The Governor and a Hornet’s Nest Austin Until Gov. John Connally strode into a clutter of reporters and cameras in his reception room last week, congressional redistricting was just another political subject in Texas, obfuscated by the other complexities of the times and its own multisyllabic name. But by the time the governor finished making his statement on the subject in his anteroom, it had become a major political issue for next year, stark and partisan. Two federal judges in Houston had proclaimed the Saturday before, as a principle of American constitutional government, that “members of Congress are to be elected on the basis of population and nothing else.” They said that all Texas congressmen must run for election in the state as a whole next year if redistricting is not accomplished by the filing deadline for the primaries, February 3. The Houston order rattled the Connally Democrats who control the Texas political power structure and do not want the situation broken open any sooner than absolutely necessary. Before the press, the governor took his stand against redistricting on the basis of “population and nothing else,” specifically mentioning social and political considerations as other factors in representation. He seemed to accuse the two judges of having been motivated by the desire to elect more Republicans to Congress. He said he would not call a special session until he has tried every other legal remedy. He and Atty. Gen. Waggoner Carr began seeking a stay of the Houston court order. Connally had been confident that he could delay redistricting until the 1966 elections. The majority of the special threeman federal court in Houston, however, reasoned that they could not wait for the U.S Supreme Court to provide them guidelines in pending cases, because if they did, Texas voters would not get relief next year from what the judges called “startling discriminations” and “spectacular” disparities. The facts are well known to Texas legislators, who earlier this year falied to redistrict despite them. They are well known, also, to Gov. Connally, who did not make redistricting a part of his must legislation earlier this year, but who said last week that he would not deny that redistricting is called for. “All we want is the time to do it,” he said. Texas is now the fourth most populous state in the union, and redistricting it can be expected to have effects that will be felt even in the sponge-like American Congress. Populations in the state’s congressional dis 4 The Texas Observer tricts of the state, the Houston court majority ruled, vary from 216,000 to 952,000 voters to the detriment of the interests of the voters of such big cities as Dallas, Houston, San Antonio: and Fort Worth. Five Houston Republicans filed the Houston lawsuit that resulted in the court order. Peter O’Donnell, the state Republican chairman, contends that if Goldwater is the GOP presidential nominee next year, Republicans could win more than half the state’s 23 seats in statewide elections. Having to run at large next year would especially endanger incumbents from small rural districts in East and West Texas. It has not escaped the attention of liberal Democrats that some of their leaders in the major cities might have better chances in statewide contests than conservative rural incumbents. In fact, liberal Democrats went forward to key Texas Republicans and discussed the implications of a redistricting lawsuit before the Republicans filed one. T STANDS TO REASON that Connally would prefer calling a special session to risking the toll of conservative Democratic congressmen that statewide congressional elections might take. Generally, the 21 Texas Democrats in Congress vote about 50-50 on key Kennedy programs. This year nine of them supported the $585 million House cut in foreign aid, which was a severe setback to the Administration ; they split, ten to eight, against the Democrats’ $1.2 billion college aid bill; six of them voted against Kennedy’s tax cut, and four of them were honored by the right-wing Americans for Constitutional Action for voting as castiron conservatives. Such congressmen as Wright Patman of Texarkana, Henry Gonzalez of San Antonio, and Jack Brooks of Beaumont most frequently support the Administration. Nevertheless, the Tex as House delegation, 21-2 Democratic, is roughly half pro-Kennedy and half antiKennedy. It can be argued that redistricting on the basis of population would make the Texas delegation more liberal, and this might be the case, given repeal of the poll tax and growing political organization in the cities. In a shorter run, Republicans might well stand to gain the most, since they would have a chance to exploit new situations in shaken-up districting patterns. Gov. Connally, addressing 825 persons at an appreciation dinner in Amarillo Oct. 23, vowed that he would not “stand by while Texas’ authority is taken away by a federal court or any other agency,” UPI reported from Amarillo. However, if the legislature does the redistricting, those Texas congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, who vote against President Kennedy’s key legislation ordinarily could expect to be protected. A rural anti-Kennedy Democrat like John Dowdy of Athens would not expect to be worried by the addition of more liberal counties to his district. Even if San Antonio got another congressman, liberal incumbent Gonzalez might find himself running for re-election partly in San Antonio and partly in Republican counties near the city. Last session State Sen. Franklin Spears, San Antonio, drew a line dividing Dallas into two districts that would have given liberal and moderate Democrats a shot at one of the two seats from Dallas, but whether the legislature would go along with this would depend on a change in its temper from 1963. The politics of a third congressman from Houston likewise might depend on how the legislature drew the lines for the new districts in Harris County. The idea of redistricting mainly on the basis of -population never had a chance in the conservative, rurally-weighted legislature earlier this year. The House-passed bill would have juggled some counties around and created a new district in South Texas. The Senate bill, the one that most nearly passed, would have made only one important change: it would have given the state’s one at-large seat to Dallas. Since Dallas is the most conservative metropolis in Texas and has militant Republican Bruce Alger representing it in Congress now, the Senate bill was stalled to death the last night of the session by liberal, moderate, and even some of the conservative Democrats. The tory Democrats had all their eggs deposited, by Connally and Carr, in one basket labeled “delay.” Carr asked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black for a stay of the Houston ruling, and less than a week after the Houston ruling, Black granted it. Since the state has 90 days to file its appeal, Black’s ruling makes it less likely than before that the Houston court’s order will be effected. If the state delays filing its appeal up toward the end of January, presumably the most the court could do would be to order statewide elections. Gov . Connally told a hastily convened press conference the day Black’s order was handed down that the stay “might give us time to work out redistricting in an orderly fashion” and that he is assuming that the Supreme Court will not interfere with an election in progress. There may be a question whether the congressional elections of 1964 will be “in progress” should the high court choose to rule on the state’s appeal before Feb. 3; that remains to be seen.
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