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June 28th, 2006:

Orlando: It’s all about meeeeeeeee!!!

Orlando Sanchez gets at the real reason why Commissioners’ Court wants to abolish the office of Harris County Treasurer now: They all hate him.

Sanchez said Tuesday that eliminating the post would kill the immediate prospect of a Hispanic for the first time holding a countywide elected administrative office. Some Hispanics previously have won countywide judicial races.

Since commissioners didn’t consider abolishing the office after the March primary when Cato was nominated, Sanchez also said the attempt now may be personal.

“It is interesting that up to Mr. Cato’s death, they were supporting Mr. Cato and obviously keeping the office. After Mr. Cato died, they adopted a resolution to abolish the office,” said Sanchez.

“It makes you wonder, especially since I could become the first Hispanic and the first immigrant elected countywide.” Sanchez’s family moved from Cuba when he was a child.

Orlando. Please, stop. You’re embarrassing yourself. Now put the press releases down and slowly back away.

I mean, I really don’t have to point out that Orlando’s opponent in this race is named Richard Garcia, right? He’s been running on a platform of abolishing the office since 2002. And as noted before, the effort to do away with the Treasurer predates Jack Cato.

Democratic Commissioners Sylvia Garcia and El Franco Lee were the first to suggest abolishing the seat, [Republican Commissioner Steve] Radack said.

“The point is, we have a situation where you have a Democrat who wants to abolish the office and you have a Republican who has said he wants to use it as a sounding board,” he said.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to eliminate the office.”

[…]

“It has no auditing authority, does not issue official financial reports, and, in fact, no longer even writes checks. It is an antiquated office which duplicates other functions for no reason or benefit,” said Garcia, who served as Houston controller before she was elected commissioner. “The citizens of Harris County should have the right to abolish the office, just as voters in other Texas counties have.”

This was a matter of timing and opportunity. There should have been a continual push to do away with this office all through Cato’s tenure, but that’s the way things work in politics – being the right idea isn’t enough if it isn’t the right time for it. Maybe if Orlando Sanchez could make a case for what the Treasurer’s office does and what he would do with it other than gad about and spout off on issues that have nothing to do with the office’s official functions he could convince people of the position’s merits instead of making it abundantly clear that what he really wants is a cushy do-nothing job. And if not, then he can watch as Richard Garcia, who unlike him has a clear and compelling vision for this office, becomes the first Hispanic countywide elected official (non-judicial).

By the way, Orlando’s outburst did very little to convince his fellow travellers that he deserves this position. One comment, for David Benzion:

As far as I’m concerned, the Harris County GOP should have figured out a way to call the Democrat’s bluff. Get [Richard] Garcia on record supporting abolishment of the office, refuse to nominate ANYONE, and then work cooperatively with Treasurer Garcia to eliminate his job.

Garcia’s advocacy of abolishing the office is not a bluff. Neither, I expect, are Sylvia Garcia and El Franco Lee bluffing, as they voted to support abolishing the office. I’ll admit that this was likely an easier call for them given the current climate, but who’s to say Richard Garcia can’t or won’t win? It’s not like he won’t pick up some Republican support, given how this race has gone. How much would you wager on Orlando Sanchez right now? Republicans may have an overall partisan edge in Harris County (for now, anyway), but candidates still matter. Especially when Orlando Sanchez is your candidate.

(Would have posted this earlier, but was too busy with redistricting stuff. Sorry about that.)

SCOTUS throws out CD23, upholds the rest

The long-awaited Supreme Court ruling on Texas’ re-redistricting of 2003 is in.

The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld almost all of Texas’ Republican-friendly U.S. House election district map.

By a 5-4 vote, the court said the 23rd District in Southwest Texas, represented by Republican Henry Bonilla, was unconstitutional because its design violated the rights of some Hispanic voters. Reshaping the district, a task that apparently now is assigned to federal court in Texas, would force a change in at least one other neighboring district.

But the high court ruling preserved the other districts in the Houston area and elsewhere that were created by the Texas Legislature in 2003. This includes a Dallas-area district whose constitutionality was challenged by black voters.

The Supreme Court today also upheld the right of states to change their congressional district boundaries more frequently than the traditional every 10 years following each U.S. Census.

I wrote about this yesterday at Kuff’s World. This is more or less what I thought was most likely. After all that’s been said and done, at this point what I like the least is that the concept of redistricting whenever the mood strikes a state legislature has been upheld. I see very little good that can come out of that, even if in the short term Democrats could use it to extract a little revenge against Republicans.

State Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, a member of the House Redistricting Committee, said he believes the only way to fix the map is to put Laredo in one congressional district. The Republicans had split it between Bonilla’s 23rd District and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar’s 28th District.

“There isn’t an easy repair. Any time you’ve got to move 100,000 people, there’s a domino effect,” Raymond said. “The easiest fix is you put Laredo back together

I’m not sure at this point if the three-judge panel that originally upheld the new map will be tasked with putting a replacement in place, or if the Legislature has to do it; neither am I sure if this needs to be done for 2006, or if a special election will be required for some point in the future – this could include an open primary in November, as we had in 1996.

What I do think will happen is that at the very least CD28 will be redrawn as well. If it’s possible to swap the CD23 portion of Webb County for an equivalent piece of CD28, that could work. What happens after that is a decision for CD28’s Rep. Henry Cuellar. He nearly toppled CD23 incumbent Henry Bonilla in 2002 thanks in part to getting 80% of the vote in Webb County. He did knock off fellow Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in the 2004 primary on a similar show of strength in Webb, and he won again in the same fashion in 2006. Without Webb, Cuellar probably can’t beat Rodriguez or someone like him with a strong base in Bexar County. With Webb, Cuellar would have a shot at Bonilla, but I don’t know that it would be better than a coin flip. Either way, it’s a tough call.

And yes, before anyone asks, I’ll happily support Cuellar against Bonilla even though I was an enthusiastic proponent of Ciro Rodriguez this past March. It’s a simple matter of mathematics, to wit:

Ciro > Cuellar > Bonilla

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say after I see some answers to the questions I raised above. Stay tuned – this already crazy election season just took another big turn for the weird.

SCOTUS Blog has more, including a link to the opinion (PDF).

UPDATE: From the Statesman:

Redrawing [CD23] will force nearby District 25, the Austin-to-Mexico district held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin, to be redrawn, according to the court opinion.

Experts were still poring over the complicated 100-page opinion to determine how Texas will have to remedy the deficiencies.

And from BOR:

The three-judge panel will have the responsibility of deciding what to do with the redistricting map. The first decision is when they redraw the map for — this election cycle, or the next. The second decision, then, is whether they will redraw the map themselves, and accept three maps from both Democrats and Republicans, OR whether they kick it back to the Texas Legislature for them to redraw the lines during the 80th Regular Session starting in January.

Exactly how far the dominoes fall, we’ll have to wait and see. I’d imagine that CD 23, 28, 21, and 25 will have to be redrawn. As we wait to get more analysis, you can play around with an interactive Congressional map of Texas. Click on the “U.S. Congressional Districts” link to get to the map.

More to come soon.

UPDATE: I’ve put a statement by State Rep. Richard Raymond beneath the fold. Raymond was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, briefly a primary opponent to Henry Cuellar for this year, and a sure bet to run for Congress again in a Laredo-based district.

(more…)

Senate committee vote on Net Neutrality today

From Reuters, via Daily Kos:

U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said on Tuesday he does not yet have the necessary votes to get legislation to overhaul communications laws through the full Senate. . . .

Stevens told reporters he had not yet secured the 60 votes needed to end debate on the Senate floor, known as cloture, and set the measure for a final vote by the lawmakers.

“We have to get 60 votes, we don’t have them right now,” the Alaska Republican said after a daylong committee session for amending his proposed legislation. He has predicted the panel would pass the bill.

Stevens said he would not likely get a commitment from Senate leaders to bring the measure to the floor until there was greater support and that the toughest issue facing senators was Internet service, known as Net neutrality.

“They’re not going to take a month on the floor on this bill,” Stevens said. “Unless we can define a period of time that we get it done, we’ll not get it up (on the Senate floor) and that’s defined by 60 votes.”

It would be nice to put this one to bed in committee. According to Save the Internet, one of the Commerce Committee members that has not yet stated a position on Net Neutrality is our own Kay Bailey Hutchison. I’d not given any thought to the idea of calling her on this before because frankly I expect so little from her. But maybe this one time I can be pleasantly surprised. Give her office a ring this morning at 202-224-5922 and urge her to support the bipartisan Snowe-Dorgan Internet Freedom amendment in the Commerce Committee. If you do, please leave a comment here with the response that you get.

Oh, and I don’t need to tell you that Barbara Radnofsky supports net neutrality, right? As we expect to be disappointed in KBH, we expect the best from BAR.

UPDATE: I spoke to a gentleman in KBH’s office this morning and expressed my support for the Snowe-Dorgan amendment. When I asked if KBH had announced a position on Net Neutrality, he said that she had not yet done so, and was waiting on feedback from constituents. I asked if her office had taken many calls on this and he laughed and said “more than you can count”. He would not say which way they had been going, however, as it was a “private poll”.

So. Why not give KBH a few more data points for her “private poll”? Call now – 202-224-5922 – and urge her to support the bipartisan Snowe-Dorgan Internet Freedom amendment in the Commerce Committee.

Last chance to vote for Mapchangers

Tomorrow is the last day to vote for the Forward Together PAC Mapchangers. The good news is that we’ve now got two Texans in the top five – Chris Bell and Barbara Radnofsky. The better news is that we can still get at least one more in there with a little strategic voting. I quote from the email by Glen Maxey that’s making the rounds:

John Courage (TX-21) is sitting RIGHT OUTSIDE of the Top 5. We have an opportunity to bring another $5,000 to Texas if we can get him into that 5th slot. We also want to ensure that Chris and Barbara stay where they are. If John gets into the Top 5, we will have a unique “Texas Triple Crown” with not only having three candidates in the Top 5 of THIS contest, but it will make John Courage the Democracy for America Grassroots All-Star, the Feingold Progressive Patriot, and a Warner Mapchanger.

NOTE: This is instant runoff voting. If you don’t put these candidates in this order, you can actually push John further down the list instead of into the top five. We are very confident from the rumors we’ve heard that Bell and Radnofsky are secure in the top five and that John is just below the bar.

The ideal ballot would be in this order (it only takes a second to vote) to show the country that Texas is more purple than it is red:

1st Vote: John Courage TX-21
2nd Vote: Ted Ankrum TX-10
3rd Vote: Mary Beth Harrell TX-31
4th Vote: Chris Bell TX-GOV
5th Vote: Barbara Radnofsky TX-SEN

Please take a minute out of your day and vote THIS all-Texan ballot by clicking here.

Please vote while you still can. Thanks!

The political is the personal

Greg in TX22 notes Tom DeLay’s shifting rationales for why he cut and run in CD22. I’m sure if someone were to ask him again in a couple of months, he’d have another explanation for it.

John Carter’s VRA clown show

Eye on Williamson has been all over Rep. John Carter’s embarrassing statements regarding the Voting Rights Act. There’s too many posts to link, so go here and take your pick. And also read the editorials by the Statesman, the Chron, and Clay Robison, plus this letter to President Bush (PDF) from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

I must say, I always knew Rep. Carter was not exactly a deep thinker, but I’m impressed at the depth and breadth of his clownishness lately. Beyond this, there’s his unnecessary fitness center earmark, his predictable demagoguery on immigration, his shoddy caretaking of Fort Hood – the list goes on. I find myself wondering if I’m just noticing his foolishness more this year thanks to the presence of a tough and well-qualified candidate opposing him and a dedicated blog keeping an eye on his shenanigans, or if he’s just ratcheted up the hijinx recently. Whatever the cause, he’s certainly made a spectacle of himself, and not in the good way.

More red light cameras coming

Catching up from the weekend – Remember that list of intersections where the red light cameras were going to be installed? Well, forget it. Things have changed, thanks to a ruling by AG Greg Abbott that red light cameras can be installed on roads owned by TxDOT.

“Now we can truly impact safety, because now we’re going to be using the (more dangerous) locations instead of having to work around” them, said Houston Police Department Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo.

About half of the most dangerous intersections in the city belong to TxDOT, Montalvo said. Those locations can now be monitored by cameras intended to catch drivers who run red lights, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in an opinion issued late Friday.

“(TxDOT) may permit local entities to install camera equipment to monitor compliance with traffic-control signals for the purpose of enforcing traffic laws,” Abbott’s opinion reads.

HPD likely will scrap the list of 10 sites it released earlier this month as the first camera locations and come up with a new one that includes TxDOT intersections, Montalvo said. That new list could be released as soon as this afternoon, she said.

I haven’t seen that list yet (this story is from Monday). Have I missed it?

Many of the highways and other major roads in the city are owned by TxDOT, as are some smaller but busy roads, such as Westheimer outside the loop.

The city had gone ahead with the project, which has been in the works since City Council approved it in 2004, despite waiting on Abbott’s opinion.

Again, whatever the merits of these cameras are, it makes sense to deploy them where they ought to have the greatest effect. Now if we’d only promise to measure that effect and take appropriate action based on what we learn from those measurements, I’d be happy.