Redistricting, like it or not

By Mike Coggins
Published July 20th 2003 in Stephenville Empire Tribune (TX)

It appears that the Congressman Tom DeLay, Governor Rick Perry, and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst are determined to force redistricting on the state of Texas, regardless of public support or not.

Despite hearing mass opposition during public hearings throughout the state, anti-redistricting testimony in Senate committee hearings, and what appears to be less than a majority (21) of Senators willing to support a redistricting map, the push by the highest elected leadership in Texas continues full bore.

Perry has threatened to call a second special session if no plan comes out of the first session. Dewhurst has threatened to wave the majority vote rule on getting a plan on the Senate floor if the second session is called. Senate Democrats are now discussing an Ardmore-style walkout if a second session is called. What an expensive ($1.7 million) politically motivated mess. Maybe someone should send a bumper stick to the governor's office reminding him of our state's slogan, "Don't Mess with Texas."

Meanwhile, the Senate Jurisprudence Committee, which is charged with coming up with a map, is only one vote away from killing redistricting in committee. The seven-member committee split 4-3 on the vote last week.

I've spent several hours listening to the debate within the committee on the Internet. It has been very interesting to say the least. On Friday afternoon, city and county elected officials throughout the state testified in opposition to redistricting for more than four hours. Not one pro-redistricting person testified before the committee.

The committee will reconvene at 9 a.m. Monday. If you would like to listen or watch the testimony here's the Web address: and go to Channel 8.

The committee does have two plans that they are considering. You can turn to Page A10 of today's Empire-Tribune to see how Erath County stands. You'll see that either plan is better than the ridiculous plan that squeaked out of the House.

While I rarely have been a supporter of Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, who is not very pro open government, his redistricting plan is the best of any submitted during the special session for Erath County. Wentworth is not a member of the Jurisprudence Committee, but he appears to have the better of the two plans the committee will continue to debate on Monday.

Dave McNeely, columnist with the Austin American-Statesman, really hit the nail on the head this week when he pointed out what Texas will lose in Congress if some leading Democrats are redistricted out of office.

Chet Edwards of Waco, who has been in Congress since 1991, is the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on Military Construction, the group looking at closing military bases. Edward's district encompasses Fort Hood.

McNeely goes on to say that Texans currently are ranking minority members on four full Congressional committees and eight subcommittees.

The four ranking members of full committees, the year they came to Congress, and the state whose congressman would take over include: .

Charles Stenholm, Abilene (1979) - Agriculture.Minnesota. .

Martin Frost, Dallas (1979) - Rules (agenda-setter for Congress).New York. .

Ralph Hall, Rockwall (1980) - Science.Tennessee. .

Jim Turner, Crockett (1997) - Select Committee on Homeland Security.Mississippi.

So Texans, had we rather have minority party (Democrats) senior members in Congress, or freshman majority party representation? That is really what we face with redistricting. Is what we give up with ranking Democrats, like Edwards and Stenholm worth the risk of redistricting and replacing them with Republican freshman?