The Brief: Top Texas News for June 3, 2011

Ron Paul shaking hands after a speech on UT Austin campus in 2008.
Ron Paul shaking hands after a speech on UT Austin campus in 2008.

The Big Conversation:

Having already beaten Democrats to a pulp this session, the Texas Legislature's mighty Republican majority may have just set its sights on a new, more unexpected target: Ron Paul.

The Tribune's Jay Root reports that a new congressional map proposed Thursday night by Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee, cuts the percentage of Anglo voters in Paul's District 14 from 61 percent to 57 percent and boosts the percentage of black and Hispanic voters from 35 percent to 39 percent.

The proposal, crafted by Republicans, would draw Paul, who has served in Congress since the 1970s, into a district demographically friendlier to a Democrat. And Democratic consultant Jeff Crosby thinks that's no coincidence. 

"This is clearly a shot taken by the Republican establishment against the hero of the Tea Party," Crosby told the Tribune. "By giving him more than 300,000 new voters, it's clear the Republican establishment doesn't want Ron Paul to come back after he finishes his race for president."

 

As Root notes, Paul, unlike other Texas congressmen, hasn't lobbied lawmakers in Austin to keep him in friendly territory. And the libertarian rabble-rouser, who's now running for president for the third time, never sat well with establishment Republicans to begin with.

The new proposal's release came after state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, assured lawmakers earlier in the day that an originally proposed map — which included a controversial horseshoe-shaped district that stretches from Houston to the Louisiana border — would undergo changes. "It’s a proposal, people," Solomons said.

Solomons' comments raised the possibility that the redistricting process, which Gov. Rick Perry added to the special-session agenda on Tuesday, could lengthen — and intensify — the quick overtime that the governor envisioned. But Perry spokesman Mark Miner downplayed the concerns.

"Those details will be worked out," Miner said. "The governor is confident that a map will be passed."

Culled:

  • As the special session got under way Thursday with hearings on the budget, school finance and health care, lawmakers also added several contentious bills to the list of measures they'd like to see revived during the special session, including "sanctuary cities" legislation and the infamous airport "groping" bill.
  • Former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, the Republican who announced earlier this year that he'd seek Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat when she retires in 2012, may instead run for Congress if state lawmakers pass current redistricting maps, which would create a new seat in a district containing Arlington, Williams' hometown. "He has received a great deal of encouragement to transition from the Senate race to run for Congress," Williams' campaign consultant said in a statement to the Tribune. "Provided the new district does not change significantly, he will pursue the new congressional seat."
  • News of Michael Williams' possible switch to a U.S. House race has come amid a flurry of good news for another Republican vying for the same Senate seat: former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, whom three major players in conservative politics — redstate.com, the FreedomWorks PAC and Club for Growth PAC — have recently endorsed. "This is going to be a big, expensive race," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola told the Tribune. "The sooner we engage our members, the more support we can generate for Ted Cruz." As for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the race's presumptive front-runner? "He's not our guy," Chocola said. "He obviously has the resources to do whatever he wants, but we don't think he has a record as a leader on our issues."

"This is an exercise in futility. You have the votes to do what you want." — State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, to Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, during a Senate Public Education Committee hearing about whether provisions of her mandate relief should be temporary

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