A leading player in the state’s redistricting turmoil said this morning he’s hopeful that both sides are closing in on a settlement that will salvage Texas’ April 3 primary.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been meeting with representatives of minority groups that sued the state last year to stop new political boundaries from taking effect on grounds the decade-long maps ignore profound population growth of minority Texans – mostly Hispanics.
“I am confident that the parties are working in good faith and have enough time to craft a compromise that will assure that the April primaries go on as scheduled,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, chairman of the House Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which is one of the parties suing the state.
Caught off guard as he was preparing for a 1 p.m. court hearing in San Antonio before three federal judges refereering the redistricting fight, Martinez Fischer acknowledged that lawyers for his organization have been talking with Abbott and others in the case about a settlement. Martinez Fischer said he could not share details.
A spokesman for Abbott said the attorney general will hold off commenting until the court hearing.
A settlement here means a set of interim maps that everyone agrees on that would be used for this year. I presume this means the other litigation, both in San Antonio and DC, would then continue – this would basically put us back to where we were with the original interim map in that the 2012 elections could go forward as currently scheduled (or possibly with the primary moved back to April 17) and the “permanent” maps would be determined later by the courts. Here’s a full statement from Rep. Martinez-Fischer:
“Since the early days of the legislative session, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus had been asking for Republican law-makers to negotiate fair maps that reflect the growing diversity of the State of Texas. I am encouraged by the Attorney General’s efforts to now strive towards that goal, but I must say that the evidence presented at trial in San Antonio and in Washington, D.C. are compelling. Given that evidence, any hope to arrive at a consensus will require that proposed compromise maps reflect the diversity of Texas and ensure that 3.7 million minority Texans are not be swept under the rug for the sake of partisan politics. I have asked MALC Legal Counsel Jose Garza to work within these parameters and I am confident in his ability to be the voice of Texas’ Latino voters.”
Looks like the parties will be working on this over the weekend. Final arguments are set for Tuesday – testimony concluded yesterday – but it’s the need to get lines in place so all the county clerks can do their job that really matters. Having a settlement means not having to wait for the DC court’s ruling on preclearance and not having to wait for the San Antonio court to do its re-draw. See Michael Li’s Twitter feed for the blow-by-blow.
UPDATE: If this is true, it’s amazing.
The Texas state attorneys defending the state’s GOP-drawn redistricting plans from court challenges have reached out to settle litigation, according to sources in the state. The settlement would give minority groups and Democrats what they’ve been demanding from the start: more heavily minority, Democratic-leaning House seats.
The result would likely mean at least four more Texas Democrats in Congress as of next year, a good start on the 25 or so seats Democrats need to win to retake control of the House.
“They’re backed up against the wall and have to come to some agreement and it’ll be awfully favorable on our end,” said one of the plaintiffs in the case.
Another plaintiff agreed. “It’s clear they know they’re in a vulnerable position and that’s why they want to settle,” he said.
Any settlement would need to get the multiple minority group plaintiffs on board, and would create more majority-Hispanic and majority-African American congressional districts. Two of the plaintiffs predicted that an agreement will be reached early next week.
Any agreement would lead to a minimum of 13 Democratic-leaning seats, and possibly a fourteenth seat depending on how the districts in Fort Worth are drawn.
With conservative former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) running for a Galveston-area seat, Democrats could win as many as 14 or 15 seats in the state, up from the nine seats they currently hold. Republicans would hold 21 or 22 seats, down from the 23 they currently have.
Those 23 seats include two Democratic-leaning seats won by Republican Reps. Quico Canseco and Blake Farenthold in the 2010 Republican wave election. Farenthold would have a chance to run in the same Galveston district Lampson is likely to run in, while Canseco would have an uphill fight for reelection.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) is also likely to be spared a tough race — initial plans would have forced him to run in a Hispanic-majority seat, something Latino groups are looking to avoid.
If true, wow. Just, wow. Via Texas Redistricting.