For a week now, state Rep. Garnet Coleman has been hiding out in Texas, wondering if police are going to track him down.
While dozens of other Texas House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. to block a Republican voting bill, the longtime Houston legislator stayed behind, unable to travel while recovering from severe illness that led to the amputation of his lower right leg in May. His continued presence in the state makes him more vulnerable to arrest, as Republicans have voted to force back to the Texas Capitol any absent House Democrat within state police jurisdiction.
That prospect doesn’t trouble the 59-year-old lawmaker, who questions both the constitutionality and optics of such a move.
“Let them come,” Coleman said in an interview Friday in an airy, art-filled house. “They’re going to have to carry me in this wheelchair, and they’re going to have to carry me into the chamber and lock me in there.”
What does weigh on him is having no choice but to watch the historic moment from the sidelines. The last time House Democrats skipped town in 2003, to delay political map drawing, Coleman led the way.
“I want to be there,” he sighed. “All the people that are in Washington D.C. that are Democrats, this is their Martin Luther King moment, because it’s about the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.”
During a two-hour interview, Coleman alternated between sharp political insight and raw emotion, his hands occasionally trembling against the tires of his new wheelchair.
You should read the whole thing, because Rep. Coleman is one of the best and he deserves your attention. He’s with his colleagues in spirit, and he’ll be back come what may to fight for fair legislative and Congressional maps in the fall.
Not a whole lot of news to note, other than some positive COVID tests that we likely know about only because they’re testing, since the (vaccinated) members who tested positive are all basically asymptomatic. That lack of news is a challenge for the Dems.
The spotlight won’t shine for long on the story of Texas’ flyaway Democrats. The novelty will wear off. The cable TV networks will have other top stories before you know it, and this will become another of those insider fights of only passing interest to Texans who don’t have regular business in the state Capitol.
Voting rights are important to voters, but most people only pay attention to the particulars at election time. Where do I go? What do I have to do? Who and what is on the ballot? Who are all of these people, and which ones are in my way and which ones can I ignore?
The reason most of the decamped Democrats are in Washington is to try to get a voting bill they like — one that would preempt state law — from Congress. That requires some public attention, too, to get enough voters interested to draw members of Congress away from what they were doing to what the Texans hope they’ll do.
But the Texas Democrats aren’t the only politicians looking for public attention and support. Texas Republicans are promoting other legislation on the special session agenda that might get more public interest.
Not sure if those other bills are likely to get that much interest either, or if the interest they do get goes beyond the faithful, but the point still stands. We collectively have the attention span of a fruit fly. There’s only so much our folks can do.