Craddick over how West Texas districts should be drawn.

Currently, District 19 is dominated by Lubbock and includes Craddick’s hometown of Midland. U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, represents the district.

But Craddick wants a new district created that would make Midland the population center. That would require pairing Lubbock with Abilene, which is now represented by District 17 U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Abilene.

People in Abilene have complained that they could lose a congressional district focused on their needs. Lubbock officials fear Stenholm would defeat freshman Neugebauer and leave Lubbock without direct congressional representation.

Dewhurst said he has been talking to Duncan and Craddick in hopes of reaching a compromise. “I think we’re going to reach an agreement on a whole map,” Dewhurst said.

As noted in the Statesman, Dewhurst’s optimism is not shared by Speaker Craddick.

“He would say there is no deal on West Texas,” House spokesman Bob Richter said of his boss. “He has not talked to Duncan. He has not met with Duncan.

“He’s got no plans to meet with Duncan, either.”

For what it’s worth, the statement given by Richter in the Express News was not absolute:

Craddick spokesman Bob Richter said Craddick has not met or talked with Duncan but will work on a compromise.

It’s also not a direct quote, so draw your own conclusions. I’ve said before that I don’t understand why the Republicans, who were oh-so-sure that they’d be able to wait out the Democrats, didn’t use all that time to hammer out these differences amongst themselves so as to make their victory a swift one when the Dems finally did return. It’s been nearly six weeks since the Texas 11 departed for Albuquerque. Why wasn’t this Rick Perry’s top priority during that time? It’s fun and easy for a liberal like me to throw stones at his alleged leadership abilities, but you Republicans might want to ask yourselves why he hasn’t locked Craddick, Duncan, Phil King, Joe Crabb, Todd Staples, Kip Averitt, and David Dewhurst in a room with orders to stay there until they have a map that’s acceptable to all of them.

Meanwhile, the Texas Ten are doing a little travelling to appeal to national Democrats about the “three R’s” – recall, recount, and re-redistricting.

“We want to make the case to Texas and the nation that there is a pattern of abuse going on at the hands of the national Republicans,” said Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, one of three Texas senators who barnstormed through Florida on Monday.

Shapleigh, joined in Florida by Sens. Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin and Mario Gallegos of Houston, said the Republican-initiated redistricting effort in Texas mirrors a successful effort in Colorado earlier this year, and he said both are connected to the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in California.

Sens. Rodney Ellis of Houston and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, who were in Washington last week, visited with party loyalists in Philadelphia on Monday.

I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, this will not endear any of them to anyone who isn’t already convinced that the state GOP leadership is committing acts of evil here. The surest way to get Texans to turn against you is to say anything bad about the state (no matter how true it may objectively be) to people outside of Texas. Without acknowledging it themselves, this little barnstorming tour is an admission that they can’t continue to fight as they’ve fought. Their last hope is the courts, if not now then later when the eventual map is challenged.

On the other hand, there is probably more to gain by getting as many Democrats across the country as possible involved in this fight. The redistricting effort in Texas is part of a national pattern by the GOP, so it’s natural to fight it on a national stage. The best way for Democrats to win is to regain one or both houses of Congress in 2004, and the way for them to do that is to nationalize the races as the GOP did in 1994. To do that, the Democrats need to make the case that Dick Armey outlined that ten years of GOP control has led to arrogance and lust for power, and it’s time for a change. If that is the purpose of this trip, and if that message continues to get broadcast by Democrats, then I’d consider the potential benefits to outweigh the likely costs.

UPDATE: Rob makes an interesting point:

That Steven Covey fellow made a lot of money with that book about effective people and their habits. They made us read it in the service. We went to workshops on it too.

One of the habits, as I remember, was to “start with the end in mind.” Basically, figure out what you want to do before you start doing it.

One of people’s major complaints about the Covey training was that it was all “just common sense.” I always said that common sense often bears repeating. That’s true here. I’m all for redistricting, I think it’s very important that elected officials and not courts draw political districts. But we shouldn’t have started down this road if we didn’t have a clear goal, i.e., a target map.

It will be an unmitigated disaster for Rick Perry if after all this, he can’t get enough support from Republican Senators to pass a map. I don’t actually expect this to happen, but until the Craddick/Duncan dispute is worked out, the possibility exists.

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  1. Scott Lucas says:

    A Senate source said there is little chance of a special session this week.


  2. Well, the call was today, but the session is for next week, so I think the statement is still accurate as it stands.