Republican: Straus Should Explain Redistricting Tactics

Rep. Bill Zedler R-Arlington speaks with Rep. Jim Murphy R-Houston on May 24th , 2011
Rep. Bill Zedler R-Arlington speaks with Rep. Jim Murphy R-Houston on May 24th , 2011

Updated, 1:40 p.m.:

House Speaker Joe Straus weighed into this with a reply to Rep. David Simpson; in that letter, sent Tuesday, he said, "I stand by the fairness of the House of Representatives' redistricting process." And he repeated some of his original reply to Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, saying the state is appealing the case and that there are several unresolved legal issues. He also defended the process of drawing the maps, the hours of public hearings and the consideration, he said, of 43 amendments to the maps, including eight by Martinez Fischer. "All members were able to participate in the process." 

His letter — which was also copied to Martinez Fischer and to Zedler, is attached, along with the Simpson and Zedler letters.

Original story:

State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, is joining Democratic leaders who are pressing House Speaker Joe Straus for details of how his office handled redistricting during the last legislative session.

The Democrats are concerned about evidence that Straus’ staff helped draw maps later found discriminatory by a federal judicial panel. But the challenges to the process have as much to do with Straus’ continuing tenure as with redistricting. His support among a small group of very conservative Republicans and a group of disgruntled Democrats is wobbly, and one lawmaker — Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola — has already declared himself a candidate for the job as soon as the legislative session begins in January.

“Political gain appears to have had a greater priority than propriety and fairness,” Zedler wrote. And he added, “The House members who in good faith voted for these redistricting maps certainly have the right to know that the process was conducted properly and fairly. I respectfully ask that you respond to the claims made so that the House and the people of Texas will have all of the facts.”

Those questions started with state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, who said Straus’ staff led the discriminatory conduct cited by federal judges who threw out those political maps. Citing depositions and other court documents, Martinez Fischer said Straus should ask the state’s lawyers to drop the appeal of the case.

He followed in September with another letter, urging Straus to answer him and putting the whole matter in the context of Straus’ leadership of the House.

Republican Rep. David Simpson of Longview, who is sometimes at political odds with Straus, chimed in a few days later, saying he was worried about the process. “I was pretty dismayed with what the court documents show,” he said then. “You expect to have winners and losers in a political fight, but you expect it to be done in the proper way.”

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