Target Centermass


Election Eve 2006

Filed under: — Gunner @ 12:18 am

Why yes, I’ve voted.

Re-elect Rick Perry for Texas Governor

Re-elect Kay Bailey Hutchison for Senator

Re-elect Sam Johnson for Congress

Sadly, I don’t expect any of these races to be competitive. Tomorrow should be an interesting evening in a great many other races across this fine nation … and maybe just the beginning of a drawn-out ending to the ’06 midterm elections.


TX Gov Race: Bell Calls on Kinky to Drop Out

Filed under: — Gunner @ 12:36 am

In what can not in any way be considered a high point for the Democrat party in Texas, its gubernatorial candidate is beseeching an independent to bail out of the race in hopes of becoming a viable candidate against the Republican incumbent.

Democratic nominee Chris Bell is trying to persuade independent Kinky Friedman to quit the race for governor, but Mr. Friedman insisted Tuesday that he’s in to stay.

Mr. Bell left a voice mail message on Mr. Friedman’s personal cellphone Tuesday, asking for a meeting at the mystery writer and former bandleader’s ranch near Kerrville, Mr. Friedman said.

Mr. Bell later confirmed he sought a meeting so he could try to talk Mr. Friedman into dropping out of the four-way race, which is in its home stretch. The election is Nov. 7.

“I had hoped to talk to Kinky privately, but now that it’s been reported by the Dallas Morning News, I’m going to ask him publicly: Please join me in defeating Rick Perry,” Mr. Bell said in a statement his campaign issued late Tuesday.

“Kinky and I agree on some very important issues and our supporters all have a lot in common: they want change.”

Mr. Bell credited Mr. Friedman with energizing voters but made it clear he thinks only he has a chance to win.

“Now is the time for us all to unite,” he said. “So I’m asking for Kinky to join me.”

Bell campaign aides said that Mr. Friedman performed poorly in Friday night’s candidate debate and that Friedman supporters have told the Democrat that they’d support him if he could persuade Mr. Friedman to step aside.

Interviewed as he headed to evening campaign events in Dallas, Mr. Bell acknowledged that Mr. Friedman is siphoning votes away from him and Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

“He’s taking from both,” Mr. Bell said. “But he’s taking more from me.”

Mr. Friedman, campaigning in Brownsville, said of Mr. Bell and his advisers: “They’re desperate and scrambling.”

Asked whether he would consider the Democrat’s request to step aside, Mr. Friedman said: “No. You’re kidding … for Chris Bell? What do you take me for?”


To drop out is unthinkable, he said: “I’d be letting a lot of people down.”

But he took delight in Mr. Bell’s message that the independent is taking a toll. “What can it possibly mean other than that we’re killing him?” Mr. Friedman said. “We’re getting all of the liberals. We’re getting all of the conservatives.”

As I’ve recently shown, the most recent polling does not support Friedman’s assertion that he’s getting all of both liberals and conservatives but does support the notion that Bell and the Democrats need help badly.

For what it’s worth, I thought Bell performed well in the one and only debate last Friday, almost as well as Perry and far outshining the embarrassing representations of our state put forth by Friedmand and Carole Keeton Strayhorn, an independent that has deserted both parties when it seemed opportunistic to do so. It should also be noted that a sudden gift of one cool million dollars may help salvage Bell’s campaign into a somewhat solid second place. Bell had been trailing badly in cash on hand, with only $62,000 compared to Perry’s $9.2 million, Strayhorn’s $5 million and Friedman’s $827,830. Despite the boost, that’s also not to be considered a high point for the Democrats in the Lone Star state.


Poll: Perry Leads Governor Race amid Voter Hostility

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:01 pm

The lastest polling results in the Texas gubernatorial race have been released and Republican incumbent Rick Perry continues to hold a broad lead in a crowded field.

Nearly two-thirds of Texas voters want one of Gov. Rick Perry’s challengers to beat him in the upcoming election, but none of his opponents has enough support right now to win, a newspaper poll shows.

The statewide poll conducted for The Dallas Morning News found that 38 percent of likely voters back Perry’s re-election in the Nov. 7 election.

It found 18 percent support independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn, 15 percent support Democrat Chris Bell and 14 percent support independent Kinky Friedman.

“There is an anti-Perry vote, and clearly somebody should have been able to beat him. But the anti-Perry vote is split three ways,” said pollster Mickey Blum.

The poll had a 3.5 percent margin of error and showed 14 percent of respondents as undecided. Two key points should be kept in mind when looking at these results. First, a plurality is all that is needed to win so there is no hope for any in the field to force a run-off. Second, the poll did not include Libertarian candidate James Werner, quite probably knocking off some of the undecideds. Because of these two factors, Perry’s 20-point lead over his nearest rival is quite substantial with only 32 days remaining in the campaign.

All of the involved camps immediately tried to spin the results in their favor. First comes the following from the Governor’s campaign:

Perry campaign spokesman Robert Black said the governor will take the election with more than the 38 percent shown by the poll.

“Come Election Day, that number is going to be quite a bit higher because people are going to look at the record,” Black said.

Stating that the governor will take more than the poll shows is merely stating that he will pick up at least some of the undecideds. Barring a dramatic change in the campaign, that seems a very safe minimum bet.

The Bell camp also addressed the poll results.

Bell’s campaign spokeswoman, Heather Guntert, predicted Democrats will back the party’s nominee on Nov. 7. The poll shows he is “vulnerable,” she said.

That’s some pretty sloppy writing there, as I assume Ms. Guntert was referring to Perry as vulnerable. Unfortunately for Ms. Guntert’s cause, Bell’s poll results are probably not too far below his name recognition figures right now. In fact, should Bell not garner 20 percent of the final balloting, the Democrats run the risk of being classified as a minor party under Texas law and be forced to jump through more hoops to get their candidates on future ballots.

Strayhorn’s campaign chimed in on the poll.

Brad McClellan, Strayhorn’s campaign manager, said Strayhorn will win if Perry stays below 40 percent, adding: “People don’t want four more years of the same.”

Again, barring a dramatic development, the numbers don’t add up for this claim. Perry could actually lose ground and still win by a healthy margin.

Finally, a Friedman campaign official threw in the Kinky spin.

Friedman’s campaign said the poll doesn’t reflect Texans who don’t normally vote but will turn out to support Friedman.

“These polls don’t mean much to us, but if Kinky is polling at 14 percent among likely voters, we’re happy,” said spokeswoman Laura Stromberg.

Yes, Kinky will get out some that would not have otherwise voted; likewise, he will draw some from the established parties and possibly be particularly damaging to the Libertarians. That said, his is an entertaining but hopeless candidacy.

Related — Campaign Sites of Declared Candidates:

Rick Perry (R, Incumbent)
Chris Bell (D)
James Werner (L)
Carole Keeton Strayhorn (Ind.)
Richard “Kinky” Friedman (Ind.)


Former Texas Governor Ann Richards Dies

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:24 pm

Rest in peace.

Former Gov. Ann Richards, the witty and flamboyant Democrat who went from homemaker to national political celebrity, died Wednesday night after a battle with cancer, a family spokeswoman said. She was 73.

She died at home surrounded by her family, the spokeswoman said.

Richards was found to have esophageal cancer in March and underwent chemotherapy treatments.


“I did not want my tombstone to read, ‘She kept a really clean house.’ I think I’d like them to remember me by saying, ‘She opened government to everyone,'” Richards said shortly before leaving office in January 1995.

She was governor for one term, losing her re-election bid to Republican George W. Bush.

I may not have agreed much politically with the lady, but I will say that she was quite an icon in the Lone Star political scene and certainly a Texan through and through.

My best wishes to her family.


DeLay Calls It Quits on Re-election, House

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:54 pm

I don’t feel enough about this story is known yet to comment strongly, though I do feel that Rep. Tom DeLay was demonized for a willingness to successfully play hardball while Republican. Still, much more may come out about this during ethics investigations and his indictments at the hand of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, so for now I’ll settle for a little all-Texas link dump.

Houston Chronicle: DeLay says prospect of losing led him to step down

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay decided more than a week ago to resign his seat, disappointed with the margin of his Republican primary victory and looking at poll numbers that showed he might lose the seat in November, he said today.


His internal polling showed he had a 50-50 chance of winning in November, he said.

“The district was very polarized,” he said. “I had strong support and strong opposition.”

He would have had to draw votes of moderate Republicans and independents, he said.

“Why risk it, when we can save the seat?,” he said. The district leans Republican. “I’m incredibly confident I’m not leaving the 22nd District in jeopardy.”

Former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson is the Democratic nominee for the 22nd congressional district seat.

Lampson, whom DeLay has long lampooned as the “Hollywood” candidate because of his financial support from Democrats outside the state who oppose DeLay, will see that money supply dry up if he’s running against less of a lightning rod than DeLay, the congressman predicted.

“He’s got enough to run a campaign right now, but it’s not going to be a referendum on me,” DeLay said. “He has to defend his voting record.”

DeLay, the subject of more ethics investigations than any other member of Congress, has been under increasing pressure from a sprawling investigation into political corruption that grew out of the lobbying activities of Jack Abramoff, with whom he had close political ties.

The ongoing investigation has an impact on him politically.

“I’m a realist and understand that,” he said. “But all they have is guilt by association. I’ve served honestly and ethically. I’ve never broken a law or a House rule.”

DeLay said he’s not going away, but will fight for conservative causes in a different arena. And he says he will work to elect a conservative Republican as his successor.

Houston Chronicle: Many show interest in seat

Familiar and lesser-known political names emerged Monday night as possible contenders for the congressional seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay.

Those who acknowledged interest in the seat or were mentioned as contenders included Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, state Rep. Robert Talton, Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace, Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, former state District Judge John Devine and lawyer Tom Campbell, who ran against DeLay in the March Republican Primary.

Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill said he started receiving calls from interested officials within minutes of hearing the news of DeLay’s decision.

“Numerous people have called me inquiring about the seat,” he said.

Other phones also were ringing as politicians gauged potential support or heard from backers.

“I’ve had a number of calls this evening. I’ll visit with my family and look at the process,” Eckels said. “I do have an interest in at least looking at the race.”

He said that his experience coordinating the local response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left him frustrated with the federal government and its impact on local issues.

Sugar Land Mayor Wallace said he got wind of DeLay’s decision over the weekend and began organizing a campaign.

“I’m running for that spot,” Wallace said Monday night.

“It is going to be a sprint. We have been working this weekend and today kind of organizing our campaign making sure we pull together a grass-roots team,” Wallace said.


Sekula-Gibbs, who lives in Clear Lake, said she has received several calls from local Republicans asking her if she would be interested in the seat.

“I’m saddened that the congressman has decided to step down, but I’m interested in the position,” she said. “I’m definitely giving it very serious consideration.”

Campbell, who came in a distant second with 30 percent of the vote in the March primary, said he still wants the position.

“I believe that Tom DeLay did the right thing in stepping aside and allowing the Republican Party to move forward,” Campbell said.


A special election to fill the remainder of DeLay’s term likely will be held on the next uniform election date, which is in May. Gov. Rick Perry will set the date.

It was unclear Monday night how Republicans will select a November nominee to replace DeLay, who won the GOP primary in March.

“We’ve never had this happen in a congressional race,” Woodfill said. “We’ll have a little bit of time to figure it out. We have our lawyers looking at it.”

At issue is whether the responsibility for selecting a nominee falls to the 62-member state Republican Executive Committee or to GOP officials in the five counties that lie partly within the 22nd Congressional District.

“It’s in our best interest to choose a nominee before the special election. Otherwise, the election is going to be a free-for-all,” Woodfill said. “The situation you don’t want is for our nominee to be someone different than the person who runs for the special.”

DeLay is expected to resign officially sometime after April 7 and move to Virginia to work with a conservative organization.

That would make him ineligible to run despite his nomination, opening the way for party officials to select another nominee, Woodfill said.

Petrified Truth: DeLay out?

DeLay has outlived his usefulness in advancing the conservative cause, but I do hate to see moonbat Austin D.A. Ronnie Earle get even part of what he wanted.

TexasRainmaker: Tom Delay Sacrifices Himself for Conservative Cause

Delay certainly understood that the campaign would be a rough one. He’s also an experienced student of the numbers and realized that for the first time in 22 years he would have a real fight on his hands. But he also realized that fight wasn’t about constituents of District 22, but rather Delay himself. There’s sure to be much speculation surrounding his decision…

But I think it just insures a Republican keeps the seat. His opponent, Nick Lampson has already been defeated down here and was only campaigning on the “Tom Delay is evil” mantra.

Rightwingsparkle: Tom Delay will resign

I never liked Delay. I can’t really say why. God knows he isn’t as bad as many in Congress and he was right on most of the issues, but there was just something that didn’t seem right with him. He was just a bit too slick for me. I never liked Newt Gingrich either. I get my vibes about people and I stay with them. I always seem to be right.

Here’s hoping for better leadership.

The Fire Ant Gazette: …

[Quiet on the DeLay story, but Eric does note with reservation that Peter Jackson is making a movie based on the Halo video game. Just thought I’d throw in that tidbit]


From the Ol’ Blogroll

First, from the Jawa Report, the latest news of brutal abuse from Iraq — check that, I mean the latest brutal abuse of news from Iraq.

The Latest Blood Libel Lie in Iraq

What would you do if every day you saw images of dead civilians, women, and children? Now, imagine that you are told these deaths were the result of Americans intentionally killing civilians. If this was your perception of reality, then you too would probably feel an obligation to fight America. At the very least, you would support those that took up arms.

Now imagine that it was mainstream media sources that were reporting Americans had massacred Iraqi civilians. The media, instead of challenging the version of the story as delivered by radical Islamists that routinely lie, equivocate and act as if the story told by U.S. soldiers is only one version of the truth. That the word of a U.S. soldier is just as suspect as that of Muqtada al Sadr.

Propagating the lie that U.S. soldiers massacre mosque worshippers constitutes a form of blood libel. By portraying American troops as blood thirsty murderers, jihadi propagandists create an atmosphere of obligatory vendettas. What moral person could stand by and let the Americans get away with this type of murder? By treating that lie as if it was a legitimate viewpont, the media help prolong the war on terror. Worse, they give jihadis recruiting power, which leads to the death of more U.S. soldiers and eventually civilians.

Take for instance this …

Go read the rest. It dovetails quite nicely with my piece yesterday on “our” media.

Second, Chad at In the Bullpen covers a big story from the DFW area: the walk-out protests by local high school students/truants in favor of illegal immigration.

Second Day of Immigration Protests in Dallas

Another day, another protest held by students in the Dallas area over the immigration bill. Local media reported many students were from the city of Irving, a suburb of Dallas, and that the Dallas Police Department called in trains and buses to help transport students to Dallas City Hall. School administrators claim all students absent will be marked truant therefore any test, quiz or homework assignment missed will result in a failed grade. Truancy also used to be against the law, but so too is entering this country illegally and aiding those who break U.S. law. Seemingly not in this day and age though.

Check it out for the silliness that has been the locales’ allowing teenagers to blow off school for two straight days and some of the fallout of such coddling.

Third, JohnL at TexasBestGrok posts a special farewell installment as part of his aircraft cheesecake series.

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (F-14 Tomcat)

After more than 30 years of distinguished service to the US Navy, the last two squadrons of F-14 Tomcats ended their final combat deployments about two weeks ago. A couple of nice articles about this milestone event can be found …

Definitely watch the video. And tell JohnL to keep up the cheesecake.


Texas Arresting People in Bars for Being Drunk

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:47 pm

Damn. I can just imagine what morons we Texans must look like to the Brit who reads this Reuters piece in a London pub while working his way through a pint.

Texas has begun sending undercover agents into bars to arrest drinkers for being drunk, a spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said on Wednesday.

The first sting operation was conducted recently in a Dallas suburb where agents infiltrated 36 bars and arrested 30 people for public intoxication, said the commission’s Carolyn Beck.

Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness, Beck said.

The goal, she said, was to detain drunks before they leave a bar and go do something dangerous like drive a car.

“We feel that the only way we’re going to get at the drunk driving problem and the problem of people hurting each other while drunk is by crackdowns like this,” she said.

“There are a lot of dangerous and stupid things people do when they’re intoxicated, other than get behind the wheel of a car,” Beck said. “People walk out into traffic and get run over, people jump off of balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss.”

Damn again. Drunks … in a bar … drinking. That is now a crime subject to arrest? Does the fact that bars are privately-owned establishments matter naught? Well, given the ballooning case of municipal smoking restrictions, apparently and unfortunately not. Also, it seems this is part of a state-wide effort. Still, people are being busted on the pretense of their current condition in hopes of preventing potential future-but-as-yet-uncommitted crimes. Good end, horrid means that lay waste to years of campaigns advocating designated-driver programs.

I thought I’d throw out the thoughts of a few Texas bloggers on the matter.

The Swanky Conservative [emphasis in original]:

Those people could have driven somewhere. They could have done something harmful to themselves or others.

Innocent until proven guilty means exactly jack-squat to those opposed to people doing things others don’t like. And the guys with the power – the cops – are running right along with with ‘em. All too happy to arrest those who could have committed a crime.

Life follows art, eh?

Methinks Swanky goes to far in calling Minority Report art, but the validity of his point remains the same.

Boots and Sabers:

All it will do is encourage people to stay home and get smashed or throw drunk parties. Drunks in bars may be annoying, but as long as they aren’t harming anyone, why not let them drink?

Quite right, and it goes back to my point about public intoxication enforcement on what should be deemed private property.

Finally, The Fat Guy [On the argument about stupid and dangerous drunk acts presented in the above article by the TABC’s Ms. Beck] :

They make drunken bootie calls, too. They write drunken blog posts, too. They fall asleep with the lights and teevee on and run up the light bill, too. They put frozen pizza in the oven and wake up to a stinky kitchen and a carbonized disc, too. They stumble and bark their shins on the coffee table that someone mysteriously moved while they were out, too. Somehow, as a society, we have managed to hold it all together in the face of all the mayhem stemming from freedom of choice.

Reading that, I feel I’m the guest of honor on an episode of This Is Your Life.

Cheers, TABC, I’m at home right now so you can get screwed. However, please be so kind as to let me know if, in the next couple of months, you plan on raiding wedding receptions.


Strayhorn Files as Independent for Texas Governor

Filed under: — Gunner @ 12:40 am

Well, the mystery is finally over and the GOP path to the 2006 gubernatorial nomination for incumbent Rick Perry has been cleared as Carole Keeton Strayhorn, current state Comptroller and the only threatened in-party challenger, has filed to run as an independent.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn ended speculation today by announcing she will run for governor against Gov. Rick Perry as an independent.

“It’s time to shake Austin up,” Strayhorn, who is now serving as a Republican officeholder, told reporters today, the filing deadline for the 2006 elections.

“Governor Perry may be doing the best he can, but after five years, we have learned he is not the strong leader we need to put Texas above politics,” she added.

Satirist Kinky Friedman already has announced as an independent candidate for governor.

The major candidates in the Democratic primary are Chris Bell of Houston, a former congressman, and Bob Gammage, a former Houston congressman and Texas Supreme Court justice who now lives in Llano.

Strayhorn, who was first elected comptroller in 1998 as a Republican, had announced in June that she would challenge Perry for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. But last week she refused to dismiss speculation that she would run as an independent to avoid Perry’s strong popularity in the GOP primary.


To get on the ballot as an independent, Strayhorn will need to collect the signatures of 45,450 registered voters who cast ballots in neither party primary or runoff. The signatures will have to be collected between March 8 and May 11.

Anticipating Strayhorn’s independent candidacy, Perry spokesman Robert Black last week said it would demonstrate “the latest desperate act of a politician who has no core convictions or guiding principles.”

The lady had little chance in the GOP race and chose probably the worst option of the many before her.

This post is actually more of a eulogy for a political career, at least on a Texas state-wide basis. After the revelation of a strange Strayhorn campaign contact with Democrat candidate Bell’s wife, Strayhorn has decided to jump the Republican ship. Having already switched from Democrat to Republican, Strayhorn can now be cast as a turncoat by both parties.

Assuming both Strayhorn and Friedman meet the ballot requirements for an independent candidacy, it should be an interesting race for third place between the two and the Libertarian party candidate.


Strange Doings in Texas Governor Race

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:53 pm

As the official filing deadline for Texas’ March primaries looms only days away, an interesting tale has come to light of an intriguing contact between a Republican campaign aide and a Democratic candidate’s wife.

A top aide to Republican gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn called Democratic candidate Chris Bell’s wife last week and suggested that Bell drop out of the governor’s race and instead run for comptroller.

Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders said he told Alison Bell that “there would be support for him” if Chris Bell ran to succeed Strayhorn as comptroller. Sanders said that he and Alison Bell have known each other since they worked on a campaign together 15 years ago and that he wanted to advise his longtime friends that they could not win the governor’s race.

Sanders said that the call was not prompted by Strayhorn or any campaign donors and that he was not trying to clear the Democratic field for Strayhorn to switch parties.

“I made this call to Alison on my own out of a sense of concern for them and their family,” Sanders said. “And I did not make this call in reference in any way to the comptroller’s gubernatorial campaign.”

Chris Bell said that he will not run for comptroller and that there was no mention in his wife’s conversation with Sanders of Strayhorn running as a Democrat.

Although Sanders said that he did not call on Strayhorn’s behalf, the conversation follows a series of signs that Strayhorn’s effort to beat Gov. Rick Perry in next year’s Republican primary is struggling. Strayhorn has faced questions in recent weeks about whether she would abandon her GOP bid and instead run as an independent, and the campaign has not completely ruled out an independent run. Perry, meanwhile, has been piling up endorsements from conservative activists, trade associations and elected GOP officials.

Bell said it is not unusual for Sanders and his wife to talk.

“They did talk last week, and he mentioned the fact that if I were to exit the governor’s race and run for comptroller, he thought there would be some support for me from some unnamed individuals,” said Bell, a former congressman from Houston. “And obviously since that was the gist of the conversation, I didn’t take it the least bit seriously.”

This would seem to be a clear sign of desperation on the behalf of the Strayhorn campaign. The Burnt Orange Report‘s Damon McCullar agrees.

Well, it’s a little under two weeks until the filing deadline and it seems that One Tough Grandma is have an identity crisis. With her poll number in the Republican primary in the sub-basement, it seems to me that Carol Four-Names is shopping around for a way to run for Governor.

First, as noted here at BOR she floated a poll about running as an Independent.

Now it seems as if she is trying clear the field in the Democratic Primary to run as a Democrat.

I disagree with McCullar’s thinking that Strayhorn is considering switching to the Democrat side — make that switching back to the Democrats, as she has already changed parties before (not an unusual occurrence over the last couple of decades in the always-conservative but once Democrat-dominated Texas). Were Strayhorn to switch back, Texans would shun her for the obvious opportunism. As it is, this ploy could sink her with conservatives; a candidate already carrying a Republican-in-name-only reputation should not have an aide trying to get a Democrat to run against a currently-unopposed Republican, Susan Combs, for comptroller.

No, I think the hope here was to thin the Democrat field but not for a party change. The current Democratic candidates, according to, are as follows:

  • Felix Alvarado (D) – Middle School Assistant Principal, USAF Veteran & ’02/’04 Congressional Nominee
  • Chris Bell (D) – Ex-Congressman, Ex-Houston City Councilman & Attorney
  • Bob Gammage (D) – Ex-State Supreme Court Justice, Ex-Congressman, Ex-State Sen. & Navy Veteran

Were either Bell or Gammage step aside, the Democratic candidate would essentially be settled, and that is precisely the hope of this maneuver. Texas is an open primary state; unlike some other states, voters do not have to declare a party affiliation upon registering and can vote in whichever party’s primary they choose. With Strayhorn campaign trending so bad, I feel that this ploy was meant to enable a high Democratic cross-over voting for the One Tough RINO, possibly Strayhorn’s best chance to knock off incumbent Perry.


Supreme Court to Hear Texas Redistricting Cases

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:28 pm

The stormy tale of the 2003 redrawing of Texas’ congressional districts will continue for at least a few more months as the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hearings on the matter.

In a move that could redefine the limits of partisan politics, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear four Texas cases challenging a controversial remapping of the state’s congressional districts two years ago by the Republican dominated Legislature.

The court also agreed to expedite the four cases – filed by minorities, Democratic officeholders and others who claim to have been disenfranchised by the GOP plan.

The court gave no reason for accepting the appeals, which involve a wide range of highly charged claims: from “excessive partisan gerrymandering” and “mid-decade” redistricting to the dilution of minority votes. Just last year, the court ruled in a split vote that a Pennsylvania redistricting plan – though highly partisan – could not be resolved by the courts on a complaint that the process was simply too political.

Since then, the court is the midst of a transition in which two of its nine justices will be replaced.

At the very least, the announcement Monday promises to re-energize a bitter three-year struggle between Texas Democrats and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who is widely credited with engineering the redistricting strategy.

“We felt all along that there was a serious voting rights violation in the way these districts were drawn, particularly involving the black voters in Fort Worth,” said former congressman Martin Frost, whose district was largely redrawn. “I hope they’ll throw the districts out.”

A special two-hour hearing is scheduled for March 1. Redistricting arguments will be heard in addition to three other unrelated cases slated that day. Texas is scheduled to hold its primary on March 7.

The current map’s boundaries resulted in a gain of six House seats for Republicans and a string of lawsuits by Democrats, who charged that the map was designed solely for that purpose. The Republicans countered that the plan added a black to the 32-member delegation.

Well, of course the map was redrawn to help the Republicans, just as the previous district lines were essentially a court-sanctioned holdover from previous lines drawn by Democrats to help Democrats. As can be seen in this Houston Chronicle graphic, for every strangely-drawn district in the Republican plan, a similar strangely-drawn district can be found in the earlier incarnation.

DeLay has blamed recent political and legal problems – including his indictment in Austin for money laundering – on Democrats angry about the redistricting. His office was philosophical Monday, saying the plan has so far passed every legal hurdle.

“The Supreme Court’s consideration represents the last step in the redistricting process,” said his spokesman, Kevin Madden. He said the map, which aimed to clear past gerrymandering by Democrats, gained preliminary Justice Department approval and the backing of a three-judge federal panel.

Yes, this indeed could be the end of the Texas redricting tale for the remainder of the decade, unless the Supremes toss out the plan. Although I hope that will not be the case, it sure would make for some interesting politics.

There is certainly much to be made of Madden’s comment about clearing earlier gerrymandering. When I first moved to Texas in 1980, the state had just gone into Ronald Reagan’s electoral column two days earlier and was in the second year of having a Republican governor for the first time since the end of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. Still, Texas was considered a one-party state as Democrats dominated every other level of the state’s politics. That shifted drastically over the 1980s and 1990s though, as the conservative nature of the state remained but the national nature of the Democrats drifted left. By 2000, the Republicans held every statewide office, including the governor and both U.S. senators. The last remaining Democrat strongholds were the Texas House of Representatives, responsible by law for drawing the districts for the state’s congressional delegation, and the Texas congressional delegation.

In 2001, the state representatives essentially failed in their constitutional mandate to redraw congressional districts from 2000 census data, leaving it to the courts to only slightly modify the lines that had protected the Democrat congressional delegation. When the state house fell to the GOP in 2002, the state reps, in violation of no law, decided to take up their redistricting responsibility and apparently were successful in generating a map that more accurately reflected state party trends. Certainly, the process was successful in angering the state house Democrats, who fought the process tooth and nail (and even foot by cowardly shirking their duty and fleeing the state in mass in hopes of stopping the process). Hence, mucho bitter on the Dems part and today’s judicial struggles.

Others blogging on the matter include James Joyner at OTB, who sees no constitutional problems with the redisticting and has a link to a nice summation of the issues under judicial consideration, and PoliBlog‘s Dr. Steven Taylor, who questions whether redistricting should be taken out of the hands of state legislatures.

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