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October 9th, 2003:

We’ll always have Paris

I’m about to take off for a week in France, in the champagne country outside of Paris over the weekend, and in Paris from Tuesday till Friday when we return. It’s possible I’ll have some brief Net access while in Paris, but don’t expect any regular updates until I get back on Friday. In the meantime, enjoy the many fine blogs linked to on the right and on subpages from there. I’ll see you next week.

Senators press Van de Putte

I have to say, it’s not been looking good for Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. Her Democratic colleagues don’t recall the “if you act like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans” slur that she says she heard, she’s been unavailable to comment for the past two days, and now Republican Senators are demanding that she come clean, even if it means violating the usual tradition of confidentiality in the members’ lounge.

Skeptical GOP senators said Van de Putte should say who made the remark.

“I’ll challenge her right now to tell us who said that,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. “If she cannot tell us who said that, then I will have to assume she’s not being truthful.”

Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, said: “We’ll waive confidentiality on this one.” Otherwise, “we need to entertain the possibility it wasn’t said.”

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, also calling for Van de Putte to name the senator, said: “I am a Republican senator along with 18 other Republican senators. So (she’s) put a cloud over all 19 of us.”

“There’s got to be some way she misunderstood or exaggerated,” Wentworth said.

I don’t see any other way out. This was a very serious charge, and it isn’t fair to let it hang like that. She needs to either name a name or back down and take her lumps. If she misheard, I think people will still understand. If she misspoke, that’s not good at all.

Her Democratic colleagues still believe her:

“All we can do is take our colleague’s word on these kind of things,” said Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin.

Sen. Mario Gallegos of Houston said he believed Van de Putte.

“There’s no misunderstanding about a quote like that,” Gallegos said. “For the lieutenant governor to say she misunderstood, is an insult to her.”

And Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville said: “Whoever said that, there should be sanctions and penalties.”

Ram Chavez, the state commander of the American GI Forum, a national Latino civil rights group, said Dewhurst should force an apology from the responsible senator.

“He is the leader of the Texas Senate,” Chavez said. “He should call in his state senators and talk to them.”

It’s up to you now, Sen. Van de Putte.

More on Bill White and military voting

Man, considering that the original article which has spawned however many posts across at least four blogs was, like, eight sentences long, this topic sure is getting a beating. Anyway, here’s the latest from Kevin and Rob (here and here).

Let’s talk first about partisanship, since Kevin brings it up:

The majority of military personnel who vote absentee vote Republican. But the Democrats, already perceived as weak on foreign policy (and, during the Clinton Presidency, as anti-military), can’t really come right out and say they’d like to make it more difficult for those votes to be counted. It’s more palatable politically to advocate seemingly reasonable provisions regarding residency.

Of course Bill White was taking a partisan position. He was the chairman of the state Democratic Party at the time, so it was his job to be partisan. If you want to use that as evidence that his nonpartisan campaign for Mayor is a sham, that’s fine. I feel the same way about Orlando Sanchez (who’s getting more and more partisan himself, I see), whom I know full well if elected will be a Republican Mayor and not just a Mayor.

State party chairs often say egregious things in the name of advancing their side’s interests. Susan Weddington supported Rick Perry’s decision to let the courts draw Congressional borders in 2001, for example, because she said at the time that the courts would do a fairer job than the Democratic House would. A better question to ask would be whether what White said at that time was a throwaway line in the aftermath of a surprising defeat (i.e., sour grapes) or an actual policy position that he lobbied for? Note that unless the Val Verde election was held in the early spring, the next chance White or any Democrat could have had to push for a bill restricting voter registration in this fashion would have been 1999. Has anyone checked to see if such a bill was actually filed, and if so if Bill White was quoted supporting it? It’s fine if you want to hold this against him anyway, I just want to put his sin in perspective. If he did in fact get someone to sponsor a law like this, then you’ve got my attention.

And of course we can’t discuss the partisanship in this issue without noting that Jerry Patterson, the Republican Land Commissioner who brought it up, does not currently reside in Houston, meaning that his primary interest here is nothing but partisanship.

Now, then. On to what Rob says.

I remember this event, it was one of the major events in my life. I was stationed in Virginia at OSIA (now DTRA), lived in Maryland, and had volunteered to take investigational new drugs because I was urged to work on some biological weapons dismantlement projects. I was happy to do it, I thought it was important work and liked the idea of working with something a little dangerous. Being a military interpreter and in cryptology, I sat behind a computer most of the time and wanted to risk my life (a little) in defense of the Constitution of the United States.

I was also proud to be a Texan and serious about voting. I had to jump through some hoops to vote absentee and even though I didn’t always plan ahead well enough, I got to vote most of the time. I researched issues, called friends back home for advice, my mother mailed me voting guides.

Rob’s been in the military and I haven’t, so if he says voting absentee was an extra hassle, I believe him. I don’t recall it being a big deal for me when I did it during my college days – my parents mailed me a ballot, and I mailed it in when I was done – but I didn’t have a military bureaucracy to deal with. Given that, though I clearly see this differently, I really don’t want to make it any harder for folks in uniform to vote. I’d rather leave things as they are and accept some odd results like Val Verde.

That said, I note that Rob chose to vote in Texas, where he came from, rather than in Virginia or Maryland. I presume he did so because he had a connection to Texas and he cared more about Texas elections than those in his temporary home. Which was exactly my point when I said that the default should be where the person came from. And given that the ballots in question in Val Verde were all mail-in ballots, the level of hassle would have been the same wherever these people chose to vote.

In Rob’s later post, he quotes from the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

MILITARY

Where is my “legal voting residence?”

For voting purposes, your “legal voting residence” can be the state or territory where you last resided prior to entering military service or the state or territory that you have since claimed as your legal residence. To claim a new legal residence you must have simultaneous physical presence and the intent to return to that location as your primary residence.

Rob then goes on to say “When you join the military, your home of record (permanent address) defaults to where you came from. Later on, you can change that. I did just that a couple of times.” Again, this is not only what I’ve been saying, it sounds exactly like what Bill White was advocating.

Now, I don’t know (and couldn’t find via a quick search) when these rules were adopted. Maybe they came into play after 1997 as a result of some Clintonian conspiracy to disenfranchise military voters, and maybe they’re widely reviled throughout the armed forces. Maybe not. If they were in place nationally in 1997, then either White was advocating that Texas get in step with the rest of the country, or he was speaking from ignorance since this was already in place. Once again, I have to ask: What’s the big stinking deal? We’re not saying military folks on domestic or overseas assignments can’t vote. We’re saying they must vote where their permanent address is, and their permanent address should reflect where they last lived or where they plan to live next.

Given that I’m about to take a week-long hiatus, this is undoubtedly the last thing I’ll say on this subject, which is surely a relief to anyone who’s read this far.

The Talking Dog talks to Dick Morris

Lest I forget before I toddle off to Europe, check out this interview that The Talking Dog did with Dick Morris. Interesting stuff.

Agreement is now official

Looks like Speaker Craddick got the check from the mail and is happy to cash it: The “agreement in principle” is now official.

House and Senate negotiators reached a final agreement early this morning on new congressional districts, said Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine.

Staples said the agreement was reached at about 2:30 a.m. Bob Richter, spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick, said, “It’s a done deal. It’s a beautiful baby, too.”

Gov. Rick Perry’s office scheduled a news conference for this morning.

Get the lawyers ready. More coverage here and here.

Agreement in principle, but…

(UPDATE: You can see the new map here. Thanks to Tom for sending me the link.)

For all the statements about an agreement in principle on a new Congressional map, there sure seems to be a lot of caveats and qualifiers. Take a look at this, for instance.

“I think we’re pretty much in agreement on the map, but we haven’t seen the map, per se,” [House Speaker Tom] Craddick told reporters. “We’re very hopeful that we’ll have an agreement.”

His spokesman, Bob Richter, had already offered up a caveat that speaks volumes about the deep divisions that have blocked all previous agreements: “We reserve the right to back out,” he said.

One key player in the negotiations, state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, was not on hand when the agreement was announced by Dewhurst. Duncan and Craddick have wrangled mightily over the configuration of West Texas, with the speaker insisting that a district be drawn anchored in his hometown of Midland.

Duncan had expressed deep concerns that giving in to Craddick’s demand might undermine his commitment to protecting a district dominated by West Texas agriculture interests. Craddick came away with his Midland district.

“I think when it became clear that the governor and the speaker were going to get a District 4 Midland, I just tried to get the best deal I could get for the communities of interest in my area,” Duncan said.

Legislative leaders said they hope to vote on the new map by Friday — a day before the Texas-Oklahoma football game in Dallas that many members plan to attend. Less clear is whether they will have to change the date of the 2004 primary election.

I’ve heard stronger promises from the cable company regarding when my technician will show up. You’d think that after all this, they’d be singing Kumbaya and dumping Gatorade on each other. Anyway, the following quote appears in most accounts, though not the Star Telegram’s:

“We were told there’s a check in the mail,” Craddick spokesman Bob Richter said. “We want to see the check.”

Like I said, not exactly a gold-plated guarantee. Hard to imagine things falling apart at this point, but then you’d have thought that Deaf Smith County wouldn’t have been such a stumbling block. Since I’m taking off for Europe later today, you’ll have to tune in to the Burnt Orange Report or Polstate to see if anything unusual happens.

Today’s coverage is here, here, here, and here. Items of interest include uncertainty about the primary date, concerns that several West Texas Republicans in the House will vote against this plan, confidence from Democrats that the courts will not approve of this map, and Tom DeLay taking a victory lap. The Statesman has the most complete word on DeLay’s role in all this.

For the three days, DeLay shuttled maps between the offices of the speaker, governor and lieutenant governor as he tried to finish what he had started.

In 2001, the Legislature punted to the courts because it was split between Democrats and Republicans. After the 2002 Republican landslide, DeLay insisted that state GOP lawmakers redraw the boundaries to send more Republicans to Congress.

DeLay lobbied state leaders during the regular legislative session this spring and met with Gov. Rick Perry and legislative leaders at the Governor’s Mansion this summer before Perry called the first of three special sessions.

DeLay, whose nickname is “the Hammer,” kept pounding away for a deal.

“I’m going to stay here as long as I’m useful,” he said Tuesday.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said he had never seen someone outside the Legislature negotiate a final bill the way DeLay did.

“I don’t believe he was here as ‘the Diplomat,’ ” Gallego said. “I believe he was here as ‘the Enforcer.’ ”

In Washington, [Rep. Lloyd] Doggett went to the House floor to underscore DeLay’s absence. Saying he wanted to discuss scheduling federal budget matters with DeLay, Doggett said: “He has not been here all week long. He has developed such an affection for my hometown of Austin that we may have to make him an honorary citizen.”

Editorials:

The Statesman’s Dave McNeely reiterates what he wrote yesterday about this being the swan song for redistricting no matter what until 2011.

The Express News chastises DeLay for his involvement in a state legislative matter.

The Waco Trib decries the specter of moving the primary date.

The Chron slaps DeLay and criticizes the cost of the special sessions.

The Austin Chronicle has some extra coverage here and here.