Category Archives: Redistricting ’11

Latinos Continue As GOP Political Football

Whether it’s immigration, the culture and language war, and representation (redistricting), the Republicans have used these issues to kick around Latinos.

Today, GOP Texas Attorney General Abbott proposed a Congressional map that seems to have some agreement among the parties, according to the Trib, but negotiations still stalled. I think Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair Trey Martinez Fischer explained it well:

MALC worked in good faith with General Abbott in hopes of arriving at a compromise that reflected the changing diversity of our state in a manner acceptable to all parties.  Unfortunately negotiations stalled when it became apparent some parties in these discussions had a narrow and at times unrealistic view of the evidence presented at trial.  The maps proposed by the Attorney General today are a beginning point, not an end.

MALC has maintained from day one that minority rights should not be subordinated in order to facilitate political expediency.  We have presented a fair plan that recognizes the growth of the Latino and African American community while at the same time eliminating discriminatory tactics used by the State to disenfranchise the minority community.

As we have said before, MALC and the redistricting plaintiffs have presented a compelling case at trial in both San Antonio and in Washington, D.C.  We will not compromise our principles for the sake of expediency and will not be forced into a resolution that fails to recognize the fundamental fact that Texas’ growth is minority growth.  We are confident that the evidence presented at trial demonstrates that Texas’ maps violate both Section 5 and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The Attorney General presents an illusion of an inclusive map; the reality is that it falls short of recognizing minority growth in Texas.  For instance in CD 23, the compromise district clearly performs worse than it had in the benchmark map.  No one needs to be reminded that the candidate of choice of the minority community failed to win election in the benchmark map in 2010.  MALC could not accept a CD 23 that is worse off than it was in the benchmark map, considering that reality.  While all the parties support a primary as soon as possible, we want to ensure that Texans have fair and legal redistricting maps.  MALC is encouraged that with the issuance of these maps the Attorney General has made it clear that he accepts the growing reality that the maps adopted by the state legislature for the state house, state senate, and United States Congress were constitutionally-flawed and require immediate remedial action.”

In other words, Latinos are still a political football being kicked around by the Republicans.

The Trib has links to the maps:

The proposed maps are posted on the Texas Legislative Service’s website; the plans are numbered C226S167, and H303.

Obviously, we’re not done going through all the muck and mud, so that’s just one first take from all of this.

Apparently, the one guy who got into the muck and mud of all of this was Congressman Henry Cuellar of Laredo. And the Lone Star Project wasted no time in telling us how they feel:

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is seeking cover for his cynical proposal by citing the support of one plaintiff group and opportunistic elected officials like Congressman Henry Cuellar. Henry Cuellar, of course, has a long history of betraying Latino voters and his constituents to appease high-level Republicans. During the 2001 and 2003 Texas redistricting battles, Cuellar aligned himself with Tom DeLay.

In response, prominent groups who oppose the AG’s plan filed a formal advisory with the San Antonio Federal Court earlier today. Among others, they include, the National Office of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the NAACP, the Gonzales Plaintiffs and the Quesda/Veasey Plaintiffs. A copy of their advisory to the Court can be seen here.  The Mexican American Legislative Caucus also opposes the AG’s plan. The MALC statement can be seen here.

Under the current congressional plan, minority voters have the opportunity to elect their candidate of choice in 11 of 32 districts, or 34.4 percent. Under the AG’s proposed interim plan, the number is likely reduced to only 11 of 36 districts, which is only 30.5 percent. Abbott’s proposal is another example of Texas Republican leaders choosing to attack and reduce the voting strength of Texas Hispanics and African Americans rather than treating the communities with respect and simply working to earn their votes.

From the beginning, the AG has refused to negotiate with all parties and now is playing fast and loose with press statements purporting to have more support than actually exists.

Yes, more muck and mud to get through. And probably a helluva lot more press releases to come. (BOR has a great collection of the ’em)

UPDATE:  Here’s a statement from the only LULAC voice I like hearing from, Joe Cardenas, III.

…we feel that a compromise exists for both parties. Today is a victory for the public school children of Texas if the courts agree to adopt these maps. The Attorney General’s office has already stated that they feel that these maps were acceptable for the next decade! This means that Texas LULAC can exert all its effort to securing fair-funding for Texas schools, address the inequitities of high-stakes testing, and put an end to the structual deficit that exists in Texas. Texas LULAC will not play politics with the education of Texas’ children of which 50.2% are Latino in public education. Luis Vera and National LULAC have already stated that it does not agree with this stance and that they favor continuing legal proceedings. We don’t necessarily oppose that, but we will not pass up the opportunity to end this fight in favor of better representation, having lines for the next 10 years, and the chance to address education in a meaningful way. I want all of you to know that all of this has happened because you have made it possible. Neither political party is happy with us, and that’s OK, but both parties know who Texas LULAC is and what we are capable of doing!

That’s from the side that seems to agree, and here’s a link to the MALDEF and Redistricting Task Force response to the maps.

Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, stated: “Redistricting is amessy process of competing interests and concerns, perhaps nowhere messier than in Texas.Our role has always been to ensure that the Latino community has a fair opportunity to electcandidates of choice in nine congressional districts and in 35 state House districts. We arepleased that the state of Texas finally recognizes its legal obligation to provide a map meeting these parameters.”

Still, without full agreement from all parties, the SA Federal Court will not budge, it seems. Of course, whether the court give more weight to civil rights groups than political parties will be the next debate we should have in the meantime.

More reaction from:   PDiddieGregBurka, Kuff, and Robert Miller. And Juanita Jean, too.

SCOTUS Stops Progress?

Well, looks like the SCOTUS had a problem with the Texas Congressional, House and Senate maps that were drawn up by a team of federal judges. While they issued a stay of the maps, there will be briefs and arguments before them in January.

As Kuff tells us:

Dozens of candidates have filed for offices, many of them have already raised and spent money, and they may wind up not being eligible for the district they have chosen to run for. For that matter, at least one legislator has stepped down on the grounds that he can’t win the district that was drawn for him. The filing deadline is next Thursday, but who knows what that means now, as no one can say for certain where they may wind up. We may wind up with a bifurcated primary, with the Presidential and non-legislative races in March and the Lege, Senate, and Congress in May. It’s just chaos.

Because the state of Texas seems to have an endless flow of money to violate the rights of Texans?

And as Joe Cardenas who has been working the effort from the Texas LULAC side of things stated:

While this is a set-back, it is not a defeat!  Remember that the same occured in the last redistricting case that went before the Supreme Court.  However, this time a lot more is at stake given that state leaders in Texas have already indicated that redistricting will be an agenda item for the 83rd Legislature for 2013; this no doubt will mean a worsening repeat of all the nasty anti-Latino legislation and education taking a back seat to partisan politics.

And certainly, it’s not the Democrats filing all that nasty anti-Latino stuff.

Yes, this is quite frustrating. But it looks like my camarada Harold Cook nails it on the head.

 

Gallego To Run in My Former Neck of the Mesquite

Yes, we had heard about it, but today, Pete Gallego made it official at the Texas Democratic Party HQ in Austin. Gallego has filed to run for the 23rd Congressional District.

The 23rd is an expansive district that reaches from San Antonio to far West Texas, and even includes the county from whence I came, Zavala County. So, for my family and friends down there, I can honestly say, this is the leader to support to unseat Canseco.

The 23rd was recently redrawn and there is a strong opportunity to elect the right candidate with Gallego in the race. But as strong as the opportunity is, it is not a walk in the monte for any Party, and Gallego seems to understand that from the get-go.

“I will be a voice for practical, common sense solutions to the real challenges  Texans face every day,” Gallego said, “Voters are tired of people on the extreme fringes tying up Congress and rejecting bipartisan solutions. I’ve spent my entire adult life working with people of differing viewpoints and bringing people together to get things done. That’s what’s missing in Washington, and that’s why I’m running for Congress – to get things done!”

Gallego, of Alpine, TX, has been an effective Representative in his district and equally effective in the halls of the Texas Capitol.

This is definitely a must-watch race for 2012.

Run-Offs on the Radio, Part II

This morning, This Week With Sylvia Garcia featured the At-Large 2 and At-Large 5 candidates. If you missed it, it will re-air on Friday at 8AM on UCTCRadio.com, but I’ll try to get a copy of it to post here to aid voters in their decision, if one has not yet been made.

The At-Large 2 forum went pretty much as planned, with Kristi Thibaut and Andrew Burks giving their priorities, their plans to expand outreach to aid turnout, their thoughts on the budget, etc. I’ll let you listen to those when I get the copy, but when given the opportunity to ask each other questions, Burks took a turn for the negative.

Burks took out a copy of a recent Thibaut mailer and attempted to call-out Thibaut on an endorsement (one of many on the mailer, including many African-American elected officials) she listed that Burks states was actually given to him. I believe it was from a church group. Anyway, Thibaut stated she had not heard from the organization and would have no problem stating something about any retraction.

But if that wasn’t enough, in a moment of weirdness, Burks threw one from left field asking why Thibaut was calling herself “the only black candidate.”  Thibaut stated she had never described herself in that way.

Thibaut’s question was more issues oriented; in fact, she asked Burks why he had campaigned against Renew Houston, but now speaks in favor of it. Burks responded by stating he saw “my members” of Council speak against it and took the same approach, but that he now supports it, but made sure to point out that “it is not a fee, but a tax.”

With AL2 completed, we were hoping for a good debate between Jolanda Jones and Jack Christie. Unfortunately, Council Member Jones was working at the courthouse and arrived at the show’s end. Still, Dr. Christie enjoyed the full time answering the usual questions, but given the tone of his campaign, I wanted to bring him back to issues.

So, I pointed to his most recent mailer–the pink one with all of the Chronicle quotes about CM Jones–and stated that it seemed like he had made the campaign all about personalities and not about issues. I didn’t mention what had occurred at a Meyerland Democrats meeting–a bad reaction from folks who didn’t much enjoy his comments about CM Jones’ fashion choices. In order to make it issues oriented, I asked: “Can you tell me one vote taken by CM Jones with which you disagreed and why?”

Dr. Christie didn’t take too kindly to the question stating he had made the campaign about himself. Still, I repeated the question. One Vote? Here was his shot at making a policy statement of sorts. He chose to state he didn’t like a budget item CM Jones had requested–he stated it was a personal bathroom in her office. Obviously, this was a budget amendment and not an actual council vote, which is what I was looking for.

Christie was given an opportunity to ask a question of CM Jones, too, as if she was in the studio. Christie asked what CM Jones’ relationship was with Constable Ruben Davis in Missouri City, stating that his “friends had told him” that money is exchanged and that the Constable ensures a certain number of votes. Make what you will of that response.

I haven’t made it a secret that I endorsed Thibaut in her race, but I had remained quiet in the AL5 race. So, in asking Christie the question today I think I was fishing for an answer that would bring him toward the issues, rather than the personalities (what has been central in his direct mail pieces)–something that would make the distinction for voters when it comes to the issues. I guess that was a #fail on my part, but I think this interview has given some clarity to voters in one way or another.

I’ll get a copy on here soon, otherwise, listen in on Friday at 8AM.

Early voting begins on Wednesday 11/30. Find your polling location at this link (PDF).

Musical Congressional Seats in SA

Kuff and BOR have the details, but it goes like this:  Congressman Gonzales in CD20 retires–>Joaquin Castro decides to run for CD20 –> Ciro Rodriguez decides to run for the new CD-35 instead of CD23–>Pete Gallego stays put in CD23.

BOR scores it like this:

Let’s look at the districts and the share of the vote each gave Barack Obama and Bill White, as well as the share of Spanish-surname voter registration:

20th: 58.5% Obama, 56.9% White; SSVR-T 52.6%

23rd: 51.4% Obama, 47.8% White; SSVR-T 52.2%

35th: 54.4% Obama, 51.4% White; SSVR-T 44.2%

Castro, in moving from the new 35th to the 20th, will now be running in a district that is more comfortably Democratic in both Presidential and Gubernatorial cycles. Ciro moves from a tough primary and tough general election battle to what is likely to be at least an easier November match-up and easier hold in non-Presidential cycles. This was a smart move for Ciro, who will no longer face a primary against State Representative Pete Gallego, who has represented much of the turf that makes up CD-23 in the Legislature as the 74th district for the past 20 years.

Back in CD35, though, one has to wonder if Ciro Rodriguez will get a primary opponent, including Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Sylvia Romo, who was mentioned in a Trib article. Has Ciro’s political career taken its course and is the new CD35 looking for new blood, such as a Latina member of Congress?

With this game of musical chairs, we can be relieved that at least the music that was being played was Tejano Music.

Interim CD Maps Released!

Just when you thought you hadn’t seen enough maps

Actually, this is the one we have been intently awaiting. And at first glance, it looks like Harris County does not get a new majority-minority (or Hispanic opportunity) district. What does seem to be the case is that Hispanics still seem to be in every corner of Harris County, making up almost 24% of voting age population (VAP) in CD2; about 20% VAP in the new CD36; 38% VAP in CD18; 38% VAP in CD9; 23% VAP in CD7; 29% VAP in the new CD34; and, of course, 72% VAP in CD29. Take a look at the Spanish Surname Voter Registrations (SSVR) and each of these percentages takes a big drop, though.

Note:  One hopeful note is that CD2 would be 45% minority. As election day numbers go, Poe will likely get his usual number of votes, but I can see that number dwindling at every cycle. If Poe ever retires or decides to run for something else, any new face would probably not have an easy ride.

Could a new Hispanic-opportunity district have been created? The numbers make it seem like so. I’m wondering if this will be argued before the judges on Friday. Whether created or not, there is much work to be done on the voter registration side (and re-registration), and then on the GOTV side.

From State Rep. Carol Alvarado:  “I am pleased with the drawing of a new Latino seat based in Bexar County,  the minority coalition district created in Tarrant County, and the restoration of the Latino opportunity seats in South Texas and San Antonio-West Texas. However, it is disappointing to see that Houston did not receive a new Latino opportunity district.”

SIGH OF RELIEF

What seemed like a sudden rush of wind coming in from Central Texas was Dem activists giving a collective sigh of relief at the  separation of Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett. Castro stays in CD35 and Doggett can stay in CD25, both which seem winnable for Dems given previous voting histories.

And just as I was thinking of moving to Austin. Oh well.

I’ll be scoping my favorite Texas blogs to see what the rest of us are thinking on this version of the CD map. I’m sure we’ll all find something, have different takes,  etc.

Update:  And stealing from Kuff’s last line of his thoughts

GregStace, the Lone Star ProjectPostcards, theTrib, and Trail Blazers have more.

Another Update:  From Greg Abbott, Republican AG:

Perhaps worst, in the name of protecting Hispanic voting power, the court seems to be discarding already elected Republican Hispanics in favor of drawing maps that may elect Democratic Hispanics. That is not and should not be the proper role of the court or the proper application of the Voting Rights Act.

What Abbott seems to forget is that the candidates elected should be of Hispanics’ choosing, not that they necessarily be Hispanic. Given the Republican re-draw, Hispanics were being short-changed of their opportunity to choose a candidate in all sorts of ways. So, yes, it is proper application of the VRA.

Run-Offs on the Radio, Part I

Well, if you missed this week’s edition of This Week With Sylvia Garcia, you missed the first two candidate forums featuring City of Houston Run-Off candidates. It was a good, productive discussion about city and district issues.

In District B, it was Alvin Byrd and Jerry Davis. Both are good candidates, in my opinion, offering different skill sets. Byrd offers a wealth of experience “on the inside” having worked for current council member, while Davis offers up experience in the small business sector and the community. There was hardly anything controversial in the discussion, although there could be a couple of opportunities on which to “strike” that probably don’t have much to do with “city issues.” Perhaps they’ll keep it on the ground, instead of over the radiowaves, but the two were gentlemanly and impressive in their efforts today.

In District A, only incumbent Council Member Brenda Stardig participated, and she devoted most of her time speaking about her record. Whether it was her efforts at bringing more businesses to District A utilizing 380 Agreements, to boasting about the fact that District A has a high-level of participation in neighborhood recycling efforts, to the fact that there are tens of millions of dollars in CIP monies in the pipeline for District A, she spoke frankly about the need to continue these efforts with her in office.

I think my favorite question to Stardig came when I announced that I may just be moving into the city (finally) and that I expect my future council member to be a cheerleader for their district. I must say that I was practically sold by her “sales job,” until the host of the show (The Commish) later made her pitch about moving to Lindale. Even Byrd and Davis made some pretty strong pitches, and all talked about the various improvements and new developments that have been cropping up in their districts.

I had not met CM Stardig until today, but she certainly is friendly, open to discussion, and someone that has and is willing to continue promoting a cooperative City Council to achieve what is best for her district. At least, that’s what I got from the discussion.

And being a blogger, I decided to “go there” and ask about the revelations of controversial comments made by her opponent, Helena Brown. But Stardig kept it “candidate classy,” and preferred talking about her record and accomplishments. And that’s exactly what the voters needed to hear.

The show repeats on UCTCRadio.com on Friday morning at 8AM and then at 5PM. So, while you’re eating leftovers, give it a listen–twice!

Harris County Redistricting Heads to Court–UPDATED

Kuff had a post yesterday about Harris County Commissioners Court attempting to mediate with Latino activist plaintiffs regarding an interim map for the 2012 elections. Indeed, it was in the Sunday morning news, along with news that the County Commissioner’s Court would be meeting on Monday to discuss options.

Today, the Chron reported that mediation did not effect an interim map and the parties were headed to court–and only to work on the interim map; not on arguments for or against the original maps. Obviously, with the 2012 primaries looming, there is a bit of uneasiness as the political parties must deal with candidate filing deadlines, residency requirements, and the overall prep for the primary. Equally important is the fact that precinct boundaries must be drawn, as well.

It is safe to say there is cautious optimism with the outcome of at least the interim map.

Dunn said the map could be drawn to add black voters to Precinct 1 and Latino voters to Precinct 2.

“The judge has made clear that any interim map she might adopt cannot be retrogressive to African-Americans or Latinos and it has to fairly distribute the population in the county,” Dunn said.

The County’s media folks were working overtime in putting it out there that they were willing to mediate and negotiate this weekend, and Pct. 2’s Jack Morman wasted no time in playing his own brand of spin:

“After the mediation Thursday it just seems like the other side is almost not negotiating in good faith, like anything they propose they know would be unacceptable” to the county, Morman said Monday.

Bottom line, mediation is where both sides come together and put it all out there. There’s little doubt that a bone of contention on the Latino activist side is the huge swath of Northeast Harris County (Atascocita) that is proposed to be a part of Precinct 2–more than likely the source of retrogression. Did the county offer to cut that out of the maps? Not likely, since their game appears to be incumbent protection.

Meanwhile, we await a decision from the Department of Justice to see if the proposed map even passes muster and the Voting Rights Act.

The U.S. Department of Justice also is reviewing the county’s adopted map and is expected to rule on whether it conforms to the Voting Rights Act by mid-December.

Given the fact that Texas Republican-created maps have been ruled improper lately, I’m hoping the DOJ continues that trend so that we may correct the improprieties.

Stay connected as decisions, maps and opinions will be flying about in the next days and weeks.

UPDATE 11-15 @ 9:25PM :  Testimony in case is complete!

Interesting

Assistant county attorney Doug Ray said Gilmore will hire demographer and redistricting consultant Jerry Wood (who assisted the City of Houston with its redistricting plan earlier this year) to help her draw the map.

Francisco Pedraza, professor of political science at Texas A&M University, and local political consultant Robert Jara testified for the plaintiffs (who are led by Houston City councilmen James Rodriguez and Ed Gonzalez and represented by Chad Dunn, general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party).

University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray (who helped the county draft its plan) and Ray testified on Harris County’s behalf.

Ray said his testimony focused mainly on the administrative difficulties that would be created by a radically redrawn map, given the many deadlines coming up related to the March 6 primaries.

Ray said he also is worried that a federal court in San Antonio that is hearing a challenge to the state’s redistricting map for state and congressional offices could create more severe administrative headaches.

A headache from correcting a map with so many Republican improprieties? Oh my! By all means, let’s not give the county more work to do after they messed it up the first time!

Anyway, the interim map could be completed this week, so, stay connected!

Redistricting on the Radio on Tuesday

Internet radio, that is.

While “The Commish” tends to the redistricting case regarding the Harris County Commissioner’s Court re-draw this week, I will be the “stand-in” on “This Week With Sylvia Garcia” on Tuesday, November 15 at 10 A.M on UCTCRadio.com.

We’ll have the usual cast of VIPs, including State Rep. Ana Hernandez-Luna with the State Report; Congressman Gene Green with the Federal Report; and the Chisme of the Week with Yolanda Black Navarro. The feature segment will be all about the challenges to Republican redistricting–Congressional, State Senate, State Rep., SBOE. Also, we are hoping for a call from The Commish with an update about the local case from the Courthouse.

Of course, because of all of the shenanigans on redistricting, there have been some changes to Primary filing periods, so we’ll have a special guest calling in, Demetria Nelson-McNaulty, who will be providing a clearer picture. If you’re interested in running for office in 2012, this will be a good time to listen to some great information.

Again, 10AM on UCTCRadio.com.

Illegal Texas Maps Ruled, Well, Illegal

I mean, improper.

This is good news coming from a federal court in Washington, DC. The court denied summary judgment requested by the Texas Attorney General’s office; so, it looks like we’re going to court over the Texas House, Texas Senate, and Texas Congressional maps, and a San Antonio federal court will proceed on making interim maps for the 2012 elections.

The order, which you can read in its entirety here, read in part:

Having carefully considered the entire record and the parties’ arguments, the Court finds and concludes that the State of Texas used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice and that there are material issues of fact in dispute that prevent this Court from entering declaratory judgment that the three redistricting plans meet the requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. See 42 U.S.C. 1973c.

I think Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Ritchie said it best:

This entire process could have been avoided if Republicans would have drawn maps based on demographics rather than their own shallow political ambitions.

Trey Martinez Fischer of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus had this to say:

Texas growth is Latino growth, the Court has agreed with our position concerning summary judgment and we will now prepare for trial.

MALC members fought hard this legislative session to ensure that all Texans have an opportunity to thrive in our great state and we will continue through every turn of the litigation process.

More to come, I’m sure.