The Big Conversation:
The state of Texas on Tuesday made a case for its Republican-drawn redistricting maps, but a panel of federal judges didn't seem to buy it.
During closing arguments Tuesday at a Washington, D.C.-based trial set to determine whether Texas' redistricting maps violate the Voting Rights Act, John Hughes, a lawyer for the state, argued that Texas lawmakers drew the maps to expand Republican power, not to discriminate against minorities.
“Political motivation is not evidence of racially discriminatory intent,” Hughes said, according to The Associated Press.
But the U.S. Justice Department and minority rights groups told the panel that state lawmakers had drawn the maps to dilute minority voting strength, and the judges appeared sympathetic.
“It’s really hard to explain [changes to the map] other than doing it on the basis of reducing minority votes,” said presiding judge Rosemary Collyer. Judge Thomas Griffith told Hughes, “Doesn’t the law require map makers to look at the consequences?”
Each side received an hour, and each minority group 15 minutes, to make closing arguments. The panel, as the San Antonio Express-News notes, may rule as early as next week in the case.
A separate redistricting case in San Antonio centering on temporary maps hit a roadblock over the weekend as negotiations appeared to have broken down between minority groups negotiating with the state. The San Antonio panel last week gave the state and the coalition of minority groups until Feb. 6 to agree on a new set of temporary maps if they want to keep the state's primaries on April 3.
- As returns showed him finishing in last place in Tuesday's Florida primary, Ron Paul had already headed west, spending the day campaigning in Colorado and Nevada, two of the stops in Paul's long-haul caucus-state strategy, with which he hopes to capture a significant number of delegates on his way to the Republican National Convention. (His $13 million fourth-quarter haul will certainly help the effort.) A campaign manager told the Tribune that Paul also needs to “do well” in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Alaska, North Dakota, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Washington.
- Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert on Tuesday became the fourth U.S. Senate candidate to release his recent tax returns. Leppert reported an adjusted gross income in 2010 of $443,000 and tax payments of $95,856. Former ESPN analyst Craig James started the trend last week, releasing his returns for the last five years on Thursday and urging his opponents to do the same. Leppert released returns for the past three years, while Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Friday released his for only the past two. On Saturday, Ted Cruz, like James, released returns for the past five years.
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Dallas-based breast cancer prevention group, has dropped its financial support of Planned Parenthood — a move that will block the family-planning organization from receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, primarily for breast exams. Planned Parenthood says Komen succumbed to political pressure, but a Komen representative told The Associated Press that a new policy had banned grants to groups under federal investigation.
- Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott said Tuesday at a Texas Association of School Administrators conference that the state testing system has become a "perversion of its original intent" and that he was looking forward to "reeling it back in." Scott's remarks, as the Tribune's Morgan Smith reported, were his most forceful on the subject since the 2011 legislative session, when lawmakers slashed public education funding by $4 billion.
"If you have an irate, tireless minority, you do very well in the caucus states." — Ron Paul to supporters in Nevada
- The Political Costs of a Nasty Fight, The New York Times
- Paul supporter gets roughed up at Gingrich rally, Politico
- Pro-Perry PAC Raised $5.5 Million to Help His Presidential Bid, The Texas Tribune