Texas' Redistricting News
(July 2, 2001 - October 19, 2001)

 Dallas Morning News: "AG Says His Map Deserves Priority." October 19, 2001
 Associated Press: "Texas Court Rejects District Plan." October 19, 2001
 Austin American-Statesman: "Testimony From Redistricting Players Sought." October 18, 2001
 San Francisco Chronicle: "Democrat Opponents Argue Texas Legislative Redistricting Plan Discriminates Against Minority Voters." October 17, 2001
  Dallas Morning News: "Redistricting appeal goes to state high court." October 16, 2001
 Roll Call : "Between the Lines (excerpt)." October 15, 2001
  Washington Post: "Texas Judge Revises Redistricting Proposal." October 12, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Analysts Differ on Which Party Gains, Whether it is Fair to Minorities." October 5, 2001
 Washington Post: "Texas Setback Rattles Democrats." October 5, 2001
 Washington Post: "Texas Democrats Suffer Setback." October 4, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Judge Unveils Map for Districts."  October 4, 2001
 Roll Call : "Between the Lines (excerpt)." September 24, 2001
 San Antonio Express-News: "Congressional Remap Suit Handed to Demo's Austin Court." September 13, 2001
 San Antonio Express-News: "Redistricting in courts' hands." August 22, 2001
 Amarillo Globe-News: "Redistricting Remains Contentious Issue." August 12, 2001

 Roll Call: "Between the Lines." August 6, 2001
 The Austin American-Statesman: "GOP got head start in race to courts, Democrats say." August 1, 2001
 The Washington Times: "GOP plan aims to oust Texas speaker." July 30, 2001
 Roll Call: "Between the Lines." July 30, 2001
 Amarillo Globe-News: "Redistricting panel expected to vote on new maps." July 22, 2001
 Borderland News: "Districts plan isn't final, Cornyn says." July 17, 2001
 Amarillo Globe-News: "Two redistricting plans posed; challenge expected to any plan."July 11, 2001
 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." July 9, 2001
 Amarillo Globe-News: "Summer in Austin is crazy, hazy, but not lazy." July 2, 2001
 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." July 2, 2001

Texas' redistricting news from February 26, 2001 - June 30, 2001

 

Dallas Morning News
AG Says His Map Deserves Priority; Cornyn tells justices that judge's Congress plan is flawed
By Sam Attlesey
October 19, 2001

A congressional redistricting plan drawn by a Democratic state district judge should be thrown out and replaced by one drafted by Attorney General John Cornyn, the state official argued Thursday.

Appearing before the Texas Supreme Court, Mr. Cornyn said state District Judge Paul Davis "abandoned his role" as an impartial observer in drawing the congressional map.

"Judges should not come down off the bench where they are supposed to be impartial umpires calling balls and strikes and jump headlong into the political thicket," said Mr. Cornyn, a Republican.

"Judges should not be politicians wearing the black robes."

But Paul Smith, a lawyer representing Democrats in the legal squabble, defended Judge Davis before the all-Republican Supreme Court.

"To suggest he completely threw off his robe and became a politician seems to be completely inappropriate," Mr. Smith said. "He relied on the evidence and ruled as best he thought the map ought to be drawn."

Under the proposal Judge Davis drafted last week, most incumbent Democratic and Republican members of Congress would be protected and occupy districts in which their re-election would be likely.

Analysts said Democrats could control 18 seats and Republicans 14 seats after the 2002 elections.

Currently, Democrats have 17 seats and Republicans have 13. Texas will gain two new congressional districts this year because of population growth.

Republicans believe that because of the rapid growth of the GOP during the last decade, they should have at least 19 of the state's 32 districts.

Claiming authority under the Texas Constitution, Mr. Cornyn said his congressional map and not Judge Davis' proposal should be the starting point when a three-judge federal court panel begins its redistricting trial Monday.

But under questioning from Supreme Court justices, Mr. Cornyn said it "would be better to go to federal court with no plan than an illegal plan."

He contended that Judge Davis drafted his map without "due process" because he ordered his final plan Oct. 10 without allowing time for the parties in the case to present evidence.

Mr. Smith, the lawyer for Democrats, disagreed.

"Judge Davis just acted like a judge always does. He sat there for two weeks. He heard everybody's testimony, and he sat down with all the various maps and figured out what he thought was the best resolution," Mr. Smith said.

Although the Supreme Court had given both sides 20 minutes each to make their arguments, the hearing Thursday lasted almost two hours. The justices repeatedly questioned Mr. Cornyn and Mr. Smith in a packed courtroom.

The courts assumed the task of redrawing congressional boundaries when lawmakers failed to complete the chore during the regular legislative session.

Since there was no legislative action, Mr. Cornyn argued that his redistricting proposal should be given priority in the courts.

"The attorney general is the voice of the state in court," he said.

Associated Press
Texas Court Rejects District Plan
By Connie Mabin
October 19, 2001

The state Supreme Court on Friday rejected a Democrat-favored map of new congressional districts, ruling that the map should not be used in a federal trial over the state's redistricting. The all-Republican court's 6-3 decision was the latest step in a series of court battles over redistricting. A federal trial over how the district lines will be drawn is set to begin Monday.

The high court agreed with Republicans that Judge Paul Davis' plan was improperly switched at the last minute from an earlier map that the GOP supported. Parties should have had a chance to examine and cross-examine witnesses and evidence before Davis changed the map, the majority wrote. Lawyers for the Democrats argued that there was due process in the state court trial, noting that evidence was heard for two weeks.

Republican Attorney General John Cornyn, who drew the map rejected by Davis, said he was pleased with the Supreme Court's ruling. The Texas Legislature failed to finish its redistricting job this year, so the matter went directly to the courts - first state, then federal. In the state case, Davis restored a central Texas district he had first split. He also restored the districts of several Democratic congressmen.

In the Texas congressional delegation, Democrats have a 17-13 advantage. The state is getting two additional seats because of population growth. - On the Net:

Texas Supreme Court: http://www.courts.state.tx.us
Texas Legislative Council:
http://www.tlc.state.tx.us  

Austin American-Statesman
Testimony From Redistricting Players Sought
By Laylan Copelin
October 18, 2001

A Dallas lawyer trying to prove racial discrimination in a redistricting lawsuit told the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday that he must depose three state officials to learn their intent behind several "midnight amendments" that changed the 2002 election map for the Legislature.

Andy Taylor, representing the officials, argued that his clients were doing the work of the Legislature and they should be exempt from answering questions under oath about the redistricting map.

At issue is the Legislative Redistricting Board that in July approved new districts for the Legislature after state lawmakers failed to create their own map. Attorney General John Cornyn, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, all Republicans, voted for a map that included several last-minute amendments. Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, a Republican, and House Speaker Pete Laney, the lone Democrat, voted against the plans, in part, because they had not seen the amendments before they were made public at a meeting July 24.

Ed Cloutman, a Dallas lawyer, is alleging racial discrimination in the drawing of the map and says he must determine the intent of the three prevailing officials and their aides who made the changes.

Taylor denied racial discrimination occurred but said the state officials shouldn't have to explain their actions in depositions.

He said legislative immunity covers members of the executive branch when they are doing the work of legislators.

Under the state constitution, the redistricting board has the duty to draw new political districts if the Legislature fails to do so.

Taylor also argued that Cloutman could try to prove his allegations of racial discrimination through circumstantial evidence from the maps, the demographics of each district and other public documents. The Supreme Court announced no decision.

Today, the justices will hear Cornyn's argument that his map should be the starting point in a federal trial that opens Monday.

Cornyn, a former Supreme Court justice, will urge the court to substitute his map for one issued by state District Judge Paul Davis, a Democrat from Travis County. Cornyn's argument will be that the state's lawyer has the duty to draw a congressional map when the Legislature fails to do so. Both sides agree Cornyn's argument would be an unprecedented expansion of the power of the attorney general.

You may contact Laylan Copelin at lcopelin@statesman.com or 445-3617.

San Francisco Chronicle
Democrat Opponents Argue Texas Legislative Redistricting Plan Discriminates Against Minority Voters
October 17, 2001

A map that redraws Texas legislative districts intentionally discriminates against minority voters, a lawyer for Democratic opponents of the plan argued Wednesday before the state Supreme Court.

The court was urged to allow questioning of Republican members of the Legislative Redistricting Board about their plan, which likely would create large majorities for the GOP.

Democrats complain the plan violates citizens' civil and voting rights and disenfranchises voters by, for example, splitting counties in southeast Texas.

"What we don't know is what happened, what drove these actions," lawyer Edward Cloutman said.

Andy Taylor, an attorney for Republican Gov. Rick Perry and GOP members of the board, denied the allegation.

"That is made up out of thin air in order to try to justify a last-ditch effort to depose members of the Legislative Redistricting Board who did a good job," Taylor said.

The court did not indicate when it might rule.

The redistricting board met in public and the evidence it used to design the Senate and House maps are public record, Taylor said, disputing a claim by Cloutman that several amendments were adopted "last-minute" and without public review.

The Legislature was to use 2000 census data to draw district maps. When lawmakers failed to come up with a plan, the statehouse redistricting task fell to the redistricting board.

The Senate has a 16-15 Republican majority. Under the board's map, the GOP could hold 19 to 21 Senate seats in the next session.

The plan could give Republicans as many as 88 seats in the 150-member House. Currently, Democrats control the House 78-72.

Dallas Morning News
Redistricting appeal goes to state high court: Judge's remap plan 'was drawn without due process,' AG says
By Sam Attlesey
October 16, 2001

The Texas Supreme Court decided Monday to hear arguments concerning the attorney general's claim that a congressional redistricting plan drawn by a state district judge is invalid.

Attorney General John Cornyn maintained that State District Court Judge Paul Davis' plan "was drawn without due process."

The proposal by Judge Davis, a Democrat, would give Democrats 18 of the state's congressional seats and Republicans 14, analysts said.

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, consisting of nine Republicans, Mr. Cornyn asks the court to throw out Judge Davis' proposal.

"On Oct. 10, the trial court completely reversed its plan of Oct. 3, changing 30 of the state's 32 congressional districts," noted Mark Heckmann, a spokesman for Mr. Cornyn, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate.

"The stunning reversal of position occurred during a weeklong series of secret deliberations between the court and the staff of one of the parties in the case," the spokesman said, referring to a representative of House Speaker Pete Laney, the state's highest-ranking Democrat.

Judge Davis' final congressional map included many amendments Mr. Laney's lawyers offered.

"Our appeal is simply to try to eradicate this invalid plan, which was drawn without due process," Mr. Heckmann said.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Sugar Land, the Republican majority whip, asked the Texas secretary of state's office to refuse to submit Judge Davis' plan to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance.

"Politics, not the law, was foremost in the mind of this judge," Mr. DeLay said.

All Texas redistricting plans must be submitted to the Department of Justice, where officials determine whether the proposals violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

The plans redrawing districts for seats in the Texas House are pending before the Justice Department. A Justice Department letter to the state on Monday indicated that the state Senate redistricting plan has passed an initial Voting Rights compliance check.

State officials have been notified that the Justice Department has asked for more time to determine the legality of the 150 proposed House districts.

The state House and Senate districts were drawn by three GOP members of the Legislative Redistricting Board: Mr. Cornyn, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander, and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst.

The plans would give the GOP strong majorities in the state House and Senate, analysts have said.

Democrats are contesting those plans in state and federal courts.

Meanwhile, the all-Republican state Supreme Court also agreed Monday to hear an appeal by the three GOP members of the Legislative Redistricting Board, who do not want to give depositions to Democrats about how they drew the districts.

"It is our position that members of the Legislative Redistricting Board have absolute legislative immunity," said Mr. Heckmann, the Cornyn spokesman.

Oral arguments have been set for Wednesday.

The courts assumed the task of congressional and legislative redistricting after lawmakers failed to complete the chore during the regular session.

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
October 15, 2001

High Noon

The so-called "third act" of Texas' redistricting process gets under way today in the small town of Tyler, where a three-judge federal panel will review a House map drawn by a state judge, who last week reversed himself and released a plan that favors Lone Star Democrats.

Substantially amending a map he had released just days earlier, state district Judge Paul Davis (D) configured a new 32-seat Texas map that analysts said would allow House Democrats to hold their 17-seat majority. Even though the state is rapidly trending their way, state Republicans, who currently hold 13 seats, would pick up only two seats, a smaller gain than they had expected.

Republicans, who had embraced Davis' earlier map, cried partisanship. "Clearly, there is a partisan element to this change," state Republican Chairwoman Susan Weddington said after Davis released the map late Wednesday. "There were changes made to protect some Democrats that were in marginal seats in his first map. ... In the end partisanship won out."

However, Davis' latest plan could be short-lived.

Lawyers for both parties will appear in federal court today to argue whether the map meets the strict criteria established in the Voting Rights Act - specifically whether the map provides black and Hispanic minorities with a full opportunity for representation.

"Some of the concerns about minority voting rights that Democrats have raised remain unresolved," said Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (Texas), whose Fort Worth-based district gained Democratic voters under the second Davis plan.

"We are very pleased that Judge Davis has adopted a number of Democrats' modifications, but the federal court in Tyler will ultimately decide Texas redistricting," Frost said.

Although Davis changed many things in his second map, one consistency was his elimination of the Houston-based 25th district, represented by Rep. Ken Bentsen (D). If the federal court upholds Davis on this point, Bentsen would face a choice between running an uphill race against black Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) in a majority-minority district or running for the Senate.

Bentsen said last week that he's "leaning towards" running for Senate.

"Regardless of whether I run for re-election or for the Senate, the district needs to be protected for Voting Rights Act purposes, if nothing else," said Bentsen, who has faced primary challenges from African-American candidates.

The 42-year-old lawmaker, nephew of ex-Sen. and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas), spoke last month with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) to discuss the race, and his aides regularly update the DSCC on his plans.

Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and former state Attorney General Dan Morales also may run for the Democratic Senate nomination. State Attorney General John Cornyn is the only announced GOP candidate.

Washington Post
Texas Judge Revises Redistricting Proposal
By Thomas Edsall
October 12, 2001

A Texas state judge has revised a congressional redistricting plan to the great benefit of Democrats, abandoning a proposal that could have cost the party at least five seats.

Judge Paul Davis, a Democrat, had infuriated members of his party with his original plan, issued last week. Since then, Democratic state House Speaker Pete Laney had sought revisions, and late Wednesday the judge agreed to many of Laney's suggestions.

The new plan is a victory for Democratic strategists seeking to gain control of the House in 2002, and for Texas Democrats, who would likely continue to hold 17 of the state's 32 seats, even though the state has been trending strongly toward the GOP. Because of population growth, Texas is gaining two congressional districts.

Under the original Davis plan, the prospective Democratic losses in Texas were so large that the party's chances of taking back the House in 2002 were severely threatened.

The revisions outraged Republicans. "We are dumbfounded by the bizarre actions undertaken by Judge Davis," Susan Weddington, the state GOP chairman said yesterday. "These radical changes have dramatically changed the partisan outcome."

Democrats were delighted: "We got a good break," said Rep. Martin Frost.

The scope of Davis's revisions surprised both parties. Republican and Democratic operatives said the new plan, which must be reviewed by a three-judge federal panel, would likely result in a 17 to 15 Democratic edge in the post-2002 delegation. This would represent no losses for Democrats, who hold a 17 to 13 majority now, and a gain of two seats for Republicans, far smaller than the party had hoped for.

Under the plan Davis initially proposed, Republicans could have won 19 to 21 districts, for a net pickup of at least six seats and a net loss for the Democrats of at least four.

While these are relatively small numbers in the 435-member House, such differences can have major consequences. Experts expect only about 50 races to be competitive, so an advantage of six or a deficit of four can determine which party wins overall control.

Republicans, who have a nine-seat advantage in the House, have said they will gain 8 to 10 seats as a result of redistricting nationwide, while Democrats contend neither party will gain or lose seats in redistricting. The competing predictions are important, because fundraisers and candidate recruiters have a far easier sell if they can legitimately claim that their party will be in the majority after 2002.

Both parties are conducting detailed analyses of the new Texas plan, but the preliminary findings are that the reelection prospects of Democratic Reps. Max Sandlin, Ralph M. Hall, Charles W. Stenholm, Jim Turner and Frost have improved. Only one Democratic incumbent remains in trouble: Ken Bentsen, who is white, was put into an overwhelmingly black and Hispanic district with fellow Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who is black.

Frost's district went from leaning Republican to solidly Democratic. Sandlin's district became 3 percentage points more Democratic, and Turner's gained 6 Democratic percentage points, according to an analysis using voting results from a recent, close statewide election.

Democrats contend they will use the Voting Rights Act to argue for the creation of a more Democratic-leaning district in the Houston-Harris County area in which Bentsen could seek reelection. Bentsen is considering a bid for the Senate seat being vacated by Phil Gramm (R-Tex).

Dallas Morning News
Analysts Differ on Which Party Gains, Whether it is Fair to Minorities
By Sam Attlesey
October 5, 2001

After a state district judge released a new congressional map that didn't please any of the parties, Democrats, Republicans and minority group representatives said Thursday that they would seek relief from higher authority.

Those involved in the redistricting case said they would appeal to the U.S. Justice Department, a three-judge federal court panel in Tyler and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Analysts disagreed over whether the map released Wednesday by District Judge Paul Davis, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, favors Democrats or Republicans and whether it is fair to minorities.

Some said Republicans could control as many as 20 districts under Judge Davis' plan. Others said the GOP would have as few as 15 seats after the 2002 elections.

Democrats now hold 17 seats, Republicans 13. Texas will gain two congressional seats next year because of population growth.

Much of the growth has been in Republican areas of the state and among Hispanic communities.

Nina Perales, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the proposed map does not recognize the rapid growth of Hispanics in the last decade.

"We see a very strong Voting Rights Act case in the failure to create a seventh Latino district in South and West Texas," she said. "There were six Latino districts before, and there are still six of them now."

Ms. Perales said that instead of creating a new majority Hispanic district, the judge "packed" Hispanics into the existing districts.

She said she does not believe Judge Davis' proposal will pass muster with the Justice Department, where officials will determine whether it contains Voting Rights Act violations.

"This map is just one step in a long legal process, and everyone understands that Texas redistricting will ultimately be resolved by the federal court in Tyler," said U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas.

The panel, composed of two judges appointed by Democrats and one judge appointed by Republicans, has set a trial date of Oct. 15.

"We believe the federal court will adopt a fair map that strengthens minority political strength and honors the choices made by voters that have given Texas a diverse and powerful delegation in Washington," said Mr. Frost, who heads the national Democratic Party's redistricting project.

Mr. Frost said he is confident that "the Texas delegation's Democratic majority would be re-elected under the plan."

But Republicans disagreed, contending that Mr. Frost and Democratic Reps. Max Sandlin of Marshall, Charles Stenholm of Abilene and Chet Edwards of Waco would be in jeopardy.

"Frost is in harm's way under this plan. Edwards is in harm's way seriously under this plan," said Norman Newton, head of the Associated Republicans of Texas.

But Mr. Edwards maintained that the proposed Central Texas plan drawn for him is slightly more Democratic than the existing district.

The only incumbents who would be forced to run against each other under the plan are Houston Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Ken Bentsen. Analysts said Ms. Lee would be the favorite in a primary against Mr. Bentsen, who may give more serious thought to running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Phil Gramm.

Washington Post
Texas Setback Rattles Democrats; If Redistricting Plan Is Upheld, Prospects in House Look Bleak
By Thomas B. Edsall
October 5, 2001

Democrats are growing increasingly worried they will face insurmountable obstacles in seeking control of the House in 2002 if a Texas congressional redistricting plan approved by a state judge is upheld in the federal courts.

The Texas plan, which some Democrats suggested could result in the loss of as many as nine seats, would put the GOP so far ahead in the national competition to win a majority of at least 218 seats that the odds of a Democratic House would become prohibitive given the declining number of marginal, competitive seats across the country.

"I can't tell you how bad this is," a Democratic strategist said yesterday. "If this stands, and we have to live with just a one-seat gain in California, it is going to be very hard to win the House back."

The Texas plan will be reviewed by a federal court in Tyler, Tex., but it has legal priority over alternatives that have been offered by Democrats.

In what could provoke a major fight within the Democratic Party, the Texas setback has raised the possibility of national Democrats giving tacit, or even direct, aid to Hispanic groups challenging the California redistricting plan.

In California, where Democrats control the process of redrawing the state's congressional districts, the party made a deal with the GOP and created new lines protecting incumbents of both parties. The state gained one House seat as a result of population gain in the 2000 census, and it was drawn to favor the election of a Democrat. This strategy prevented a Republican-financed referendum challenging the plan. But in the view of many Democrats it failed to use the redistricting process to create three or four Democratic seats to counter GOP gains in other states.

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund this week filed suit in federal court on Voting Rights Act grounds, charging that the California Legislature limited Hispanic representation and diluted the strength of Hispanic voters to protect white Democratic incumbents.

In addition, Democratic strategists are discussing efforts to pressure legislators and governors in Democratic-controlled states to be very aggressive in shaping the redistricting plans of states where the process is not finished. Key states for Democrats are Maryland and North Carolina, where party officials could create two Democratic seats each; and Alabama, where a district with an open Republican seat could be made significantly more Democratic in its voting inclinations. Resistance could come from state Democrats seeking secure seats. The riskier approach -- trying to create as many Democratic districts as possible -- poses the danger that some safe seats will become competitive.

Before the Texas court decision, Democrats nationally had been holding their own in the competition over which party would make the largest gains as a result of 2000 census results.

Republicans have been saying they will pick up eight to 10 seats, while the Democrats contended that the fight would be a wash, ranging from an even split to a very modest two- or three-seat GOP gain.

Small differences in the number of seats designed to go to one party or the other make a huge difference because the battle for control of the House does not take place in all 435 districts, but in approximately 50 competitive districts.

To reach a majority of 218 in the House, Democrats must gain six seats. This means that of the 50 competitive races in 2002, they must win 31, a difficult task. If the Texas court plan holds, Democrats would have to win from 36 out of 50 races -- 72 percent -- to as many as 40 out of 50, or an extraordinary 80 percent win margin.

These statistics have made the outcome in Texas critical for both sides. Democrats had been pushing a Texas redistricting plan that would have protected all incumbents and added one Democratic and one Republican seat, making the post-2002 delegation 18-14 Democratic.

The possibility of losing nine Texas seats is a worst-case Democratic scenario. It would require President Bush's popularity to remain very high and a commitment among Texans to use their congressional vote as an endorsement of the administration.

Washington Post
Texas Democrats Suffer Setback; Redistricting Ruling Adversely Affects 5 House Incumbents
By Thomas B. Edsall
October 4, 2001

A Texas state judge has ordered new congressional districts to be drawn that would likely end the House career of Democrat Ken Bentsen and would threaten the reelection of at least four other Democrats: Charles W. Stenholm, Jim Turner, Max Sandlin and Chet Edwards.

The ruling is a devastating blow to the national Democratic goal of staying even with the GOP in the congressional redistricting process and winning control of the House next year. Republicans contend that the judicial plan keeps them on track to pick up as many 10 seats nationwide.

"What really hurt us in Texas is that a Democratic judge made the ruling," said a Democrat involved in the process. In private, aides to Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), the principal architect of his party's redistricting strategy in Texas and nationally, had said that the assignment of Judge Paul Davis to the case increased the likelihood that Democrats would get a positive decision.

Yesterday, Frost issued a statment claiming confidence "that the Texas delegation's Democratic majority would be reelected under the map," but he also made clear that there would be a legal challenge. "The map adopted today would divide several Hispanic and African American communities to dilute their voting strength in likely violation of the Voting Rights Act. . . . It eviscerates many existing districts where minority communities elect the candidates they choose to represent their interests."

Democrats now face the more daunting task of trying to persuade an East Texas federal court to accept more pro-Democratic lines. Republicans contended that the Davis map, which has priority in court proceedings, would conservatively produce at least three new GOP seats -- including the two new seats added to the delegation because of the state's population increase in the 2000 census.

The current Texas delegation has 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans. With the addition of two new seats, Republicans contended that, after 2002, they will have at least an even delegation, 16-16, and perhaps as much as an 18 to 14 advantage, depending on a number of factors, including President Bush's popularity in November 2002.

An aide to Bentsen acknowledged that "we got the short straw on this one." Bentsen would be forced to run against fellow Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, who is black, in an overwhelmingly minority district. Bentsen may now give stronger consideration to running for the Senate seat from which Phil Gramm (R) will be retiring.

Stenholm, who has been able to win in GOP-leaning counties, said he is prepared to run and win whatever the district lines are.

While partisans on both sides expect the majority of states' redistricting plans to end up in court, Republicans have contended that they will emerge from the process with a net gain of eight to 10 seats. Democrats have contended that the process will be a wash, with neither party coming out ahead.

Just last week, Democrats won what is likely to be their biggest victory in the process, creating seven districts in Georgia with Democratic voting histories of at least 55 percent. If the Democrats win those seats, their triumph will amount to a four-seat pickup.

In most states, the battle involves just one seat at most; and in many cases, the two parties are agreeing to protect incumbents with no change. The GOP controls the process in Michigan, where the party is likely to pick up two seats.

The GOP also controls the process in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida; and in each, Republicans hope to gain two or more seats.

Dallas Morning News
Judge Unveils Map for Districts; Both parties doubt proposal would survive legal challenges
By Sam Attlesey
October 4, 2001

A state district judge unveiled his proposal to reshape the state's 32 congressional districts Wednesday, prompting a range of responses from the lawyers, political parties and minority-group organizations involved in the court case.

Representatives of both political parties said they doubted that the plan would survive anticipated legal challenges.

Judge Paul Davis, a Democrat from Austin, drew the map after lawmakers failed to accomplish the task in the last session of the Legislature.

During the two-week trial, officeholders and special interest groups submitted a dozen redistricting proposals.

Analysts said Judge Davis' plan is similar to a proposal drafted by acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, a Republican. He testified that his plan would have created 16 Republican districts, 13 Democratic districts and three tossup districts.

Currently, Democrats hold 17 seats and the GOP has 13.

Republicans complained Judge Davis' plan fails to reflect the party's growth in Texas during the past decade.

Texas GOP leader Susan Weddington said the proposed map "does not appear to adequately remedy the severe gerrymandering of 1991."

"At best it takes one small step for Texas when a giant leap is needed," she said. Lawyers for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the proposal fails to reflect the rapid growth of Hispanics in the state during the last 10 years.

"This new plan does not represent progress for Latinos because there is no new Latino majority district in the plan," said Nina Perales, a MALDEF lawyer.

Texas will gain two congressional seats next year because of population growth. Under Judge Davis' proposal, one new district would be in Central Texas and another in South Texas.

But Ms. Perales maintained that the judge took away an existing Hispanic majority district in exchange for the new South Texas district.

U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, who heads his party's national redistricting campaign, said Judge Davis' proposal is a likely violation of the Voting Rights Act because it divides many Hispanic and black communities.

"I am confident that the Texas delegation's Democratic majority would be re-elected under the map ... however there are numerous legal problems with map," Mr. Frost said.

During the trial, Democrats had argued that the judge should consider incumbency protection in drawing his map because serving long terms in Congress had benefited Texas in the past.

One plan submitted by House Speaker Pete Laney, the highest-ranking Democrat in the state, would have given the 30 incumbent members of the U.S. House safe districts in which to win re-election.

"While further study is needed to determine if any adjustments will be offered, we appreciate Judge Davis' efforts to achieve a fair and equitable congressional map," Mr. Laney said.

"I stand ready to assist him in developing a final plan that is fair to all the voters of Texas," said the speaker.

In his order, Judge Davis gave the lawyers a Tuesday deadline to file "comments, proposed changes or requested modifications to the court's plan."

The state court case is only the first round in the battle.

A trial on the state's congressional redistricting plans is scheduled to begin before a three-judge federal court panel in Tyler on Oct. 15.

Many analysts believe the U.S. Supreme Court will determine the final district boundaries.

Roll Call
Between the Lines
By Chris Cillizza
September 24, 2001

Texas Next-Step

Arguments got under way this week in an Austin courtroom in a trial expected to play a major role in Congressional redistricting in the state for the 2002 elections.

"This is an important step," acknowledged Jim Ellis, director of Rep. Tom Delay's (R)leadership political action committee, ARMPAC. "The footprint of the map is likely to come out of this first court."

Greg Speed, spokesman for Rep. Martin Frost (D) agreed that "This decision is important. It will have strong standing before the federal court but the final resolution will come from the three-judge federal court."

An Oct. 1 deadline has been set for action by the Texas state court. After that date the federal court will review whatever map has emerged.

At this point, there are a dozen potential maps being circulated, seven sponsored by Republicans and five by Democrats, according to Ellis.

Democratic lawyers are arguing for the preservation of the existing districts, an incumbent protection plan that would maintain the 17 Democrat-to-13 Republican split in the current delegation. The state's two new seats would be split between the parties.

Republicans are expected to claim that doing so would not represent the state's movement toward the GOP over the past 10 years.

Among those who testified this week are former House Speaker Jim Wright (D) and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D).

The trial is expected to last two weeks. The start date was postponed due to the terrorist activities in New York and Washington on Sept. 11.

The first major victory in what will be a protracted struggle to redraw the state's Congressional lines went to Democrats on Sept. 12 when the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the trial should be held in Austin rather than Houston.

Ellis said Judge Paul Davis, who is hearing the case in Austin, "appears to be a liberal, partisan Democrat," and "we thought the Houston court would be fairer." Democrats disagree. "Judge Davis has a wide reputation as a fair judge," Speed said.

Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Attorney General John Cornyn (R) were pushing to hold the trial in Houston, where the state district court is controlled by Republicans.

Regardless of what the Austin court decides, "Someone is going to appeal the map," Ellis predicted.

San Antonio Express-News
Congressional Remap Suit Handed to Demo's Austin Court
By Bob Richter
September 13, 2001

The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision Wednesday, ordered congressional redistricting lawsuits to be heard in a Travis County state district court favored by Democrats.

The ruling ends weeks of legal wrangling over which of two competing state courts will draw Texas' 32 congressional districts in time for the 2002 elections. Rick Gray, an attorney for House Speaker Pete Laney, called the ruling "extremely favorable."

In an opinion written by Justice Nathan L. Hecht with Justice James A. Baker dissenting, the high court said the trial will be held in the Austin courtroom of 200th District Judge Paul R. Davis, a Democrat.

Davis had consolidated three congressional redistricting lawsuits filed in Travis County and set a Sept. 10 trial date.

Meanwhile, 281st District Judge Jane N. Bland, a Republican jurist in Houston, had consolidated two suits challenging legislative redistricting in her Harris County court and also set a Sept. 10 trial date.

Andy Taylor, who represents the state, said he would be prepared to go to trial today. Gray said he hoped Davis would have a pretrial hearing Friday and go to trial Monday. Davis, however, was out of the office Wednesday.

"Our goal all along was to ensure that whichever court was chosen has the legal right. We've accomplished that," said Taylor, who wanted the case to be tried in Bland's court. Still, he said, he expects to get a fair hearing in Davis' court.

Hecht's ruling singled out a case filed May 31, three days after the Legislature adjourned without completing the redistricting process, as the primary vehicle to redraw districts.

Suits were filed in Harris County by Republican interests on May 25, the last day a redistricting bill could have been approved by the Legislature, and on July 3, virtually at the moment Gov. Rick Perry decided not to call a special session, thus ending the Legislature's role in redistricting and throwing the issue to the courts.

In determining that Davis had dominant jurisdiction or first authority to try a case Hecht said that designation "cannot be conferred on a court unless the claim was ripe when filed."

While Republicans cited the July 3 lawsuit filed in Houston as the "ripest" or most timely case because it was filed precisely when legislative efforts ended, Democrats charged that there was collusion between Perry and GOP lawyers.

The state court has until Oct. 1 to draw a new congressional map. Its efforts will be reviewed by a federal panel in Tyler.

San Antonio Express-News
Redistricting in courts' hands

By
Bob Richter
August 22, 2001

Texas politicians and political aficionados submitted congressional redistricting plans this week to an unknown court and an unknown judge, but one who is scheduled to begin deciding Sept. 10 how Texas' U.S. House seats will be divided.

The proposals filed by state officials, party leaders, a civil rights group and a couple of lay redistricting experts offer a wide array of plans.

Depending on what the judicial system decides, some members of Congress will be forced into other districts already occupied by incumbents, some will lose their political base, and some districts will be left with no incumbent, opening the door to newcomers.

Texas has 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans in the U.S. House now, and will pick up two seats by population growth.

Democrats hope to keep their majority, but the GOP sees Texas as a bellwether in its effort to pick up 8-10 seats nationwide through redistricting.

For example, a plan submitted Monday by Attorney General John Cornyn, "on behalf of the state of Texas," shows 21 districts where a majority of the voting age population voted Republican in 1998 in statewide races. So does a Republican Party of Texas plan.

A Democratic Party plan preserves the Democrats' majority, based on past elections.

A look closer to home shows a sample of the verbal battles occurring across the state in advance of the legal battles ahead:

A Democratic plan has all or parts of five (there are currently four) congressional districts in Bexar County, yet managed to redraw Republican U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla's 23rd Congressional District so he lost GOP voters in what is already a Democratic-majority district.

A Republican plan, however, shrank Bonilla's district, and most of the shrinkage came from Democratic-leaning counties.

A plan filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of the American GI Forum of Texas redrew the 23rd District so that Bonilla's home is no longer in it. That means if he runs for re-election, he will have to challenge U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, also a San Antonio Republican, because Bonilla's home is in Smith's district on the MALDEF map.

Finally, two nonpartisan redistricting maps, drawn by redistricting experts Bill Owens of San Antonio and A.J. Pate of Houston, also cut the 23rd out of Bexar County. Bonilla would be paired against U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, under Pate's plan and against Smith under Owens'.

A congressional map approved May 28 by the House Redistricting Committee would leave the four local congressmen's districts intact, and add a Hispanic-leaning district south of the city.

The plans, more than a dozen of them, are being submitted to the courts because the Legislature didn't adopt consensus plans during the spring session, and Gov. Rick Perry chose not to call lawmakers back for a redistricting special session.

Under its constitutional authority, the Legislative Redistricting Board adopted House and Senate plans, but had no jurisdiction for congressional or State Board of Education reapportioning. That means the courts will decide.

Nina Perales, the redistricting attorney for MALDEF, said 11 lawsuits have been filed in various courts regarding congressional redistricting.

She said it is likely that the state Supreme Court will decide on the court of record.

"Nobody knows where it will be held yet," she said.

For a list of all redistricting plans, check the Internet at www.tlc.state.tx.us/tlc/research/redist/redist.htm.

Amarillo Globe-News
Redistricting Remains Contentious Issue
By Deon Daugherty
August 12, 2001

The next election cycle may not be in full swing yet, but some in rural West Texas say one issue is already starting to take shape for them - redistricting.

Area support for certain Republicans may not come as readily as it has in the past based on their Legislative Redistricting Board votes to redesign districts.

"I think these people have a lot of fence-mending to do if they want the strong support they have had in the area," said Gray County Judge Richard Peet of Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and lieutenant governor contender, Land Commissioner David Dewhurst.

The trio voted as a block against House Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center, and acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant.

"Granted, we're just a small area in the state, but it's an important area, and I think they'll have some difficult times," Peet said.

Gray County - a senatorial District 31 mainstay for more than 80 years - was moved into District 28 during a last-minute attachment from Rylander prior to the vote in July.

"They just ignored the feelings of the people of the Panhandle, and it's made us a little bit irritated," Peet said.

The same amendment switched Howard County from the 28th to the 31st. It was a step opposed by both Sens. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, who holds District 31, and Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, senator for District 28.

Duncan said he had spoken with Rylander and Cornyn's office several times on behalf of Howard County residents, who wanted to stay in District 28.

"Apparently, they didn't listen," he said.

Rylander was on vacation last week and couldn't be reached for comment. Dewhurst's staff said he was traveling.

Cornyn said in a statement that the LRB's plans were drawn to represent the future of Texas.

"My decisions as Attorney General aren't motivated by how they may be perceived in campaigns," he said in the statement.

One Panhandle fund-raiser for Cornyn - to be hosted by Betty Bivins-Lovell - has been canceled. Lovell is Bivins' mother.

Duncan said he's seen evidence in the newspapers that people aren't happy with the way redistricting came down, especially in rural parts of the state.

"I don't know that any of them (LRB members) will have strong contenders against them, but I think they're going to have to answer questions to the rural citizens and leaders, especially those in West Texas, as to why things were done the way they were," Duncan said.

Howard County Commissioner Bill Crooker said redistricting could very well affect how locals vote in 2002.

"I would say that it could become a campaign issue, particularly in this part of the country," he said.

Time does have a way of mitigating some problems, he said. But in the meantime, Howard officials are planning to join the redistricting litigation by filing in brief stating their opposition to the change.

George Christian, longtime political consultant and former press secretary to former President Lyndon Johnson, said it's hard to say what impact redistricting will have on statewide races.

"Some folks are beginning to say it cuts deeper than just the political guys complaining, and there is some evidence some parts of the state are feeling it," he said.

However, whether that outrage will be a stake in coming elections is difficult to pin down, he said.

"The trouble with that theory is that people who feel they're getting hurt the worst live in the less populated areas, and there are just fewer votes involved," Christian said. "It's hard for me to believe it's going to have that kind of impact."

Factors such as popularity and name recognition generally help incumbents keep their seats, Christian said.

"The people who served on this redistricting board who voted for this plan might be whacked a little here and there, but what they did is probably not going to determine whether they win or lose. It's going to be something else," he said.

Dewhurst may be the most vulnerable, said Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, and House redistricting chairman.

Duncan and Jones pointed to the "Childress amendment" from Dewhurst, which was described as one to put the county back into the Panhandle district of Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa.

That change bubbled over into Laney's District 85. Now, the lines meander from north of Lubbock to Howard County and from Terry to Jones County.

The amendment Chisum wanted replaced Childress County in his district. His suggestion compacted the travel distance of his district, plus those Laney and Reps. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon, and David Counts, D-Knox City, he said.

His amendment wasn't the one that passed the LRB. "We have a long memory," he said.

"They didn't treat us very nice," Chisum said of the "egregious" House and Senate maps. Chisum said it may be true that Lubbock and Amarillo don't have numbers that exist in other parts of the state.

"That was sort of what they were saying, 'Well, there's not enough of you to make any difference'," he said.

"But don't bet on it. We may be small, but we have a loud voice."

Elections aren't won or lost based on hundreds of thousands of votes, he said. It only takes a few to turn an election.

"It doesn't take much when you start cutting people off - you can crank up a lot of people to be really mad," Chisum said. "You just don't treat people that way."

The amendment was one of many added to the House plan just before the Republican-dominated LRB made its final vote. No member of the public had seen the amendments in their entirety before the final call.

"It was just shoved down their throats," Duncan said of area residents. "My experience has been that people don't like to have things shoved down their throats."

Bivins said he doesn't know whether the issue will surface at the polls.

"I'm a state senator, not a soothsayer," he said.

But the change has altered his campaign strategy somewhat, Bivins said. Howard County - with 16,125 registered voters in 1998 - becomes a "swing" county in District 31.

Midland and Ector County leaders had wanted to add Howard County to balance the population between the top and bottom halves of the district.

Using Bailey County as a half-mark, the Panhandle half still has at least 16,377 people more than the Permian Basin portion, according to figures with the U.S. Census.

Those numbers released this year showed that while Midland and Ector counties boasted more people, growth in Randall and Potter exceeded the Permian Basin.

Randall County Republican Party chairman Mike Ussery said some area residents are upset by redistricting's latest analysis, but "I do feel Randall County will come through ... with the Republicans being elected."

But Jones said that based on the anti-rural nature of the LRB's plans, all three majority members may lose support.

"I think all of them will suffer in rural Texas," he said. "They'll lose votes."

Roll Call
Between the Lines
By John Mercurio and Chris Cillizza
August 6, 2001 

Texas Tussle

Texas Democrats last week charged that Gov. Rick Perry (R) conspired with GOP lawyers to find a friendly judge in the legal battle over the state's redistricting process. Perry denied the allegation, made in a Democratic court filing.

Perry had the power to call state lawmakers into a special redistricting session after the divided Legislature failed to adopt a map during a regular session that ended in May. But Perry decided not to do so, saying he doubted the Legislature could reach a consensus.

On the same day that Perry notified legislative leaders of his decision, attorneys with the Houston firm Baker Botts were filing
litigation in a Republican judge's court in Harris County.

However, Renea Hicks, a Democratic attorney in Austin, said the timing was not a coincidence. Hicks told The Associated Press that the Baker Botts lawyers had "inside information from the governor and/or his staff" so they could find "a forum to their liking." Democrats filed their legal papers last Tuesday.

Lawyers for Democrats and Republicans have filed several redistricting lawsuits and are jockeying to see which court will hear which lawsuit. Typically, the first lawsuit, if filed properly, determines where the court battle over redistricting will be fought.

A Perry spokeswoman last week brushed off the Democratic charges. "Conspiracy theories abound," Kathy Walt said. "It's a political season, and there's been a shortage of conspiracy theories."

The Austin American-Statesman
GOP got head start in race to courts, Democrats say
By Laylan Copelin
August 1, 2001

Gov. Rick Perry conspired with Republican lawyers to gain an advantage in a race to find a friendly judge to draw the state's 32 congressional districts, Democrats alleged in legal papers filed Tuesday.

When the Legislature failed during its session to distribute the state's population in new congressional districts, only Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, had the authority to call state lawmakers into a special session to do that job.

But on July 3, Perry notified legislative leaders by letter that he would not call a special session because he believed the Legislature could not reach a consensus.

As those letters were being hand-delivered to Speaker Pete Laney and Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, lawyers with the Houston firm of Baker Botts were filing litigation in a Republican judge's court in Harris County. In the lawsuit, the lawyers wrote, "Governor Perry has announced that he will not call a special session of the Texas Legislature."

Typically, the first lawsuit -- if filed properly -- determines where the court battle over redistricting will be fought.

Austin lawyer Renea Hicks, representing Democrats in separate congressional redistricting litigation in Travis County, says the timing was not a coincidence. He said the Baker Botts lawyers had "inside information from the governor and/or his staff" so they could find "a forum to their liking."

Hicks offered no evidence of any conversations between Perry and Republican lawyers. He did not specifically accuse Perry of breaking any law.

With the partisan makeup of the state's congressional delegation in the balance, the political implications are huge. Lawyers for Democrats and Republicans have filed several lawsuits around the state and are jockeying to see who will hear which lawsuit.

Kevin Jacobs, a Baker Botts lawyer, referred all questions about the lawsuit to partner Sam Cooper, who did not return several phone calls Tuesday.

Andy Taylor, representing Attorney General John Cornyn, said Perry announced his intentions not to call a special session in news accounts June 29, four days before the Houston lawsuit. Perry was quoted as saying he was getting "negative vibes" about calling a special session, but The Associated Press reported that Perry had set no deadline for making a decision despite his misgivings.

Hicks dismissed Perry's June 29 comments as inconclusive. He said Democratic lawyers had their own vibes about the chances of successful redistricting and asked: "Are his vibes better than ours?"

Kathy Walt, the governor's press secretary, said she is unaware of any conversations between the governor's office and the Houston lawyers. "Conspiracy theories abound," Walt said. "It's a political season, and there's been a shortage of conspiracy theories."

Technically, Hicks won the dash to the courts. He beat the Republicans by filing a lawsuit in state District Court in Travis County on Dec. 27, the day Texas discovered it would gain two congressional seats because of population growth.

Lawyers for Republicans say Hicks' lawsuit was premature because it was filed before the Legislature had a chance to redraw congressional lines and before Perry decided to leave the issue to the courts.

Taylor denied that Republicans are just looking for a GOP judge.

He warned that if a lawsuit is later overturned on appeal, it could interfere with the election of the state's congressional delegation in 2002. "Our only purpose is to ensure whatever congressional plan is ordered by a state judge will not be reversed on appeal for lack of jurisdiction," he said.

Hicks said it's unfair if Perry, a defendant in many of the Democrats' lawsuits, gave the Houston lawyers a heads-up on his decision not to call a special session. Baker Botts has two similar congressional redistricting lawsuits -- one for the Associated Republicans of Texans and the one filed July 3 for a Houston resident, Daniel Rivas.

In the second lawsuit, Hicks said the Houston lawyers chose to sue only Perry's secretary of state and the Harris County clerk to get an easy agreement for a trial date two weeks before Hicks' lawsuit is scheduled for trial.

"In essence, the governor's office, through collusion with the counsel for (Associated Republicans of Texas) chose when they wanted to be sued, where they wanted to be sued and by whom," Hicks said.

You may contact Laylan Copelin at lcopelin@statesman.com or 445-3617.

The Washington Times
GOP plan aims to oust Texas speaker
By Hugh Aynesworth
July 30, 2001

A legislative redistricting board controlled by Republicans has offered a plan to redraw Texas Senate and House districts -- a plan that might gerrymander the Democrat speaker of the house out of politics.

The plan -- voted into law last week -- must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department. Democrats are livid and promise legal challenges. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund quickly announced plans to file suit, claiming the new lines did not fairly reflect Hispanic voters' rights. More than a dozen suits already have been filed.

"The Republican redistricting plans are a severe blow to the voting strength of minorities and women in Texas," said Molly Beth Malcolm, the Democratic state chairman. "They are an insult to Texas voters."     

Republican leaders, including Attorney General John Cornyn, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, said the new plan was fair. They voted "yes," while Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney, voted "no" and pleaded for "fairness."
     
Mr. Cornyn, chairman of the five-member board, praised the plan, saying it would create "competitive races, which reinvigorate our politics so that the public becomes re-engaged." He said politics now was "rampant with voter apathy."
     
The legislature -- blocked by Republicans, who knew that their party would dominate the redistricting board later by virtue of holding four of the five top offices did not act on the realignment. The House passed legislation, but the Senate did not.
     
The new plan, affecting more than 150 districts, could remove as many as 15 to 20 incumbent Democrats and almost certainly give the Republicans control of both state legislative bodies. Democrats now control the House 78-to-72, while the Republican Party controls the Senate 16-to-15.
     
The biggest apparent loser for Democrats is the House speaker, Mr. Laney, a West Texas farmer who has been in the House since 1972. Mr. Laney's district was severely carved up, placing him in a considerably different district and one in which Republicans outvoted Democrats 2-to-1 in recent elections.
     
Analysts say that the plan assured Republicans 88 of the 150 House seats and probably 20 of the 31 Senate spots.
     
State Republican leaders were elated. "Our three [legislative-redistricting board] members have justly and legally corrected the course of Texas political history," said Susan Weddington, state party chairman. "Republicans will be the governing majority in the Texas Legislature when it convenes in 2003," she added, "and the Texas House will be presided over by a Republican speaker for the first time since Reconstruction."
     
A GOP press release stated: "Laney's days as speaker are numbered." But Mr. Laney, attending a fund-raiser in Houston for Democratic House members last week, vowed to fight hard for another term in 2003. That brought a retort from Mrs. Weddington, who charged that the Democrats and Mr. Laney were "in denial. "
     
"The only decision left for Pete Laney to make," said the Republican chief, "is how Texans will remember him -- as a tenured statesman who gracefully exited the stage at the appropriate time, or as a bitter, past-his-prime politician who would stop at nothing to maintain political power."

Roll Call
Between the Lines
By John Mercurio
July 30, 2001

Play Ball!

He was there to talk about redistricting, but House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (Texas) clearly had another spectator sport on his mind Friday morning.

In his latest attempt to win the redistricting spin war, Frost repeated his mantra that the state-by-state process will conclude in a virtual draw nationally.

"We may pick up a few seats; they may pick up a few seats," said Frost, who was joined at the Capitol Hill media briefing by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (N.Y.). "It will basically be a close ball game."

With that, Frost launched into a protracted metaphor about "GOP grand-slam fantasies" in states such as Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida, "Republicans swinging for the fence" in Ohio and Michigan and Democrats' numerous opportunities for more realistic "base hits" in Maryland, California and Oklahoma, among others.

"We'll be perfectly happy with a lot of singles and doubles," Frost quipped. "Republicans are banking on massive, five- and six-seat swings in some states."

It didn't stop there. Frost then compared Republicans to former Minnesota Twin Harmon Killebrew, who "usually swung for the fences, trying to hit a home run every at-bat, regardless of the circumstances." Killebrew, who played from 1954 to 1975, hit 573 home runs in 21 seasons, Frost noted, but he had only a .256 career batting average and struck out 1,559 times.

Democrats, Frost said, are behaving like legendary New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio, who had only 361 career home runs, but had a career batting average of .325. His 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is still the longest in Major League history. Additionally, Frost observed, the star slugger struck out only 369 times.

DiMaggio's teams won nine World Series in 13 seasons, while Killebrew never won a championship.

"Like Killebrew, Republicans are attempting to club a home run at every opportunity, regardless of the circumstances," Frost said.

House Republicans countered that they're already poised for a net gain of eight seats in the nine states that have completed the redistricting process - five seats in Michigan and one seat in Indiana, Illinois and Nevada.

"Martin Frost's understanding of redistricting and baseball is deeply flawed," said Steve Schmidt, the National Republican Congressional Committee's communications director. "If they wish to compare themselves to baseball players, it's clear that Bill Buckner would be most appropriate."

For the record, Buckner was the Red Sox first baseman who allowed a routine ground ball to roll between his legs in a misplay that cost Boston the 1986 World Series championship.

Amarillo Globe-News
Redistricting panel expected to vote on new maps
By Deon Daugherty
July 22, 2001

One campaign in the turf war known as redistricting will come to a close Tuesday.

The state's 181 lawmakers failed to pass plans for the Texas House and Senate during the 2001 Legislature. The duty came down to a five-member, Republican-heavy board of politicians to sully their hands and draw maps that are expected to be drafted ultimately in the courts.

So on Tuesday, the Legislative Redistricting Board will meet for likely its last time in 2001 to vote on House and Senate plans. Drafted in 1990, and then redesigned for years by challenges in the courts, the current plans favor Democrats. But all that is going to change if the Republicans have anything to do with it, say the experts.And by holding every statewide office - and four seats on the LRB - they've got a lot to do with the outcome this time around, said Austin political consultant George Christian.

A GOP plan released this spring combined the West Texas district of House Speaker Pete Laney with two of his rural comrades. It hasn't made the cut in the LRB, but a House plan from Attorney General John Cornyn tips toward the GOP's hopes to diminish Democrats in the House.

Each House plan presented has paired seats in the Panhandle and South Plains portions of the state. Rural Texas, especially in the west, didn't grow at the rate of portions of the state along the Interstate 35 corridor.

A key distinction between Cornyn's plan and the modified House Bill 150 that Laney supports is the number of seats given to Harris County. Cornyn gives the county 25 seats, saying the figure is needed to prevent packing minorities into fewer seats.

Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, the original author of HB 150, said the Texas Constitution clearly says to round off population to the nearest number. Cornyn's Harris County plan violates that rule, Jones said.

What the one seat difference does is take another seat from rural Texas in the House, Jones said. It's an issue the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas Grain Sorghum Association have used to criticize Cornyn's plan.

Laney, a cotton farmer from Hale Center, is the one Democrat on the board. Whatever the outcome of redistricting, he has indicated he wants to return to the Legislature in 2003 as speaker.

The plan he presented is based on the bill that narrowly passed the House. It was voted out of the Senate redistricting committee, but wasn't debated on the floor.

The seat of Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, is paired under HB 150. However, he said, fairness - not his pairing - would decide which map he would favor.

Isett voted against the Jones plan in the House, but he said he hasn't studied Cornyn's plan to say whether he likes one or the other better.

And, Isett said, the plans aren't law and will go to the courts for final drawing.

"Everything here has been a waltz, a dance where one group puts their foot here, and the other group puts their foot there," Isett said. "This dance will continue until we get to the courts."

In the Senate maps, there has been less to fight about in West Texas.

It became clear early in the process that slower population growth in the west would move senatorial districts to the east.

Beyond exact placement of District 30, held until recently by the late Sen. Tom Haywood, R-Wichita Falls, the Senate maps for the Panhandle and South Plains differ little.

District 28, held by Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, loses El Paso County, but picks up several area smaller counties in the eastern plains in the three plans from acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst.

All of Midland and Ector County go into District 31, held by Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo. Both Duncan and Bivins have agreed on that change.

Duncan's district shifts eastward, and he said he is comfortable with the change. Duncan grew up in the Wilbarger County portion of the state, but said he is concerned about how people there may feel about having a senator as far west as Lubbock.

Amendments to the plans are possible and set for discussion at the coming meeting. Cornyn made changes late Friday that opened some minority member pairings in his plan.

Whatever the vote on Tuesday, solid Republican plans are likely to be the outcome in both the House and the Senate, Christian said. And they'll both end up challenged in the courts.

But a decision from the court - a federal panel of three justices - could come as early as the fall, Christian said.

Generally, the courts don't make drastic changes in plans passed by a legislative body, he said.

"The court generally looks for violations of the Civil Rights Act. Political party issues, I doubt are going to be considered all that much," Christian said.

Instead, the panel will consider whether minorities are paired unfairly and if there are other violations of federal law.

In the House, Cornyn's plan probably will take the lead, and by being the attorney defending the LRB's plan in court makes a good argument for his plan getting the nod, Christian said.

Cornyn's original plan paired 42 legislators - including House redistricting chairman and Laney ally Jones - and is designed to create 22 open seats. Many of those seats are tipped toward Republican wins at election time and could upset the chance for Democrat Laney to retain his position as speaker.

That won't be the courts problem, though, Christian said.

"Redistricting is not designed legally to protect incumbents. It's designed to proportion the state fairly on population and to be certain minority districts are not subjected to any kind of retrogression."

Cornyn's plan has also been criticized by incumbent Democrats who say it is unfair to voters who have selected who they want to represent them in Austin. Those voters represent communities of interest, Jones said. And to avoid disenfranchising them, their choices should be considered, he said.

In coupling districts of longtime incumbents, it erases years of experience needed in the House, especially in rural areas that are already losing strength, Jones said.

Whether that is something the judges will consider is uncertain, Christian said.

"Cornyn seems to be confident he can defend the plan the board submits for both the House and Senate, and he's the lawyer," Christian said. "Any way you cut it, I think the chances of the Democrats either regaining control of the Senate or retaining control of the House are pretty dim."

Everyone probably started the redistricting exercise knowing rural areas would take a hit because of the slow population growth, Christian said.

"It is a question of just how to draw redistricting lines to preserve some rural representation," he said. "That's about all you could hope for."

In past cycles, the GOP didn't have the clout to really affect redistricting, he said.

"This is different. It's a new day," he said.

Republicans hold all the statewide offices, and they're winning the votes rather handily in most cases. Plus, some districts - such as those in West Texas - where popular Democrats may hold office now, have evolved into more Republican voting patterns, he said.

"So, it would be highly doubtful the final plan is going to be anything but a House and a Senate that is, at least numerically, controlled by the Republicans," he said. But, that doesn't mean the Democrat speaker wouldn't be able to keep his spot, Christian said.

Borderland News
Districts plan isn't final, Cornyn says
By Gary Scharrer
July 17, 2001

A statewide redistricting plan potentially forcing two El Paso lawmakers to run against each other is not final, Texas Attorney General John Cornyn said Monday during a hearing that provoked complaints from several minority legislators.

Cornyn is chairman of a Legislative Redistricting Board that will redraw political boundaries for 31 state Senate seats and 150 House seats. Lawmakers themselves failed the same task during the legislative session that ended six weeks ago.

Cornyn's redistricting plan puts veteran El Paso legislators Pat Haggerty and Joe Pickett in the same Northeast/East Side El Paso district. They would have to run against each other in next year's election -- unless one retires or moves to an open seat that Cornyn's plan would create for El Paso's West Side and Upper Valley.

Pickett and Haggerty both were out of state and unable to attend the hearing.

"I would have told the board to leave us alone, stop messing with our community because of partisan politics," Pickett said from Phoenix, where he was attending a transportation seminar. "If anything like Cornyn's plan stays, I'm sure that the five of us (El Paso) House members will get together and decide an action plan."

Cornyn's plan surprised El Paso legislators when it was released last week. Redistricting must be done after each U.S. census count to reflect 10-year population growth and shifts. El Paso's 2000 population will not change the number of state House seats, which remains at five.

El Paso's legislative delegation unanimously agreed to new district boundaries. Pickett speculated that "someone" in El Paso influenced Cornyn to pair Haggerty and him to create a West Side district.

Pickett, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he hopes to win re-election and will remember Cornyn's action while reviewing the attorney general's budget. He also said there will be closer scrutiny of the attorney general's "lousy job" of collecting child-support payments.

"He can draw a partisan plan, but he will make a lot of enemies who still will be around," Pickett said.

Cornyn called his plan "a work in progress" and invited Pickett and others to suggest changes.

"I'm not sure of the particular details to El Paso, but I will take a look at that," Cornyn said.

Cornyn's plan pairs 42 incumbents against one another, including 32 Democrats.

Cornyn's plan could boost the number of Republican seats in the state House to 88 from 72. Three separate Senate redistricting maps would probably increase the GOP's current 16-15 majority by at least two seats and by as many as five.

A vote is scheduled next week.

The Legislative Redistricting Board consists of Cornyn and three other Republicans -- Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst. The board's lone Democrat is House Speaker Pete Laney, whose alternative House redistricting plan would pair only 18 incumbents, divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Federal courts will create Texas' 32 congressional districts and 15 state board of education districts.

Federal courts will almost certainly get the final say on the state's Senate and House redistricting plan.

"The problem is this is such a contentious and political process," Cornyn said. "I just made a decision that our main emphasis would not be on protecting incumbents but to protect the public's right to vote and make sure they were presented with competitive elections where people would be interested in getting out to vote."

But House Education Chairwoman Irma Rangel, D-Kingsville, told Cornyn and the board that voters should determine whether or not incumbents deserve re-election: "It shouldn't be up to the board."

Rangel also cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor recognizing "incumbent protection, at least, in the limited form of avoiding contests between two incumbents as a legitimate stated goal."

Rangel and other South Texas legislators complained that Cornyn's plan packs Hispanic voters into districts, making it more difficult for Hispanics to win additional districts.

For example, Rangel said the Laney plan that she prefers puts 131,000 people in her district compared with 144,000 in Cornyn's proposal: "We should be spreading our strength instead of just packing it," she said.

Hispanics represented 60 percent of the state's growth during the 1990s and now make up one-third of the state's population.

Cornyn's plan creates 33 districts in which voting-age Hispanics make up a majority of the population -- three fewer than a map offered by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said David Almager, a lawyer for the organization. Hispanics would not gain any advantage in either of the proposed Senate redistricting plans, which give Hispanics a clear majority in only seven districts, he said.

"Any plan that ... fails to acknowledge the growth of the Latino population over the past decade is not a good plan for Latinos and is not a true reflection of the face of Texas," Almager told the board.

Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, complained that Cornyn's plan pairs her with another black woman incumbent, Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas.

Cornyn's plan also throws three incumbent Democrats into the same Austin district.

Getting feedback is important, Cornyn said: "It's certainly not a final map. ... It's important to get this kind of input so we can make sure that we are doing the best we can in a very difficult and contentious process."

Gary Scharrer may be reached at gscharrer@elpasotimes.com

Amarillo Globe-News
Two redistricting plans posed; challenge expected to any plan
By Deon Daugherty
July 11, 2001

Fulfilling a pledge made after the first meeting of the 2001 Legislative Redistricting Board, House Speaker Pete Laney has proposed the map voted out by the Texas House as the new set of state representatives' districts.

Laney, of Hale Center and the lone Democrat on the board, said Tuesday the district map drawn by Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, is "politically fair," showing districts considered Republican and Democrat consistent with recent statewide elections.

Plus, Laney said, it meets all state and federal legal obligations, preserves the cores of existing districts and creates open districts in parts of the state with high growth.

"House Bill 150 provides fair and reasonable representative districts for the 21st century. And I move adoption of my plan," he said, which drew laughter from the crowd.

The plan gives Republicans an edge in the House with about 80 seats in the 150-member House. Part of that edge is rural Republicans who are also Laney supporters who could continue to vote him into the Speaker's office.

Attorney General John Cornyn presented a map he said would meet legal scrutiny while keeping "objective" communities of interest, such as cities and counties, together.

He said his plan would probably create about 88 likely GOP seats, similar to the plan presented on the House floor by Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell.

The Jones plan narrowly passed the Texas House on May 8. It was also passed by the Senate Redistricting Committee. No redistricting maps were considered by the full Senate.

Laney's map combines or "pairs" 18 members into nine districts. Those battles would include two Democrats running against each other, two Republicans vying for the same seat and five pairings that pit a Democrat against a Republican.

Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, is paired with Rep. Gary Walker, R-Plains, in the South Plains area.

In the Panhandle, Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, is matched with Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon. Part of Hardcastle's district is also taken into District 60, held by Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland.

Cornyn, who chairs the committee, presented a House map that pairs Jones with Walker. His plan puts 25 seats in Harris County, a move Jones has criticized in other House plans as contradicting constitutional population requirements.

Six members - all Democrats - are combined into two districts. Cornyn's map pairs 36 members into 18 districts and creates 22 open seats.

Jones said he hadn't yet studied Cornyn's map to discuss the pairings. However, he said to put 25 seats in Harris County, somewhere another seat was taken from rural Texas.

Population figures in much of rural and West Texas didn't keep up with urban areas, and Jones had speculated the area would lose representation during this round of redistricting.

Every 10 years, lawmakers are charged to redraw districts for Congress, the Texas House and Senate and State Board of Education. Because the Legislature failed to vote out plans for the House and Senate, the LRB is bound to the task.

Ultimately the courts could decide the maps. Litigation is expected to challenge any new plan.

The remaining three board members presented Senate maps. In the Panhandle and South Plains, two plans presented little change to a map from Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, which was voted out of the Senate Redistricting Committee he chaired.

Acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, a Mount Pleasant Republican, and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, a lieutenant governor candidate, had plans that both Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, and Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, said they liked.

Ratliff said his plan reflects voting changes in Texas. Seventeen likely Republican seats, 12 likely Democrat seats and two "tossups," one of which is his own East Texas district, compose his plan.

Duncan loses El Paso but takes in other counties in the Plains and all of Tom Green County. Bivins' district takes all of Ector County.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander presented a partial map that left out four West Texas districts, including those of Duncan and Bivins.

"I have yet to solve the loss of population in West Texas. I just flat have not solved that yet," she said.

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
July 9, 2001

Headed to Court.

Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas), who has frequently predicted and privately hoped that redistricting in Texas would end up in court, appears to have gotten his wish.
Citing vanishing hopes that the state's divided Legislature could reach a remap consensus, Gov. Rick Perry (R) said last Thursday that he does not plan to spend the money required to hold a special redistricting session.

"It is now clear to me that the Texas Legislature is not currently able to reach a consensus on a new Congressional plan," he wrote in a letter to legislative leaders. "I have decided that it is not in the best interest of our State to call a special session at this time."

Perhaps more than most House Members from Texas, Frost has closely monitored his state's redistricting process, both in his role as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and as a top target of GOP redistricting agents.

Last month Frost criticized a map put out by Republicans in the state's GOP-controlled Senate, which would have targeted him as well as Democratic Reps. Ken Bentsen and Nick Lampson.

"Passing a Congressional plan in both houses of the divided Texas Legislature was always a difficult task, particularly in light of the fact that they were unable to agree on a plan for their own legislative lines," Frost said in a statement last week. "I am very confident the courts will craft a fair plan that protects minority voting rights and honors Texas tradition by providing voters the opportunity to vote for their Member."

Amarillo Globe-News
Summer in Austin is crazy, hazy, but not lazy
By Mike Cox
July 2, 2001

It's summer, but in Austin it's only crazy and hazy, not lazy.

In fact, it literally has been hazy as a mass of dusty air that blew across the Atlantic Ocean all the way from Africa hovers over the Capital City. Actually, the dust from the Sahara Desert, carried to North America by the westward trade winds, was expected to spread over most of the state. Only the Trans-Pecos was going to escape the dusting. And more is expected.

But below the particle-filled air, a possible health threat to those who suffer from allergies and asthma, those concerned with political issues haven't had time to live up to all aspects of the old song of summer with its familiar refrain.

Thanks to redistricting, it's summertime and the living isn't easy, at least in Austin.

When the Legislature during its 140-day regular session failed to come up with a state legislative redistricting plan based on 2000 U.S. Census data, the matter was taken up by the statutorily created state Redistricting Board.

The board is doing what the Legislature did before it: Pore over maps and census numbers in an effort to redraw the political boundaries of the state.

But work has continued in legislative committees on a congressional redistricting plan for the state, which in gaining population picked up two new congressional seats that other states lost because of population decreases.

When Senate Redistricting Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio released his committee's plan on Tuesday, it raised its own Texas dust storm.

The reaction in Travis County is reflective of the concerns being felt by politicians statewide, depending on their party affiliation. Here's the bumper sticker: Republicans like the plan, Democrats don't.

Austin is in the 10th Congressional District. It is a district made famous by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who began his political career in 1937 as its newly elected Democratic U.S. House of Representatives member.

Back then, and for years after, the 10th District was as Democratic as a yellow dog is not black and white. These days, however, Texas is a Republican-majority state. The district has continued to be held by Democrats all these years.

According to the plan revealed Tuesday, all of Williamson County - a heavy Republican county - would be added to the 10th District. That, say Democrats, would imperil the incumbency of Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Austin.

The alignment trotted out by the Senate Redistricting Committee remains only a proposal, and it's still a long way from reality. If the Legislature's Senate and House redistricting committees can agree on a map, Gov. Rick Perry has indicated he would call a special session.

If not, and given that the House remains in Democratic hands it is a very big if, a congressional redistricting plan probably will be determined in the courts. That's also the expected fate of legislative and State Board of Education boundaries.

As it stands now, Texas has 30 congressional districts: 17 are occupied by Democrats and 13 are controlled by Republicans. Under Wentworth's plan, Republicans would have a population majority in 17 districts while Democrats could be expected to have 13 House seats.

Mike Cox can be contacted in care of the Texas Press Association, 718 W. Fifth St., Austin TX 78701. His column appears on Mondays

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
July 2, 2001

Texas Remap.

Zeroing in on a trio of House Democrats, Republicans in the Lone Star State last week advanced a new map that would create two new minority districts, but is also aimed at giving the GOP a majority in the House delegation.

The map pushed by Republicans in the state's GOP-controlled Senate, which failed to produce a map during a legislative session earlier this year, would cause problems for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost and Reps. Ken Bentsen and Nick Lampson.

Democrats have cried foul, and Frost, a Democratic point person on redistricting, lambasted Republicans in his home state for drafting a map that is "not a serious plan."

"The proposal moves the Legislature farther away from consensus on a Congressional map, not closer, because it differs significantly from the map already passed in the House Committee," Frost said. He added that the GOP map is "bizarrely shaped and extremely partisan."

Republicans say their plan creates 17 GOP-leaning seats and 15 Democratic seats. Democrats claim it's closer to 20 Republican seats, 10 Democratic seats and two swing districts.

Hoping to bypass a Republican-dominated process that features a Republican Senate and Gov. Rick Perry (R), Democrats, who run the state House, are criticizing the GOP plan in an effort to ensure that redistricting is resolved in court.

Perry has said he would call a special session for redistricting if both parties resolve their differences beforehand. Otherwise, he has threatened to send the issue to federal court. It is widely expected on both sides of the aisle that redistricting will end up there.

 

 

 



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