The renegade Texas Democrats decided late Monday to leave the New Mexico hotel that they've made their home for the last six weeks and to come back to the state for a court hearing Thursday before returning to their homes.
"We will say goodbye to the great people of New Mexico, probably on Wednesday, and then we will be in court on Thursday" in Laredo, said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic caucus.
The runaway senators had vowed to stay out of Texas until another redistricting session was called and a quorum established on the Senate floor. However, Ms. Van de Putte said, the decision last week of Houston Democrat John Whitmire to return to Texas changed the other Democrats' thinking.
They will still stay out of Austin until Mr. Whitmire helps the Republicans reach the 21-member quorum needed to do business but will return to their families in Texas, she said.
An assistant clerk for the (Texas) House Redistricting Committee recently wrote an interesting letter to Chairman Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, and members after she quit.
Lauren Kasprzak had a front-row seat as assistant clerk of Crabb's redistricting committee in addition to a perspective from the backroom where much of the real politics plays out.
Kasprzak's letter drips with disillusionment.
"The process that we went through during the regular session was a joke," she said in the letter. "The public was excluded in any real decision calculus of the committee. Sure, we held public hearings... on a plan that we never intended to go to the floor. And then we introduced the new plan... while someone was writing the other map that we actually intended to be voted out of the committee in a back room," she wrote.
She and her parents are Crabb's constituents. Lauren says her parents are Republican. She now calls herself an independent.
Earlier this summer, hundreds of people lined up to testify on a redistricting plan that Crabb knew was a sham, she says. The hearing lasted all night. People hung around to 4 a.m. ... 5 a.m. .. 6 a.m. to testify on a phony plan, unaware that backroom architects were drawing the real plan. "They wasted the people's time. ... You have to honest with the public," she says. "You are changing their lives as well as other politicians' lives. There should be openness and honesty."
It would be appropriate at this point to share Crabb's perspective and his response. But a meeting this week in his Capitol office didn't go very well. Crabb interrupted before any question about the letter and other observations by his former employee.
"What you are doing is evil. Leave my office," Crabb, an ordained minister, said while booting this reporter into the Capitol corridor.
Has anyone welcomed our new member, massagattos, yet?
This attempt to redraw the lines between census periods is wrong on its face. State Republican lawmakers abdicated that responsibility to the federal courts after the 2001 Legislature. Lawmakers couldn't get the job done and let the courts decide the matter. The boundaries should stand until the next census.
In the meantime, (Governor Rick) Perry has rearranged the scenery a bit in an effort to sell this third session as something other than the naked power grab that it is. He has indicated he wants lawmakers to consider such issues as school districts' funding, government reorganization and election dates.
That's just window-dressing. Perry sees politics as a zero-sum game: If the other guy loses, I win. But with Texas needing action on long-deferred issues like tax reform and school finance, it is becoming clear that we will all pay a high price for the new partisanship-uber-alles ethos in Austin.
But most importantly, this plan is part and parcel of the most dangerous assault on our democratic form of government, perhaps in the history of the country: when Republicans disapprove of the choices voters make, they find some way to use (misuse) the power they do have to set aside the election results and impose their will, regardless of the votes of the electorate. When they didn't like the result of the 1996 presidential election, they sought to overturn the voters' will be removing President Clinton from office through impeachment. When they lost the popular vote in the presidential election of 2000, they sought to overturn the voters' choice by getting their judges to order that votes in Florida not be counted. When the voters chose a governor in California they didn't like, they used their money to orchestrate a "recall" election designed to remove from office the person chosen by the people of California less than one year ago. And when voters in five Republican congressional districts in Texas (designed by the Republican Attorney General, implemented by two Republican federal judges, at the invitation of Governor Perry himself, and approved by the Supreme Court of the United States) chose to be represented by their Democratic incumbents, rather than by the candidates Tom DeLay preferred, Republicans engaged in an unprecedented second redistricting in a decade, obliterating time-honored procedures (the 2/3rds rule) to achieve their anti-democratic result.
Perry met Monday with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick to discuss the issue. And remarks afterward make it more and more clear that the full weight of redistricting will fall on San Angelo's state senator, Republican Robert Duncan of Lubbock.
West Texas is Ground Zero in the redistricting battle, which now is less a Republican-Democrat matter and more a Duncan-Craddick fight.
Craddick (who is from Midland) wants any new congressional map to include a district sure to be won by a Midland-Odessa candidate, and such a district almost certainly would include San Angelo. Duncan supports keeping things as they are in West Texas, with Midland-Odessa in a district with Lubbock and Abilene and San Angelo in another district.
Perry and Dewhurst are hoping to reach a compromise in advance of another special session, but Craddick's spokesman has made clear over the past week that the speaker won't give an inch.
But in this game of redistricting poker, Duncan has just as good a hand, and he should not hesitate to play it out. If he doesn't get what he wants, Duncan can simply oppose Craddick's remap, and hopefully he would have the support of Democrats and several Republicans who heard San Angeloans and other West Texans explain clearly and persuasively during a hearing at Angelo State University why they want to keep the current 17th Congressional District as it is.
If they refuse to budge, and Craddick does, too, then no new map will be passed.
But Craddick's hard-line stance means Duncan will be under enormous pressure to relent. Perry and Dewhurst have staked a ton of political capital on redistricting, and even presidential adviser Karl Rove has stressed its importance. But none of those people lives in Duncan's district, and they don't care how San Angeloans' interests are represented in Washington.
Dewhurst, my catty-cornered neighbor (our fences join... ick!), is no better. Worse even probably.
How do I write on a fresh one and then get it across the fence, PDid? I'd be glad to try, but it's gonna be a helluva mess. Perhaps I could shorten your little wish to "GO F URSELF"? Easier... Or next time his wife appears in court on yet another drunk driving charge I could carry a little sign maybe...