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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A grown-up, perhaps a statesman, amongst political adolescents

This, just posted on the Houston Chronicle, is simply amazing:

State Sen. John Whitmire said he is returning to Houston tonight in a move that could potentially end the holdout of Texas Democratic senators who fled Austin on July 28 to stop a vote on congressional redistricting.

Texas Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston)Whitmire, who had not even unpacked his bags after returning today from Houston where he spent the Labor Day weekend, said his decision to return to Houston was not well-received by his fellow Democrats.

"There were varying degrees of disappointment is all I can say," he said. "The bottom line is that, redistricting is real important but there are other equally important issues such as allowing the Senate to function as it always has where people respect each others opinions. That is not the current situation.

"It's my job and my responsibility as dean of the Senate to attempt to restore some civility to the Senate and that's why I think we need closure to this matter."

Whitmire indicated he would keep his options open as to whether he would flee again if Gov. Rick Perry calls another special session to deal with redistricting.

The only thing I'm sure of is that there is more to this story — and more to what Sen. Whitmire accomplished on his holiday weekend — than has yet been revealed.

I do not believe that Sen. Whitmire is by nature a turncoat, and I do not believe his motivation is simply that he is tired of life as an outlaw (although I'm sure he is indeed tired).  I don't see him jumping parties.  Unless he's sufficiently disgusted with his colleagues that he's ready to announce his retirement — which would be another shocker — then he's doubtless prepared to fade the heat he's about to have to take, and to give back as good as he gets. 

Sen. Whitmire (photo from Hou Chron)I believe that if there's not some sort of deal he's worked out, there's at least a plan for one, and it's a deal-or-plan that he can argue with a straight face is making the best of a bad situation for his party.  But the fact that he announced his return solo almost certainly means that in meetings today, he failed to convince the other ten Truant Texas Dems™ to join in the deal-or-plan.

For political junkies who have been following this bloodfeud, this is just breath-taking, though, under any imaginable explanatory scenario. 

Plus, I for one also want to know:   Who shaved the sides of Sen. Whitmire's head between the time of his official portrait (taken from his Senate webpage) and the Chronicle's picture in tonight's edition?  Was this Sen. Van de Putte's doing?  Is this some sort of message being sent by the "Texas 10" regarding what happens to collaborators?

Charles Kuffner has links to MS-Word files with (extremely unpolished) statements from the other Dems and from Sen. Ellis, as well as some interesting speculation as to what it all might mean.


UPDATE (Tues Sep 2 @ midnight):   Edward Still of Votelaw has a post up linking to an even more revealing article from the Dallas Morning News (no-cost registration required):

"You got to know when to hold them and when to fold them," said Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, who was one of 11 Democrats who left Texas to prevent a quorum assembly of the Senate, preventing consideration of a Republican redistricting bill.


Mr. Whitmire predicted Republicans will obtain a quorum and pass a new map of congressional districts, and he urged fellow Democrats to continue their battle in federal court.


Mr. Whitmire was cryptic as to his plans if another session is called, saying, "I will consider all options," including that he might hide in Texas. "There are steps you can take to make sure you're not surprised," he said. "My staff watches the Senate floor."


But the strain among Senate Democrats was visible.

"He gave us no notice, and he sort of dropped us in the grease," Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of McAllen, said of Mr. Whitmire's return home.

Posted by Beldar at 06:59 PM in Texas Redistricting | Permalink


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