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June 9th, 2005:

Re-redistricting re-upheld

The Quorum Report reports:

FEDERAL PANEL RULES IN FAVOR OF THE STATE ON REDISTRICTING

Next step would be a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.

Plaintiff Attorney Gerry Hebert has confirmed a federal three-judge panel has ruled in favor of the state in the Texas redistricting case, Henderson v Perry. The US Supreme Court remanded the case back to the three-judge panel last October, asking them to reconsider their decision in light of the recent Vieth case before the Supreme Court, which took up the broader issue of partisan gerrymandering.

Nothing on this that I can find in Google News, so check back later for an update when this hits the wires. As I wrote when the case was first sent back for review, I don’t believe there was anything the court could do now to offer genuine redress if they felt it was warranted. Once the ousted Democrats lost the power of incumbency, they would become underdogs to ever win their seats back, even (in my opinion) with the original configuration of their districts. In short, this changes nothing and would have changed nothing had the decision gone the other way. What we have now is reality, and we have to deal with it.

(Thanks to Kimberly for tipping me to this.)

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron coverage. There’ll be an appeal back to the Supreme Court, but that has the feel of a formality to me. Note, however, that the federal court says there’s no standard for what constitutes “excessively partisan” redistricting. I have to think it’d take federal legislation for there to be a standard. I can’t see that happening any time soon.

Radack to retire

County Commissioner Steve Radack says he will not run for reelection in 2008.

His decision will set off a political free-for-all typical on the rare occasions when an incumbent vacates one of the powerful commissioners’ seats, Radack said.

He plans to remain in office until the end of his term but will launch a second career before then.

He left open the possibility that he could go to work for a company that has done business with Precinct 3 and may seek future county contracts — matters that he said he would abstain from voting on while in office.

“I’m interested in business,” he said. “Some of those businesses could be advising people on what I’ve learned about infrastructure. I’ll use my expertise that I’ve gained during 16 years as commissioner.”

Radack, 55, will be 59 by the end of his term, which would mark his 20th year as commissioner of Precinct 3, a vast area covering parts of southwest, west and northwest Harris County.

He then can collect a substantial pension, continue on with his second career and perhaps go into business with one of his four grown sons, he said. The commissioner’s job pays $130,560.

Must be nice. Rick Casey just wrote about what a sweet deal being a County Commissioner is. If anyone can recall an actual contested race for a non-open Commissioner’s seat in the last 20 or so years, leave a comment.

Radack, who lives in Hillshire Village near the Katy Freeway, has been re-elected four times.

He said that Precinct 3 is a GOP stronghold and that his successor will be a Republican.

“In 2008, there will be a minimum of 10 people running,” he said. “You’re going to have some seasoned politicians try to be Precinct 3 commissioner.”

I’m sure he’s right. I expect this may open up a couple of State Rep seats, though unless someone like Dwayne Bohac runs they’ll probably be in equally safe GOP districts. I’ll bet there are wheels spinning on this already, even if it is too early to announce even the intention to think about it.

Rumors in HD134 and HD146

PinkDome is first to report a rumor of a challenger for Martha Wong in HD134: Ellen Cohen, Executive Director of the Houston Area Women’s Center. Today the Houston Democrats blog gives what appears to be confirmation of this, in quoting from the Texas Democrats Yahoo group listserv:

Ellen Cohen, President and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center,will be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for State Representative, District 134, in 2006. This is the seat held by Republican Martha Wong which includes large parts of Montrose and the highest number of pro-choice women in the state. Good news.

The board of the women’s center voted to give Ms. Cohen a leave of absence from her duties from January 1 thru November 2006.

I think Ellen Cohen is the kind of candidate that will give Martha Wong fits, especially after the anti-choice anti-gayfest that was the 79th Lege. She’s certainly got some good connections to start off with. I’m excited about this.

In addition, both sites also report that a businessman named Boris Miles is considering a primary challenge to Al Edwards in HD146. This makes Greg happy, and it makes me happy, too. I look forward to hearing more about Mr. Miles.

You’re negotiating! You’re really, really negotiating!

Perry hopeful schools deal will surface

Gov. Rick Perry is optimistic about reaching an agreement on school finance after meeting separately this week with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick.

“It’s very fair to say he feels better today than he has since the end of the session,” Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said Wednesday.

Is it just me, or is all this happy talk from Governor Perry beginning to sound a wee bit desperate?

But Craddick indicated the House may not be willing to pass a tax plan unless ordered to by the Texas Supreme Court, which hears arguments in a school finance case July 6.

“They met, and they are definitely negotiating,” said Alexis DeLee, a spokeswoman for Craddick. “They are working very hard to reach an agreement on public school finance, property tax relief, truth in taxation and appraisal caps.”

Remember: Until Tom Craddick says there’s progress being made, don’t believe anyone who tells you there’s progress being made.

Is Sharp jumping in?

I’m a little late on the draw with this, but it’s been a weird week for me. In the Pink and PinkDome both report on the rumor that two-time near-miss Lt. Gov. candidate John Sharp is about to throw his hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination for Governor.

I have a lot of respect for John Sharp. But for less than 70,000 votes and a couple million of James Leininger’s dollars, he could have beaten Rick Perry in 1998, which among other things would likely have averted the re-redistricting fiasco of 2003. He had the strongest Democratic showing statewide in 2002. I’ve no doubt he’d be able to raise money and make a good run against Perry this time around. But like Greg, I don’t feel that Sharp is the right person at this time.

I believe that in order to win in 2006, a Democrat will have to excite the base (which is something we really haven’t had since what, 1994?) while still being able to reach out to folks who haven’t been voting Democratic lately. Sharp has proven in the past that he can do the latter, but I don’t believe he’ll be able to do the former. I don’t think he’s oppositional enough to say something like “We need to do things differently because what this group and this Governor are doing now just plain doesn’t work”. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve never seen that as Sharp’s style.

It still remains to be seen how well Chris Bell can do these things, of course. He’s gotten some good traction among the faithful so far, and like Greg I think he’s got the right message and the right resume for it. I feel pretty good about his chances to reach those he’s reaching out to.

There’s another factor to be considered, which is the Kinky Friedman effect. I’ve written that I think Kinky will draw more from Perry supporters than from Bell supporters. I’m far less certain that this will be true in a Perry-Sharp matchup, and that gets back again to my doubts about Sharp’s ability to fire up the base. I think a nontrivial number of Democrats will see Sharp as the same old (losing) stuff, and will find solace in voting for Friedman on the grounds that at least he’s forceful about criticizing Rick Perry.

Again, I could be wrong about Sharp. He could surprise me. Losing can have a tonic effect on candidates. I don’t really expect that to be the case here, though.

As long as we’re speculating here, Gardner Selby (via PinkDome) tosses out a couple of names in addition to Sharp’s: former Austin Mayor and candidate for Attorney General in 2002 Kirk Watson, and former State Senator Ted Lyon. As with the Republican side of the equation, I expect to see a lot more action here once KBH officially tells us what we’re pretty sure we already know.

Susan Gates

I join with Stace in saying a sad goodbye to HCDP Executive Director Susan Gates, as she and her husband prepare to move to Portland next month. I haven’t known Susan for as long as Stace has, but like him I’ve found her to be a warm, engaging, dedicated, and energetic presence within the Harris County Democratic Party. Among other things, she was the driving force behind the creation of the Houston Democrats blog, which has been a good and needed addition to the local blogging scene. Best of luck in Portland, Susan. I know I speak for many when I say we’ll miss you down here.