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January 24, 2003, News

Joining a legal campaign that's taken root across the South, the Texas NAACP has filed a class-action suit seeking damages on behalf of the descendants of former Texas slaves. Named as defendants in the suit are Union Pacific, JP Morgan Chase and Co., and WestPoint Stevens Inc., three giants whose corporate predecessors profited from the stolen labor of Texas slaves, the suit alleges. Handling the suit for the NAACP are its longtime Texas chair, former Assistant Attorney General Gary Bledsoe; NAACP legal counsel Robert Notzon, and state Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston. The suit seeks to establish a trust fund for African-Americans, not reparation payments for individual plaintiffs; lawyers expect the several slavery suits now in Southern courts to be consolidated into one case. -- M.C.M.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Taylor County Judge Victor Carrillo to the Railroad Commission this week, filling the vacancy left by Tony Garza, now the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. The 38-year-old Carrillo, a former Abilene City Council member who was only elected to his current post in November, may get to oversee the abolition of his job: State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, in budget-scrubbing mode, has suggested merging the RRC with the state Public Utility Commission. (This idea was touted during the campaign by Democratic RRC candidate Sherry Boyles). Perry described the idea as "interesting" at the press conference announcing Carrillo's appointment. -- M.C.M.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Molly Beth Malcolm handily survived a challenge to her continued leadership at last week's State Democratic Executive Committee meeting. Opponents blamed her and the party's reliance on a "small group of Austin political consultants" for the party's poor showing in November. But following a spirited debate, a motion asking Malcolm to resign failed 77-10, and a subsequent motion endorsing her leadership passed with only a single dissent. Malcolm's supporters charged her foes with "scapegoating"; her opponents said the TDP has neglected "the grassroots" and relied too much on media and consultants and not enough on precinct organization. Malcolm vowed to stay in office and fight for Democratic candidates until the state party convention in Houston next summer. -- M.K.

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