Dogfights and rumors of dogfights: Part II

Arnold Garcia Jr.
Austin American-Statesman
July 11, 2010

Last week, we talked about redistricting and mentioned in passing that state Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa were looking hard at running for a congressional seat that doesn't yet exist.

Texas is expected to pick up three or four new congressional seats when census results become official. South Texas is expected to get at least one of those. That expectation gave rise to speculation of a contest between Democrats Lucio of Brownsville and Hinojosa of McAllen.

Hinojosa, a 13-year veteran of the Texas Senate, says he's running for re-election despite speculation to the contrary. He's not interested in being a rookie again, he said.

Hinojosa's committee appointments are solid. Last session, he was vice chairman of Finance and had seats on the Criminal Justice, Jurisprudence and Natural Resources committees.

"I'm running for re-election in Senate District 20," Hinojosa declared flatly.

Hinojosa is also a member of the Senate's redistricting committee that will recommend new political boundaries next session, and his declared lack of interest in a congressional seat should mitigate speculation about his redistricting committee votes.

But as a process, redistricting resembles a dogfight in all but gentility. Hinojosa and other committee members are going to catch hell no matter what.

We weren't the only one to notice that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's committee picks snubbed Central Texans. The Fort Worth Star Telegram wondered in a July 3 editorial why Houston rated four committee members.

"To represent fast-growing North Texas, Dewhurst did pick two senior senators from Dallas, but John Carona's district includes University Park and parts of Richardson and Garland, while Royce West represents Dallas south of Interstates 30 and 20 into DeSoto, Lancaster and Cedar Hill. It's as if the lieutenant governor deliberately bypassed Tarrant County altogether," the newspaper's editorialists observed.

So the Senate committee starts out with its composition and objectivity questioned even before it holds the first hearing July 19 in McAllen. A hearing in Laredo on July 20 and one in Corpus Christi on July 21 will follow.

Even though we're five months away from the session, and there are no official numbers to work with, you're listening to the first growls in this dogfight.

How the Legislature is going to redraw fast-growing areas of the state like Central Texas is a concern when you consider that this process isn't about being fair - it's about power. How the Legislature treats West Texas - an area that is losing population - is another concern.

As discussed here last week, a nonpartisan redistricting board might not assuage all doubts, but it might refocus redistricting on representation rather than advancing agendas.

That's not going to happen, so stand by because the dogfight is about to commence in earnest.