Tuesday, February 14, 2012

And starring Greg Abbott as Constipation

Only two things are certain in the Texas redistricting cluster: there will eventually be some elections this year, and Greg Abbott is the source of all the problems.

Rather than inch closer to a resolution over the weekend, both sides may have dug in their heels further. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told the court that one deal-breaker is carving up the district currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, which would in turn help make Republicans more electable in heavily Democratic Travis County.

Abbott wrote in a filing Monday that while his office was reviewing new proposals to other changes on the map. But he also acknowledged that Doggett's district alone could prevent any chance of a breakthrough.

"The State cannot compromise on this district and that may prevent a global compromise on the Congressional map," Abbott wrote.

There's no legal justification for him to insist on shattering Travis County into five pieces, but who still believes the Attorney General of Texas knows anything about the law anyway? Particularly since he's suffering from a ten-year-old case of Doggett Derangement Syndrome?

Rather than going to the Justice Department, which had been standard practice, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took the fight to federal court, entering largely uncharted legal territory.

“It's very unusual for a state to just sue” for preclearance, said Michael Li, an elections lawyer in Dallas who has covered the legal saga extensively on txredistricting.org.

Abbott pursued the high-risk legal strategy to get the Republican-dominated maps approved, he said. “Had it worked, it would have been brilliant,” Li said.

The aggressive stance was necessary because the Legislature's maps heavily favored Republicans. Under those maps, three of Texas' four new congressional seats were drawn in Anglo-dominated areas, even though minority population groups accounted for about 90 percent of the state's population growth.

Because of that, Democrats and minority groups quickly filed lawsuits, challenging the maps in the San Antonio federal court. [...]

Doggett managed to survive the 2003 Tom DeLay-backed redistricting that transformed his Austin-centric district into one that stretched from the capital city all the way to the Rio Grande Valley.

“Lloyd Doggett has been a thorn in their side for years and years,” said Harold Cook, a longtime Democratic consultant. “He is their one piece of unfinished business from 2003.”

Republicans tried again in 2011. The maps passed by the Legislature carved Austin into five different congressional districts, drawing Doggett into a heavily Hispanic district that stretched from San Antonio to Austin. State Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, also was eyeing the district, setting the stage for a tough primary fight. But delays in the preclearance trial in Washington forced the San Antonio court to draw a set of interim maps in an attempt to preserve the March 6 primary.

That congressional map restored much of Doggett's old district, icing the primary fight -- but the U.S. Supreme Court then threw out the interim maps. Doggett has continued to campaign in San Antonio, in case “the Perrymandered map” becomes law.

The entire process, he said, has been “really outrageous.”

The real problem for Texas Republicans isn't the jacked-up maps or even the stonewalling by the OAG; it's the inevitable separation of the primary elections down the ballot from the presidential.

A delayed primary is seen as a boon to challengers, especially in the U.S. Senate race, because they have more time to boost name identification and raise money.

Based on recent polling, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is the prohibitive favorite in the GOP race, Cook said, “but if I was his campaign manager, I would worry a little bit. If the election was held today and you'd win, you want the election held today. Every day that goes by introduces a little more uncertainty.”

A split primary could add even more pressure on Dewhurst.

There's no question that holding the presidential primary first, then the Senate race later, would benefit tea party candidates like Ted Cruz, Houston lobbyist Robert D. Miller said. The second primary almost certainly would suffer from lower voter turnout -- and those that do come out are more ideological.

“The later it is, the better it is for Ted Cruz,” Miller said.

Without even factoring in the diminishing country-wide enthusiasm, fewer Lone Star conservatives are going make it out for two different elections, the scheduling of which is still to be determined. Greg Abbott is going to disenfranchise Texas Republicans from having any meaningful say in who their presidential nominee is, just like he's screwed the pooch with his hare-brained legal strategies in pursuing a conservative super-majority in the state and national legislatures.

(Why am I concerned about Republican disenfranchisement? Hey, I'm an empathetic guy that way.)

His hubris means they will lose even bigger than they would under normal circumstances. Greg Abbott, in short, is the Kareem Jackson of the RPT. Every time he takes the field, you know it's bad and going to get worse.

But honestly, he reminds me more of the Colon Lady on that TV commercial.

You Republicans need to keep these failures of his in mind when Abbott runs for governor in 2014.

Update: Charles has a bit more to say about relevance and Texas Republican presidential primaries.

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