Republicans Dividing Redistricting Plaintiffs for Short-Sighted Settlement?

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Over the weekend, it was reported that redistricting plaintiffs (minority and Democratic groups) were poised to win big in a settlement over the map used for the 2012 elections, in return for the ability to hold an early April primary that makes Texas more relevant in the Republican presidential primary.

Michael Li blogged about it over the weekend, writing:  

Sources cautioned, though, that there are many moving pieces to the deal and that it is not clear whether it will be possible to get all plaintiff groups on board. Some closely involved in the process are said to be concerned that the state is attempting to divide and conquer plaintiff groups in negotiations and that any partial deal could prove to be divisive.

Makes sense, right? The State of Texas — which in this case has aims that are essentially identical to those of the Republican Party — would try to split up the plaintiff group to eke out the least-bad settlement that preserves as much of the Legislature's map and ensuing Republican seats as possible.

If some members of the plaintiff group consider working with Attorney General Greg Abbott on a short-sighted settlement that only benefits some, not all members of the plaintiff group, that's bad news for everyone in Texas.

The plaintiffs look poised to win in court, so it's in the best interest of Abbott, the State of Texas, and the Republican Party to settle and try to eke out any gains they can, while they still have a chance. Since the Republicans' prime motivation seems to be an early primary, that gives extreme urgency to the proceedings, since maps need to be finalized and county elections divisions need to know to get a move-on to be able to hold April primaries.

The incumbent and establishment Republicans seem to want an early primary not only so our state matters in the overall Presidential nomination process, but also to avoid a split primary where Tea Party challengers would have a much easier time knocking out incumbent State Senators, congress members, and legislators.

The DC Circuit court is poised to rule on the pre-clearance trial over the Legislature's initial illegal racist gerrymandered maps, which most people involved expect to be out within two weeks. That ruling could toss the Legislature's maps for good, and in turn result in the San Antonio panel being instructed to draw a new map that's much closer to the interim maps previously tossed by the Supreme Court. However, such a timeline makes an April 3 primary essentially impossible. The issue for the Republicans here is timing — they want their early April primary, which means all parties need to get on the same page regarding maps ASAP. Hence, the push to settle.

However, if settlement isn't in the best issue of the combined aims of the plaintiffs, then it's not in the best interest of the people in Texas, all of whom deserve fair representation.

It's bad if Abbott convinces plaintiffs to split off and benefit a few, rather than all members of the group. It's even worse if any members of the plaintiff group seek out a private settlement that doesn't help solve all of our redistricting woes. Dividing and conquering for immediate political gain is short-sighted, as it destroys coalitions and makes it harder for all of us to win the big stuff: specifically, the statewide races we need to take back Texas.

If a settlement deal is on the table that doesn't benefit all plaintiffs and all minority groups and regions of Texas, then it's a bad deal, and plaintiffs should get back together to work out a deal that benefits everyone.

Here in Texas, the only way for Democrats, progressives, minorities to win is if we all stick together. We win sooner and we win bigger if we're all in it together. Let's hope that this deal never happens and the plaintiffs get together on a settlement that benefits everyone in Texas who has been harmed by the Republican Legislature's illegal gerrymandered maps.

We'll keep you updated on this story as it develops.  


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.


  1. hang together or hang separately
    Abbott and the Repubs hold a lot more of the risk if this drags on. They bluffed and maneuvered as much as they could but now they've run out of time. Mattax signaled as much at the status conference on Friday. Sounds like the heat is now on Abbott (from Rs in Congress, State Reps, RNC and big donors etc.) to cut a deal and get a primary date before summer. It makes perfect sense for the plaintiffs to hang together, watch the clock tick and call the GOP's bluff.

    Wild cards, however, seem to be Joe Barton, Quico Canseco, maybe others. It'll be interesting to see who gets the short end of the stick.  

  2. It all depends on the details
    The object of any negotiation is to get (a) as much as possible and (b) more than you could get by fighting it out. By charging a high price for an April primary that the R's desperately want, Dems stand to gain a lot from a settlement. But even a really good deal isn't going to please everybody. The interests of the plaintiffs aren't all the same, and the chances of at least one of them balking is pretty darn high.

    Bottom line: it would be “selling out” if we settled for half of our goals when it looks like the courts will give us most of them. But it would also be really stupid to turn down a 95% deal because somebody is upset about the missing 5%. I don't know if what's on the table is closer to 50-50 or 95-5, so I'll reserve judgement until I actually see the deal that's agreed to, or until I hear about the offers that we walked away from.

    A long time ago, Thomas Friedman described the peace process in the Middle East as follows. Whoever is momentarily disadvantaged thinks “how can I afford to negotiate when I'm so weak?”, while whoever momentarily holds the cards thinks “why should I bother negotiating when I'm so strong?” As a result, nothing ever gets done and both sides lose in the long run.

    A year ago, the R's were strong and they foolishly refused to talk, instead choosing to ram a right-wing wish list through the lege. Now we're the ones in a position of strength. Let's not overplay our hand the way they did.  

  3. Difference between the plaintiffs
    One of the big issues is the difference between the plaintiff's proposed plans from back in October. The MALC and MALDEF plans more closely resemble the state's plans than the LULAC/NAACP plan. Take, for example, CD-35, the opportunity district proposed by the state for south central Texas. In the MALC/MALDEF plan, the district exists but varied moderately from the state's proposal. Neither have the impact on CD-25 the state's plan did so Doggett would remain safe in CD-25 and not be forced to run in CD-35. In fact, the MALC plan is about as close to giving Travis County it's own district as they come. Most of CD-25 sits in Travis County with a portion in Williamson County. BTW, MALC numbers the district as CD-34, not CD-35, and places CD-35 in the Dallas/Tarrant County area.

    Now, MALC/MALDEF treatment of Dallas/Tarrant County is quite a different story. If we griped at the state for gerrymandered districts beyond description, we'll really lay into both for how they treated the DFW area. LULAC/NAACP treated the area a little better. In fact, it seemed to bias the favorable treatment to that area of the state.

    So, when the state is dealing with the plaintiffs differently, there's reason for that. The two sets of plaintiffs seem to have different objectives in the redistricting fight. The problem may not be with the state but with our own plaintiffs. Unless those plaintiffs can come to agreement on the plans, any hope for settlement is all but dashed.

    • They have common cause now
      If the State has shifted it's priorities and is willing to cut it's losses now and try to fix it next session, that should move LULAC & MALC closer to each other. Essentially, of they, Lloyd and the NAACP are NOT talking to each other on the same phone line, then someone's gonna get stuck with a bad deal. I think there's probably a way to get 12 Dem seats locked in plus a pair of tossups that lean Dem this cycle. If we come away from this game with less than that, it would tell me someone on our side wasn't willing to give up a piece of their sandbox.  

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