Skip to comments.The Great Texas Power Grab - redistricting
Posted on 07/02/2003 11:11:13 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP
DLC | New Dem Daily | July 2, 2003
The Great Texas Power Grab
We argued last week that the system for redistricting the U.S. House of Representatives needs to be fixed to restore competitive politics. Consider the current shenanigans underway in Texas as exhibits L, M, N, O and P in the case for taking redistricting out of the control of the political parties.
In case you've missed it, U.S. House Republican Leader Tom (The Hammer) DeLay has been feverishly working since January to get the newly Republican Texas House to overturn the Congressional district map put in place after the 2000 census, in order to increase the number of Republicans in it by somewhere between five and eight. Why? Because it could, basically. The threadbare argument made by Texas Republicans is that the current map was written by state courts, not the legislature
--which happened, of course, because the legislature and the governor could not agree on a plan by themselves. This happens a lot in states with divided partisan control of governorships or legislative chambers. But it's a completely novel idea to overturn such plans when divided control ends.
"This is a political strategy we haven't seen before," Tim Storey, redistricting analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures, told the Washington Post. "People who study this area can't find any case in the last 100 years of mid-decade redistricting without a court order." And, as the Post noted in an editorial yesterday: "The Texas plan, if not defeated, risks creating a dangerous new norm by which redistricting wars go on continuously."
Indeed, as Colorado Republicans proved last week, the process can be quickly and efficiently hijacked. There, a bill was introduced on Monday, passed on Wednesday, and signed into law on Friday, all with minimal debate. It shifts district lines around 29,000 voters, turning the most marginal swing district in the country into a solidly Republican seat. (Colorado's New Democrat Attorney General Ken Salazar has at least temporarily halted this power grab with a lawsuit.)
As Texas shows, these wars can really get out of hand. During the regular Texas legislative session, which ended last month, House Democrats famously frustrated the re-redistricting effort by leaving the state and denying Republicans the quorum necessary to do their dirty deed. According to a wide variety of reports, DeLay was so furious about this tactic that he and his staff tried to commandeer officials of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to track down the fleeing Democrats so that Texas Rangers could haul them back to Austin to participate in the gerrymander.
These potentially illegal bloodhound efforts failed, and the session ended, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry quickly called a 30-day special session for the specific purpose of re-redistricting. Now the effort to stop the madness is coming down to a few Texas Senate Democrats who are weighing a vast assortment of inducements from the GOP to lie down for DeLay and let the congressional reshuffling take place.
There's more at stake in the Texas re-redistricting drive than more seats to buttress Republican control of the U.S. House. GOP activists view this as an opportunity to get rid of Texas' smart, stubborn and influential band of New Democrat and Blue Dog congressmen who represent an abiding centrist threat to Republican domination, even in President Bush's home state.
According to the New York Times, Republican uber-lobbyist Grover Norquist (the subject of a major piece in the latest issue of Blueprint), admitted that "the point of the exercise was to help remove centrist Democrats from Congress, leaving only the most liberal behind."
Thus, this latest outrage is not simply a matter of elephants trying to cage donkeys. If it succeeds, it will also reinforce the general trend toward a U.S. House of Representatives, and ultimately state legislatures, that are genetically engineered to avoid electoral competition and to represent only the ideological extremes, while disenfranchising the majority of Americans who consider themselves moderates.
We urge Texas Democrats and fair-minded Texas Republicans to short-circuit this plan and the special session called to make it happen. If they do so, they will save Texas taxpayers a million dollars or so in the short term, and in the long term save Americans all over the country the spectacle of perpetual redistricting. We all have a stake in messing with the great Texas power grab.
It doesn't copy very well to make a T-Shirt though.
I have searched several times and have yet to find a clear representation of the specific districts in question.
Logic tells me if they are as bad as the dems say they are then they would be shown allover the place. But most articles never show the districts themselves.
Hearing planned for here Monday
By Jaime Powell and Elvia Aguilar Caller-Times
July 2, 2003
McALLEN - For a while on Tuesday, American GI Forum members drowned out a state hearing here on congressional redistricting - until they were promised a hearing in Corpus Christi early next week.
Forum members stormed into the Texas Senate hearing, ignoring repeated admonishments from Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa to quiet down so that the proceedings could be conducted in an orderly manner.
The angry visitors oppose the Legislature's special session on redistricting. Republican Gov. Rick Perry called the session to redraw districts to give his party a greater advantage in congressional elections. He did so at the urging of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land.
The Corpus Christi contingent went to McAllen to do what they did successfully last week in Brownsville - to shut down the hearing. Or to get arrested while trying.
Both Hinojosas told the crowd that the Senate wanted to hear the concerns of voters. They repeatedly assured the crowd that the Senate did not have an agenda regarding redistricting.
"We are here to hear what people have to say and we will stay here as long as it takes," Ruben Hinojosa said.
The Corpus Christi contingent shouted him down, reminding him loudly that he is an elected official and that he could be removed if he did not do their bidding.
They shouted the same message they yelled in Brownsville last week: "La gente unida, no es vencida," Spanish for "The people are united, not defeated."
Organizers of the rally denied reports that they hired temporary workers to fill their ranks.
However, when the buses returned to Corpus Christi at about 9 p.m., one woman said she was not affiliated with the GI Forum chapters in Corpus Christi and that she was with L K Jordan & Associates, an employment agency. She was then whisked away and declined further comment.
Ram Chavez, vice commander of the Hector P. Garcia Founder's Chapter, said he was not aware of anyone being paid to protest. He said many different groups had been invited to go along on the trip and that they might have made their own arrangements.
Susie Luna-Saldana, the education chairwoman for the Felix Longoria Chapter of the GI Forum, said that to her knowledge no one was hired to go to the meeting.
"These are teachers, American GI Forum (members), Democrat women, political activists," she said. "Does anyone here look like they are being paid?"
Chavez said he was responsible for organizing his group, the Port-Ayers Women's Auxiliary and the Robstown chapter, a total of about 15 people.
'You must respect the rules'
Members of the GI Forum chapters in Corpus Christi plan to gather at 2 p.m. today at the Nueces County Courthouse to review Tuesday's protest.
Law enforcement stood in clusters at five entrances into the McAllen Civic Center.
At one point, radios crackled and it seemed that McAllen police would arrest protesters Saldana and Joe Ortiz, who were using a bullhorn to incite the crowd. But the senators directed the police to leave them alone. Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said an order to detain protesters would have to come from Redistricting Chairman Robert Duncan.
After continued disruptions, McAllen Mayor Leo Montalvo told the Corpus Christi crowd that they needed to respect the rules.
"This is not your house. You are coming from Corpus Christi so you must respect the rules," he said.
The crowd roared with displeasure and a short time later the nine senators in attendance filed off the stage. Several were shaking their heads.
Ruben Hinojosa stepped from behind the curtains and told a staffer:
"Get Lencho Rendon and get up here."
Rendon is the chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi. Ortiz's district is among those expected to be redrawn to incumbent Democrats' disadvantage. Rendon went backstage to speak to the senators.
After Rendon returned, Saldana told the protesters that there would be a hearing in Corpus Christi on Monday. Corpus Christi had been omitted from the Redistricting Committee's itinerary.
After the announcement, more than 100 GI Forum members filed quietly down the aisles leaving the auditorium to load back onto buses for the ride back to Corpus Christi.
When Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth came back on the stage, Mission resident Bob Howell walked up to him quietly and pressed a piece of paper into his hand.
"I am for redistricting because I am supporting President Bush and it will mean more support for him in Congress," Howell said quietly. "Democrats have run the show forever and I think that needs to change."
Nueces County Democratic Party chairman Solomon Ortiz Jr., the congressman's son, said there should have been meetings scheduled in Corpus Christi from the start. He said the protests by GI Forum members were obviously effective.
'The hearings are a sham'
"The whole objective was not to deprive the people of McAllen of their right to be heard," Ortiz said. "The hearings are a sham and the Republicans are still going to ram this through anyway."
Ortiz Jr.'s uncle, Nueces County Commissioner Oscar Ortiz, who also had accompanied the protesters, said the decision to meet in Corpus Christi was an important milestone.
"Nueces County and Corpus Christi will be one of the most heavily impacted, and our people had to come over here to be heard," he said. "There were hearings before the House and the Senate everywhere but Corpus Christi, and I think that was wrong."
Contact Jaime Powell at 886-3716 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Elvia Aguilar at 886-4334 or email@example.com.
Then choose All Other Redistricting Plans.
Select Plan 01249
Put some Ice on it.
C'mon, name me ONE!
Name just one "smart" Dim congresscritter and I'll concede you the point.
Were you considering naming Sheila JACKSON-Lee?
Just for laughs?
In fact, the current map doesn't appear eliminate Chris Bell's seat in south Houston, which is a little bit of a disappointment to me. The earlier one did.
Sorry it took me so long to get back to ya. I've been working on a dog-gone stopped up drain in the kitchen today. :O(