Sore Winners and Losers

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Texas redistricting is out, and by almost any measure it's a Republican victory. A 5-4 decision isn't exactly crushing, but the effects certainly are: DeLay's 2003 map, known as Plan 1374C, is left almost intact, as is his new tactic of redistricting whenever power changes hands in a state. In District 23, the Court did side with the plaintiffs challenging DeLay, but the resulting shuffle will likely allow Democrats to regain just one of the six seats they lost in 2004.

Texas GOP Chairman Tina Benkiser released a statement that said, in part, "Like bad-tempered children, Democrats can continue stamping their feet, yelling and screaming, running and hiding, or abusing the legal system, but Republicans will continue leading this state." Not exactly magnanimous in victory. While I had trouble raising live Republicans, I did manage to talk to Martin Frost, the Dallas Democrat ousted in 2004 by the plan, and his former aide Matt Angle, who had led the fight against 1374C as head of the Lone Star Project. Angle didn't try to hide his disgust this morning. "We're disappointed that the court gave the green light to every tin-horn Tom DeLay wanna-be with a weak-kneed governor and a complicit president to force through redistricting for political purposes, and it's disappointing that the Court failed to protect the rights of African-Americans," Angle said from DC.

Indeed, it looks like the biggest losers in the court's decision are the Dallas-Fort Worth African-Americans who used to vote overwhelmingly for Frost. The court rejected the claim that African-Americans had controlled Frost's district in coalition with Latinos, mostly because Frost is white and so couldn't possibly be their "preferred candidate." Yet as Justice David Souter pointed out in his dissenting opinion, "Frost's rating of 94 percent on his voting record from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People exceeded the scores of all other members of the Texas congressional delegation, including black and Hispanic members of both major parties." By contrast, Pete Sessions, the man Frost ran against in 2004 in District 32, rated 9 percent in 2005, while Kenny Marchant, who now represents Frost's radically reshaped District 24, managed a 17 percent rating.

Republicans did get smacked for putting down a brewing Latino rebellion in District 23. The majority opinion notes, "In old District 23 the increase in Latino voter registration and overall population, the concomitant rise in Latino voting power in each successive election, the near victory of the Latino candidate of choice in 2002, and the resulting threat to the incumbent's continued election were the very reasons the State redrew the district lines."

Frost found some solace in the District 23 victory. "I think that whole issue is going to be harmful to Republicans because it shows they don't care about Hispanic voters," he said via phone from South Carolina. But Frost won't be trying to capitalize; though he'll continue his current work on international democracy, he said, "I don't expect to run for office again." Nevertheless, old habits die hard: Frost wouldn't comment on whether he would have run if his old district had been restored. --Rick Kennedy

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams