Point Austin: Blue Goes Red

Perry, Dewhurst, and Craddick may do to Austin what DeLay only tried

Travis County has proposed two new maps, aimed at 
demonstrating that the Voting Rights Act violations in 
South Texas can be remedied while restoring the 
coalitional district of CD 25. Under Plan 1413C (detail 
here), CD 25 would reunite East Side minority 
communities, and reapportion CD 10 (Michael McCaul) 
and CD 21 (Lamar Smith).<br><a href=1413C.jpg 
target=blank><b>View</b></a> a larger map
Travis County has proposed two new maps, aimed at demonstrating that the Voting Rights Act violations in South Texas can be remedied while restoring the "coalitional district" of CD 25. Under Plan 1413C (detail here), CD 25 would reunite East Side minority communities, and reapportion CD 10 (Michael McCaul) and CD 21 (Lamar Smith).
View a larger map

The Republican state leadership has done plenty of silly things on the road to re-redistricting, but as far as I recall they hadn't yet lost a congressman. The Capitol big shots – Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Tom Craddick, and Secretary of State Roger Williams – managed that singular feat last week, in their submission to the federal court considering how to redraw the state congressional map to satisfy the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow ruling that CD 23, currently represented by Henry "the Anglos' Best Friend" Bonilla, violates the Voting Rights Act. As you probably don't recall, CD 23 is in South and West Texas, anchored in San Antonio, whence it slices through the most Republican portions of the Hill Country before tip-toeing around Laredo as though the incumbent might be allergic to its mostly Hispanic residents.

They are certainly allergic to him, voting overwhelmingly in recent years for Anybody-but-Henry, which is explicitly why the Lege redistricters had cut them out of Bonilla's district and loaded him up with Anglo Republicans. The Supreme Court, which otherwise shrugged at minority-vote dilution – especially of African-American votes – in North and East Texas, couldn't quite stomach the blatant vote-cracking in Webb County. That's why Perry et al. will be back in federal court on Aug. 3, when a three-judge panel will consider theirs and a dozen other proposals to fix the problem in CD 23. (The state leaders, with the drafting help of Attorney General Greg Abbott, are responding as individual defendants, not the state of Texas – if they did the latter, they'd have to preclear their plan with the Department of Justice ... and who knows where that might lead?)

Abbott and the Costellos managed to keep track of Bonilla, but they somehow managed to lose Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett, misplacing him northward a couple of miles into the CD 10 district of Rep. Michael McCaul. Patting themselves on the back for not "pairing" incumbents (by which they mean Republican incumbents), they write, "The one exception is Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who ... physically resides in District 10. ..." Doggett in fact lives in the central East Austin portion of the current CD 25, having moved there from near West Austin when the same geniuses and the GOP Lege decided it would be salutary for Austin voters to be split among three congressional districts. When he heard about the latest mistake – which in its clumsiness gives away the garishly partisan intentions of the proposed map – Doggett joked to the Statesman, "This sounds like the same folks the who think Tom DeLay lives in Virginia."

Carpetbags and Scalawags

I can understand how Tom Craddick might be too distracted at the moment to keep track of Doggett's address. The Speaker's real busy right now, supervising the million-dollar, lobby-funded renovation of his Capitol residence, complete with two (2) $1,000 toilets. And arguably Gov. Perry is somewhat preoccupied with the annoying spectre of Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the Grandma Who Just Won't Go Away. But certainly Abbott, Dewhurst, "Bottom Dollar" Williams, and Solicitor Ted Cruz aren't so busy with governatin' that they couldn't check a directory (or make a phone call) to confirm whether Doggett had absentmindedly moved to Pflugerville. But they remain single-mindedly intent on using this last-but-not-least round of map-drawing to complete the jig-sawing of Travis County that they hadn't completely managed before.

Should they get their way, the only deep-blue Democratic county in Texas (and by the way the state capital) will be represented in Congress for the rest of the decade by three Republican incumbent carpetbaggers: Bonilla and CD 21's Lamar Smith (both based historically and physically in San Antonio), and McCaul, who at least has Austin roots, although his voting base in the rubber band CD 10 is in the northwest suburbs of Houston. (It's only McCaul's money that's native to San Antonio, via his father-in-law, Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays.)

Asked a couple of years ago, in the middle of the Lege redistricting fiasco, if he thought it appropriate that Austin should be split among three congressional districts, Craddick replied, "Midland has been split right down the middle for years." At least the speaker made it plain that it's all about political payback; the GOP brief accompanying the Abbott map is full of transparent sanctimony about respecting the Court's decision and avoiding violations of the VRA, blah blah blah. ...

Keeping Austin Weird

Although we can surmise that Perry et al. enter the courtroom with a rhetorical advantage, the judges are under no obligation to accept their map, the various alternatives proposed by LULAC, MALDEF, the Democratic plaintiffs, the directly affected Republican congressmen, or, certainly, Travis County (with maybe the city of Austin thrown in, still to be determined at press time). The judges could pick a map, ignore all the maps, draw their own, or even kick it back to the Lege to attempt yet something else. (The latter is least likely, because of the time required to prepare new ballots for open primaries in November, in whatever multiple districts are finally affected by the changes.)

The Supreme Court, virtually deadlocked by a combination of political cynicism and indecision, gave little guidance on CD 23, and none at all on Doggett's CD 25. They only noted that the latter was an incompetent and probably illegal substitute for gutting the former, as an Hispanic-opportunity district, and they presumed CD 25 would accordingly be redrawn – somehow. It's that "somehow" that's now on the GOP block – and if you're within the sound of my voice, be aware you're being punished once again for voting the wrong way. end story

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state politicsredistricting, Rick Perry, Tom Craddick, Henry Bonilla, Voting Rights Act, redistricting, Michael McCaul, Lloyd Doggett, Tom DeLay, Lamar Smith

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