Perry savors GOP's redistricting victory

By Rachel Graves
Published October 15th 2003 in Houston Chronicle
Gov. Rick Perry savored victory Wednesday and said it is time for Texas to move past the monthslong, bitter redistricting dispute.

"My taste is sweet in my mouth," he said during a visit to Houston for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association. "Yes, it was a contentious affair. It always is."

Perry signed the redistricting bill Monday after months of fighting, three special sessions and boycotts that prompted Democratic lawmakers to twice flee the state. House members spent several days in Ardmore, Okla., and senators stayed in Albuquerque, N.M., for more than a month in unsuccessful attempts to block the GOP redistricting effort.

Democrats are now challenging the plan in court. They filed a lawsuit in Tyler on Sunday night. The GI Forum and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on Wednesday filed another federal suit in Victoria, claiming the map violates the voting rights of Hispanics.

If the map survives the challenges, Republicans will have the chance to take control of the state's congressional delegation after next year's elections.

Some of the state's most senior Congress members -- Democrats who hold key minority party committee positions -- will lose their seats in the U.S. House.

Perry said Texas officials need to move past the conflict.

"It's time for governing," he said.

Perry also dismissed complaints that the new districts will be bad for rural areas, many of which are combined with urban areas under the new map.

"I live in a rather urban setting today, and I still represent rural issues," he said.

Asked whether he was concerned about a possible Republican primary challenge from state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Perry had little to say.

"Carole is my friend, and I hope that she will focus on her duties," he said.

Strayhorn hinted earlier this week that she might run for governor in 2006.

Perry held a news conference Wednesday at Houston's Westin Galleria, where the governors' group has been holding closed-door meetings to discuss energy, transportation and politics.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said at the news conference that the group is focused on winning governor's races in Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana. There are currently 27 Republican governors in the United States.