- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

DALLAS — Republican bickering over congressional redistricting has apparently cost Texas its spot in the March 2 “Super Tuesday” primaries.

Secretary of State Geoff Connor said yesterday that if a plan was not adopted by midnight last night, his office would not be able to conduct a primary as scheduled. Mr. Connor, the state’s chief elections officer, said the primary would have to be moved to March 9.

The delay would seem to hurt Democrats most, though Republicans may feel the impact of public indignation because of additional costs, not only for the three special legislative sessions it has taken already to force the remap, but costs to switch local elections around the state.

If the primary is delayed, it may diminish Texas Democrats’ influence in picking the Democratic presidential candidate because one of the party’s candidates may have already won the spot before a delayed Texas vote.

Republican negotiators from both the House and Senate met over the weekend, hoping to have a bill agreed on and filed by yesterday so the primary could remain intact.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry had cited yesterday as the “drop-dead date” for him to sign a redistricting map passed by both houses. With a 24-hour waiting period before any map could be considered for a vote, it seemed the die was cast.

Republican state Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock, one of the lead negotiators, said that because of legislative and election deadlines, any redistricting plan that eventually comes out of this special session will not take effect next year unless lawmakers reschedule the March 2 primary for later.

It has been Mr. Duncan’s battle with state Rep. Tom Craddock, the speaker of the state House, that stalled Republican efforts to pass a bill that would give Republicans five or six additional congressional seats next year. Presently, Democrats hold 17 of the state’s 32 seats.

The battle has centered on three west Texas districts. Mr. Craddock demands a new Midland-based district that separates Lubbock from that district — a move, he claims, that would better represent the petrochemical industry.

Mr. Duncan wants to maintain his region’s strong farm and agriculture representation, he says, satisfied that Rep. Charles Stenholm, Democrat from Abilene, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, has capably represented that district.

Neither has budged over the past few days.

The redistricting issue has unleashed bitter rhetoric and extreme machinations in a state legislature long labeled nonpartisan.

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, has been involved — even attending strategy sessions in Austin — and presidential special assistant Karl Rove has also injected himself into the fray.

Texas Democrats, already losers in attempts to block a redistricting bill this summer — they fled to New Mexico and Oklahoma to deny Republicans a quorum so the bill could be voted on — are now even angrier. They say a change in the primary would mean less turnout, loss of any representation in the selection of the Democratic presidential candidate, and voting rights violations affecting minorities.

Some say the split will take time to heal.

“It is still testy,” Republican state Sen. Jeff Wentworth told the San Antonio Express-News last weekend. “Some relations, with the passage of time, will become more like they were in the past. But I don’t think the Legislature is ever going to be quite the same again.”

“I’d like to have a voice in who is going to oppose George W. Bush,” said House Democratic Chairman Jim Dunnam of Waco.

Postponing the state’s Super Tuesday primary would be “un-American,” Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston. “We don’t move elections in the United States of America to make room for power grabs.”

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