- The Washington Times - Monday, April 25, 2011

Tea party-backed lawmakers who swept into office by taking on “establishment” politicians in both parties are paying the price in the redistricting process taking shape in state legislatures across the country.

That development may not come as much of a surprise in so-called blue states, such as New Jersey, where groups affiliated with the tea party have filed a lawsuit against the map drawn by the Democrats who control the Legislature in Trenton.

But tea party-backed lawmakers seem to have been caught off guard in other states. In Texas, for example, the “establishment” Republicans have scheduled a vote Wednesday on a new redistricting map that would pit many of the freshmen insurgents against themselves or more-established officeholders in 2012.

The map created by the House Redistricting Committee, led by Republican Chairman Burt Solomons, matches up to 14 Republican incumbents against each other while opening up eight new open districts, though most lean Republican. The map pairs only one set of Democratic incumbents in a new district.

West Texas state House members Charles Perry of Lubbock and Jim Landtroop of Plainview - both tea-party backed freshmen - were part of a group of fiscal hawks who got off on the wrong foot with the Republican leadership in the state capital in January with an unsuccessful bid to unseat powerful House Speaker Joe Strauss.

Now, three months later, the freshmen find themselves potentially facing each other in the 2012 elections.

“You can draw maps to protect the representation of the people. I think right now we have a map that protects politicians,” Mr. Landtroop told The Washington Times on Monday. “We feel it’s an injustice to west Texas.”

Two other tea-party lawmakers, Reps. Connie Scott and Raul Torres, both freshmen from Corpus Christi, have been redrawn into a combined district. Mrs. Scott told the Associated Press that she expects that one of them will step down rather than face each other in 2012.

“Hopefully we can work something out,” she said. “One or the other of us will step aside and do what’s right.”

Despite criticism, the proposed map has plenty of Republican support in Austin - Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri, said the plan “affords the Republican Party the opportunity to maintain a solid majority.”

The GOP controls the governorship and both houses in the state Legislature by an overwhelming majority - 19 to 12 in the Senate and 101 to 49 in the House - but an overreach by the party could draw the Obama administration’s Justice Department into the map-drawing process, something many Republicans are trying to avoid.

Mr. Munisteri noted that pitting Republicans against Republicans was unavoidable.

“This is not an ideal situation for either our party or the elected representatives who are paired,” he said. “Because of the changes in population … it is impossible to draw a new map that maintains a Republican majority and at the same time is legal and fair without such pairings.”

But the Solomons map isn’t sitting well with tea partyers, who are rushing out email alerts, posting YouTube videos and streaming Facebook updates to create a last-minute groundswell of opposition to Wednesday’s vote.

The brass-knuckle political lessons being handed down by the establishment Republicans in Austin are being echoed in state capitals across the country.

In New Jersey, the tea party and other groups filed a lawsuit Thursday over the Democratic plan approved by the state assembly, saying the map favors Democrats and would “lock in one-party control of the New Jersey Legislature for the next decade.”

Tea party-backed congressmen are also feeling the heat, as state legislatures controlled by veteran Republicans and Democrats redraw congressional maps.

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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