HOW DID TEXAS COME OUT IN REDISTRICTING: REPUBLICANS VS. DEMOCRATS

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

In Battle for Political Conquest, Ethnicity Sets the Boundaries for Both Parties

photo of Texas State Capitol Building in Austin at night

The political maps are out, finally, and this is as good as it gets for Texas Republicans unless they can figure out how to win votes from black and Hispanic voters.

For the Democrats, this is probably the bottom. They have to find more voters or be forced to continue relying on the ethnicity of their voters — and the protections that come with that ethnicity — to protect the seats they still have.

The Republicans have snapped up everything not nailed down by the federal Voting Rights Act.

Redistricting nods to fairness but is actually about power. It allows a Republican Legislature, for instance, to put a dog collar and a short leash on Democratic voters in Austin.

Travis County is one of just a few Texas counties that voted for Barack Obama for president. In the new Congressional maps, five districts reach into the county (none is based there), and only one is likely to produce a Democratic representative.

As it stands, the county would be represented by two people from Austin, one from San Antonio, one from Georgetown (a suburb) and one from Bryan. One of the Austin residents, Lloyd Doggett, an incumbent Democrat, will face tough opposition from San Antonio; the other, Michael McCaul, an incumbent Republican, has a district that runs east to Houston.

It’s safe to say lawmakers weren’t trying to empower the locals. It makes you wonder why the city of Austin rewards them with free airport parking.

Lawmakers don’t have to be fair. If they did, the court would have repaired the damage. It’s just that the law doesn’t protect geography as carefully as it protects minorities.

In Travis County, the minority populations are too scattered to draw a Congressional district protected by the Voting Rights Act. The seat most likely to elect a Democrat stretches into central San Antonio, and it is uncertain whether Mr. Doggett can prevail over someone from San Antonio. His district wasn’t protected.

The remaining Democratic seats in the state result from legal protections for minority groups that happen to vote for Democrats. The Republicans don’t have the legal ability to take more ground; the Democrats don’t have the political juice to win anything not legally protected.

Maps aren’t everything. Using the current maps, the Republicans got 101 seats in the Texas House; using the same maps two years earlier, they got only 76.

But maps mean a lot. The partisan compositions of the Texas Senate and of the state’s Congressional delegation have changed only marginally between redistricting episodes over the last 20 years. If you want change in those places, the most effective strategy is to change the maps.

The redistricting fights have been about the clout of minority voters. Virtually every legal skirmish was over a district that either is, or arguably should be, one in which minority voters have the power to decide the winners.

With few exceptions, the decision to create or protect a minority district was also a decision about whether it would elect a Republican or a Democrat. Talk about walking on eggshells — every conversation or argument about the maps teeters between politics and race.

This year’s elections will clear up the remaining questions. Mr. Doggett is the last Anglo Democrat in the Congressional delegation who wasn’t elected in a minority opportunity district. If he wins re-election, it will be in a Latino district. (Representative Gene Green, Democrat of Houston, also an Anglo, has represented a Latino district for years.)

The only genuine swing district on the Congressional map is District 23, where Representative Francisco Canseco, Republican of San Antonio, will face the winner of a Democratic primary that could include former United States Representative Ciro Rodriguez, whom Mr. Canseco beat in 2010. That’s a test of whether Republicans can hold a minority district.

United States Representative Blake Farenthold, Republican of Corpus Christi, got a district with a Republican voting history but where a majority of the voters are either black or Latino. That’s another political test tube.

Republicans can’t increase their already stout majorities without winning minority votes or getting rid of the law that protects minority voters. And Democrats have to figure out a way to win in districts drawn by the opposition.

Read more: Ross Ramsey, the executive editor at The Texas Tribune, writes a column for The Tribune article from the NYT

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DID FEDERAL JUDGES FINALLY APPROVE TX REDISTRICTING MAPS?

20120229-085038.jpg photo from Texas Tribune

A federal three-judge panel in San Antonio on Tuesday issued the last remaining sets of Texas political maps that had been at the center of a redistricting dispute, appearing to end uncertainty over the state’s long-delayed primary elections.

The judges released new interim maps for Congressional and State House districts. It had issued a State Senate district map this month.

The legal wrangling over the three sets of maps had thrown much of the state’s political machinery into limbo, as the judges twice pushed back the date of the primary and lawmakers and candidates struggled to campaign without viable electoral maps.

20120229-084612.jpg Joe Cardenas III Former TX State Director of LULAC and one of the main leaders of the Latino Task Force

Minority groups and Democratic lawmakers sued the state in federal court over the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature, arguing that they discriminated against blacks and Hispanics. Lawyers for Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, who is representing the state, have argued that the maps were drawn to help Republicans maintain power, not to discriminate.

At a hearing earlier this month, one of the judges said the primary, which had been set for March 6 and then April 3, would most likely be on May 29. Jacquelyn F. Callanen, the elections administrator for Bexar County, told the judges that elections officials statewide would need the maps by March 3. With all of the maps having been issued before March 3, May 29 appears to be the primary date, though the judges have yet to make the date official.

The court’s new Congressional map is based in large part on a compromise map that the state and lawyers for some of the minority groups had recently agreed to. The court’s map gives blacks and Hispanics three of the state’s four new Congressional seats, but it also appears to weaken the minority voting strength in three other seats that blacks and Hispanics had been competitive in, experts said.

“It clearly is better than the state’s map, but arguably it doesn’t go as far for minorities,” said Michael Li, an election law attorney in Dallas who has followed the case’s developments on his Web site, Txredistricting.org.

20120229-084112.jpg Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has served as the 50th Attorney General of Texas since December 2, 2002. Prior to his election as Attorney General, he was a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court and a State District Judge in Harris County.

The attorney general said in a statement that the new maps reflect the intent of the Legislature, and he applauded the court for leaving numerous districts as they were drawn by the state and rejecting “the demands by some plaintiffs to draw drastic and overreaching interim maps.”

The federal judges had previously drawn a set of maps that differed from the Legislature’s maps and benefited minorities, but the attorney general asked the Supreme Court to intervene. The Supreme Court ruled in January that the San Antonio judges had not paid enough deference to the Legislature’s maps and sent the case back to the lower court.

Read More: Story from The New York Times

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WAS NANCY PELOSI IN TEXAS?

THE HISPANIC BLOG BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, center with microphone, jestures to Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, from the left, and is also joined by congressional candidate Joaquin Castro, state senator Leticia Van de Putte, Mayor Julian Castro at a breakfast rally for Joaquin at Avenida Guadalupe’s El Progreso Hall, Saturday, February 18, 2012 in San Antonio. Photo: J. Michael Short , SPECIAL TO THE EXPRESS-NEWS / THE SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

PELOSI STUMPS FOR JOAQUIN CASTRO

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi whipped up a crowd of party faithful Saturday morning on the city’s West Side, stumping for state Rep. Joaquín Castro, who is running to replace Congressman Charlie Gonzalez. Gonzalez is retiring at the end of his term after 14 years in Washington, D.C. Pelosi praised Gonzalez and his father, the iconic Henry B. Gonzalez, whom she served alongside as a newly elected congresswoman on the House banking committee. The senior Gonzalez “stood up for the consumers of America on that banking committee,” she said to raucous applause from the 200 or so who turned out for the invitation-only breakfast at Progresso, across the street from the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. It was the first stop for Pelosi, who will spend part of the weeklong House recess in South Texas.

She heads next to Laredo for the annual Washington’s Birthday celebration there. On Monday, she’ll speak at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M, at the invitation of the 41st president. On Friday, Pelosi was one of 293 House members who voted to extend the payroll tax cut to 160 million American workers. The extension was not offset by spending cuts, which Republicans had earlier insisted on. The successful vote was widely seen a coup for Democrats, as well as President Barack Obama‘s re-election bid.

Pelosi also came out swinging earlier in the week after a House panel on religious liberty and birth control included no women. The two who testified at a later hearing were both critical of the administration’s birth control mandate. Capitalizing on widespread outrage, Pelosi urged Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee supporters to sign a petition “to demand that women be allowed at the table when discussing women’s health issues.” The DCCC hoped to get 50,000 signatures before Congress left town Friday; it got almost twice that, according to the Huffington Post. But Pelosi stuck to local themes at Saturday’s event, telling the crowd she was personally as well as politically glad to be in South Texas.

“The Hispanic community in particular has made America more American,” she said to rapturous applause.

She recalled working 30 years ago in California with another icon of the Hispanic civil rights movement, Willie Velasquez, founder of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, and warned the crowd not to be complacent this election.

“We have to have a big turnout,” she said, so that when Castro steps foot on the floor of the House, he does so with overwhelming support.

Charlie Gonzalez, who got his own standing ovation, said he’d been “hanging around” with Castro over the past few weeks, both here and in Washington.

“Of course I’m endorsing him,” he said. “And when you support Joaquin Castro, you support Nancy Pelosi returning as speaker of the House.”

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Pelosi-stumps-for-Castro-3341552.php#ixzz1mo7DLIYV

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WHEN WILL TEXAS HAVE THEIR PRIMARY?

The Hispanic Blog: Judges in Texas redistricting case order more talks over voting maps to save April primary

photo illustration by: Todd Wiseman / Chris Chang for the Texas Tribune

SAN ANTONIO — A federal court sent a message Friday that the Texas primaries shouldn’t be pushed past April because of bitterly disputed voting maps and ordered the state and minority rightsgroups to spend the weekend back at the bargaining table.The fate of the Texas primaries, which have already been postponed once and risk being held too late to matter in the Republican presidential race, could be decided early as Tuesday by the San Antoniocourt. The primaries are currently scheduled for April 3, though that date appears all but dead.Read more…http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/campaigns/judges-in-texas-redistricting-case-order-more-talks-over-voting-maps-to-save-april-primary/2012/02/10/gIQAi0Jo4Q_story.html

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THIS DAY IN LATINO U.S. HISTORY JAN 31ST

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

 

ON THIS DAY IN 1914:

President Woodrow Wilson declares Phoenix’s Papago Saguaro National  Monument, now Papago Park, a national park for its “Splendid examples of the  giant and many other species of cacti and the yucca palm, with many additional  forms characteristic of desert flora (that) grow to great size and perfection  and are of great scientific interest, and numerous prehistoric photographs of archaeologial and ethnological value.

ON THIS DAY IN 1938:

12,000 San Antonio pecan shellers, mostly Hispanic women, walked off their jobs to protest a wage cut, beginning a three-month strike. The pecan-shelling industry was one of the lowest-paid in the United States, with a typical wage ranging between two and three dollars a week. In the 1930s Texas pecans accounted for approximately 50 percent of the nation’s production, with nearly 400 shelling factories in San Antonio alone. Working conditions were abysmal, and San Antonio’s high tuberculosis rate–148 deaths for each 100,000 persons, compared to the national average of 54–was blamed at least partially on the fine brown dust that permeated the air. The original strike leader was Emma Tenayuca Brooks, a well-known figure in San Antonio politics. In March 1938 both sides agreed to arbitration and reached an initial agreement on hourly wages of seven and eight cents, but shortly thereafter Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a minimum wage of twenty-five cents an hour. Concerned that the new law would encourage mechanization and displace thousands of shellers, the Congress of Industrial Organizations sought an exemption for pecan workers. The Department of Labor, however, denied the exemption, and over the next three years cracking machines replaced more than 10,000 shellers in San Antonio shops.

As a passionate Latina, I will continue to do everything in my power to inspire nuestra gente to “Get Out The Vote!”

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