Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom Delay

By Steve Bickerstaff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
You Gotta Be Kidding!
The 2003 Regular Session

At a time when Texas is grasping for pennies to immunize Texas children,
legislators don't need to waste resources giving booster shots to political power plays
.

—HOUSTON CHRONICLE, february 2, 2003

Dave McNeely of the Austin American-Statesman has for four decades been one of the most astute observers and prophets of legislative conduct in Texas. In December 2002 he saw that the forces were converging that could make congressional redistricting a reality in 2003. He noted that after winning all of the statewide races in 2002 and a majority in both the state House and Senate, Republicans still were not a majority of the Texas congressional delegation. According to McNeely, this "sticks in their craw," especially since the Democrats' best vote-getter statewide in 2002, lieutenant-governor candidate John Sharp, had won a majority in only twelve of the thirty-two congressional districts.1

The regular session of the Texas legislature convened on January 14, 2003. It promised to be interesting. Republicans for the first time in 130 years controlled both houses. However, a serious budget shortfall, a perceived homeinsurance crisis, tort-reform legislation, and the need to reform the state's education and tax systems seemed to be more than enough to occupy the legislature during its constitutionally limited 140-day session, leaving scant room for a divisive issue such as redistricting. Democrats promoted this position by distributing packets of information to the major newspapers, urging them to take an editorial position against redistricting. In a meeting with Democratic senators at an Austin restaurant, Ruth's Chris Steak House, in December 2002 Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst was quizzed whether the Senate would take up redistricting. According to Democratic senator Eliot Shapleigh, Dewhurst said at the meeting that redistricting would not be considered, because

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