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Texas Republicans Take New Shot at Redistricting

June 19, 2003|Scott Gold | Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- Setting up a political showdown with ripples that could reach Washington, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Wednesday for a special legislative session to give Republicans another chance to draw new congressional maps.

Republicans' first attempts to draw new districts were foiled this spring when more than 50 Texas Democrats vanished and turned up at a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, Okla.

The move blocked a vote on the controversial plan and underscored a deep divide between Democrats and Republicans, who control the Legislature and the governorship simultaneously for the first time in 130 years.

The Texas Legislature's regular session ended two weeks ago. In a letter to Republican leaders, Perry said the new session will begin June 30.

"The recently completed regular session clearly demonstrates that legislators -- regardless of political party affiliation and philosophy -- can work together to address issues important to Texans," Perry wrote. "And I am confident that Democrats and Republicans can likewise work together to develop a map that is fair, compact and protects communities of interest."

Democrats hold a 17-15 majority of the state's congressional seats. In a plan pushed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, among others, Republicans want to draw new districts that likely would shift the balance of power in the congressional delegation and shore up the GOP's control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republicans argue that voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots for GOP candidates in the last election and that they are reflecting the wishes of the majority of the state. Perry also argued that the Legislature, not the courts, should establish congressional district maps.

DeLay's office did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Democrats call the proposed maps a blatant power grab and vowed to pick up the fight where the "Killer Ds," as the Democrats who vanished are known, left off.

The Democrats said the proposed maps go to great lengths to ensure Republican success. In the version floated during the regular session, one district would have connected two Republican-friendly areas with a 300-mile ribbon of land.

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