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FEATURE The Hammer Drops Democrats define the case against the House Republican redistricting map BY JAKE BERNSTEIN woo one had wanted to return to Austin after the long July Fourth weekend. Representatives who had traveled from around the state reluctantly trickled into the AFL-CIO offices near the Capitol for the 11:00 a.m. meeting of the House 1 I Democratic Caucus on July 7th. All knew later that day they would be forced to act as handmaidens in their own defeat. The regular 78th Legislative Session had ended only a month before and Democrats had wrested just one victory from a rampaging Republican majority. They had accomplished the feat by fleeing the state under cover of darkness. Most motored across the Red River aboard two buses, finding safety at a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma. In doing so they denied the House the quorum it needed to operate. Holding out past the deadline for new legislation, they prevented a bill on congressional redistricting from moving forward. But in a few short hours, on the third day of a 30-day special session called by Gov. Rick Perry, the House would take up redistricting again, and this time, there was no way to run out the clock. A series of bruising public hearings in Austin and across the state the week before had aggravated already inflamed tempers. Representatives had watched as thousands of witnesses pleaded, reasoned, and yes, threatened redistricting committees dominated by implacable Republicans. The entreaties to cease and desist met mostly with silence. Now on the day of reckoning, a number of the Democrats wanted to speak against the bill. Like their Republican counterparts they understood that this would be but the first step in the battle. Once past the Legislature, the legality of the new congressional map will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. And while Dunnam insists he has had little contact with attorneys, there are plenty of lawyers in the mix for both sides. The Republican leadership, worried perhaps about inadvertent gaffes emerging during the debate \(or even worse, the with any strident rebuttal to Democratic charges, according to the Austin American Statesman. “The [Republican] Caucus decided it didn’t want to get into a heated battle,” confirms Craddick spokesman Bob Richter. Democrats likewise had planned their strategy for the day’s debate with both the judiciary and the court of public opinion in mind. They discussed their plan and divvied up tasks. The Dems opted not to waste endless hours in an effort to tweak the GOP’s map. The Republicans had mastered voting in lockstep at the beginning of the session and the Ds knew any amendment would be preordained to fail. Additionally, their lawyers advised them corrective amendments might give the appearance of endorsing the Republican map. But the Ds could still present new maps as well as argue against the proposed plan. And just maybe, if they made a good enough case, they could convince judges and voters to listen. Although apparently coincidental, it was entirely appropriate that freshman Republican Rep. Jodie um the day the House passed congressional redistrict ing. Laubenberg owes her seat in part to U.S. House Majority tor’s political action committee, Texans for a Republican Republicans in a tough 2002 primary. She then went on to squash a Democrat in the general election. Laubenberg received $13,500 from DeLay’s PAC as well as $1,740 in the form of direct mail on her behalf. She also took in $1,000 Both TRM and TAB are now under investigation by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. The probe seeks to answer whether the two conspired to funnel illegal corporate cash into the 2002 election. Laubenberg is one of several dozen candidates DeLay sponsored in a successful million-dollar campaign to get his good Texas House. During the regular session, DeLay didn’t bother to conceal his role as the engine behind the redistricting effort. By sine die, Craddick had delivered for all the other economic interests that backed his ascension to the speakership, but the flight to Ardmore had delayed paying off his most difficult marker. For unlike the rest of the agendatort reform, environmental deregulation, highway development, to name but a fewthe redistricting bill would affect the entire nation. Thanks to DeLay, once again Texas is a national leader in political perversion. If “the hammer” as he likes to be called, 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7/18/03