Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Attorney general's map gives Travis County three Republican incumbents in Congress

State's map would strip Doggett of Democratic base in county.

Reproduced from Statesman.com

By Laylan Copelin, Tara Copp
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, July 14, 2006

Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, offered a new congressional map today that would strip U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, of his Democratic base in Travis County and split the county among three Republican incumbents.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month overturned one border district, saying it discriminated against 100,000 Latinos because heavily Latino Laredo was split between that district and another one. The court required parties to the redistricting lawsuit to submit suggested fixes to a panel of three federal judges.

The state's map is just one of several expected to be filed today, but it likely will get serious consideration by the court because it represents the state's position.

"The state's map is a map that Tom DeLay would be proud of," said Ed Martin, a Democratic redistricting expert, referring to the former U.S. House majority leader who engineered the 2003 re-mapping of Texas that cemented Republican control of the state's congressional delegation.

The map splits Travis County among U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio; Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio; and Michael McCaul, R-Austin.

Doggett would be left with some difficult choices. He could run against Smith, who would inherit a large chunk of Doggett's Democratic base in Travis County. Or, as Abbott seems to suggest Doggett could run in his redrawn district, which would stretch from Caldwell County to the border.

Abbott, in the brief, defended the map, saying the Caldwell-to-the-border district includes many of the voters Doggett now represents.

Doggett was not immediately available for comment. But Martin said Texas Republicans are trying to silence Travis County Democrats.

"This is trying to split the most Democratic urban county in Texas among three Republicans," Martin said. "It is essentially to deny a voice for the Travis County majority."

The state's map also fuses Laredo back into a single district, which would run west to El Paso. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the Democrat whose district now runs from Laredo north to San Antonio, would be able to run in that new district.

Abbott's press secretary Jerry Strickland objected to calling the state's map Abbott's map.
"It's our client's map," Strickland said.

He said Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick, all Republicans, are Abbott's clients in the lawsuit.

But Strickland refused to say who actually drew the map or approved it before Abbott filed it today.

Although the Republican members of Congress said they were working through the attorney general's office, not all of them might be happy with the final map filed by Abbott.
Bonilla was making "very last minute" considerations on whether to submit his own proposal instead, said spokeswoman Brittany Eck. His office wasn't ready to comment on the state's map.
"It's so up in the air right now," Eck said.

lcopelin@statesman.com


George Eliot georgeeliot2009@yahoo.com

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