Fate of Texas primaries still up in the air after SCOTUS hearing today

Anybody expecting to get some hint of resolution to the redistricting battle raging here in Texas following oral arguments over the issue today before the U.S. Supreme Court is probably disappointed, as it seems the justices want to see the Texas primary elections, already postponed from March to April 3, pushed back to an even later date.

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis

According Associated Press legal affairs reporter Mark Sherman (as quoted on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s blog, PoliTex), “The justices discussed moving the primary date back further to give the courts handling different aspects of the case more time. ‘Why can’t this all be pushed back, and wouldn’t that eliminate a lot of the problems we are grappling with in this case?’ Justice Samuel Alito asked.”

And TheHill.com indicates that justices were not happy with either the map drawn last year by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature or with the interim map drawn last month by federal judges in San Antonio, quoting Chief Justice John Roberts as saying during today’s hearing, “How do you decide between two wrong choices?”

TheHill.com also said, “Most justices indicated they thought both maps were unacceptable and could not be put into law without violating the Voting Rights Act.”

The Legislature’s map favors Republicans, especially in Tarrant County where Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis saw her district taken away, with portions of it allocated to more Republican-leaning areas north and south of Fort Worth.

—  admin

Redistricting plan could hurt LGBT voters

Map approved by Dallas council would cost community an ally, put heavily gay neighborhood in homophobic councilwoman’s district

DRAWN OUT | Raymond Crawford, president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, refers to the area southwest of Kiest Boulevard and Hampton Road as a “gayborhood.” Under the redistricting plan, Kiestwood would be placed in the district represented by anti-gay Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Much has been made of the fact that a redistricting plan approved by the Dallas City Council last week could disenfranchise Hispanic voters.

But the redistricting plan, should it be signed off on by the U.S. Department of Justice, could also hurt the LGBT community.

Newly elected District 3 Councilman Scott Griggs said the map approved by the council would effectively cost the LGBT community an ally at the horseshoe because he’s been drawn into District 1, currently represented by Delia Jasso.

Meanwhile, under the plan, heavily LGBT areas of Oak Cliff currently represented by Griggs and Jasso have been drawn into districts that are home to Dwaine Caraway and Vonciel Hill.

“Delia and I have been pretty involved and very supportive of the GLBT community over the years,” said Griggs, who hasn’t indicated whether he’d run against Jasso in 2013 if the plan holds up. “You have two other council members who haven’t shown as much support.

“You are losing an ally,” Griggs added. “Is Dwaine [Caraway] or her [Hill] going to be as open or responsive as Delia and I have been?”

Jasso, who formed a citizens LGBT task force after taking office in 2009, couldn’t be reached for comment this week. But Jasso reportedly supports other Hispanic leaders who plan a lawsuit against the city if the redistricting plan is approved by the justice department.

Led by attorney Domingo Garcia, they allege the plan violates the Voting Rights Act. The plan guarantees that only two to four of the council’s 14 districts would be represented by Hispanics, who account for 42 percent of the city’s population.

Jasso believes she might have difficulty retaining her seat, because the new District 1 would include heavily Anglo areas with high voter turnout, including Kessler Park, Stevens Park and Winnetka Heights.

Openly gay former Councilman John Loza, who’s Hispanic and served on the city’s redistricting commission, agreed.

“I think that map is horrendous, and I’m really hoping that a lawsuit is brought forward based on that map, and I’d be happy to testify against it if and when it happens,” Loza said.

Loza lamented that the redistricting commission spent 95 hours working on the map it submitted to the council. But the council redrew the commission’s map based on what Loza called “a backroom deal,” and the panel’s work went “down the toilet.”

Loza said although his primary concern is Hispanic representation, he’s also bothered by the fact that two of the LGBT community’s strongest allies were placed in the same district.

“I don’t think it’s as unfortunate to the LGBT community as it is to the Latino community, but I think it does both communities a disservice,” he said.

Under the plan, Oak Cliff south of Illinois Avenue is split along Hampton Avenue, with the east side being placed in what would be Caraway’s district and the west side in Hill’s.

Hill is the lone current council member who’s refused to appear at gay Pride or sign a letter congratulating organizers of the event.

Asked in 2009 why she won’t ride in the parade, Hill voiced religious objections to homosexuality, saying she believes that “there are acts God does not bless.”

Raymond Crawford, who is gay and serves as president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, refers to the area southwest of Hampton Road and Kiest Boulevard as a “gayborhood.” Crawford counts 15 gay households on his street — Southwood Drive — alone.

Under the redistricting plan, the 400-plus-home Kiestwood neighborhood, currently represented by Griggs, would be placed in Hill’s district.

“The day she [Hill] comes to call to do some door-knocking or to get some votes, whether I’m the president or not, it’s going to be an interesting conversation with Councilmember Hill,” Crawford said this week. “She’ll be in trouble in 2013 based on her previous statements.”

Hill didn’t respond to a phone call seeking comment.

VIEW A MAP OF THE REDISTRICTING PLAN: CLICK HERE

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Ramos is a dinosaur at the brink of extinction

By ELENA GUAJARDO and EDUARDO JUAREZ
Co-chairs, Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio

It is a shame and painfully unfair that the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio are forced to respond to the continued discriminatory ravings and completely baseless accusations of Dan Ramos, the chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party.  Mr. Ramos unapologetically bellows bald and bigoted charges, singling out Stonewall Democrats as “termites” and as the “Nazi Party.” But he fails to provide even the most rudimentary factual support for any of his purported allegations of misconduct, because his accusations are simply false.

This is a crucial time for Texans: the Republican-controlled Texas legislature is busy passing the most anti-Latino and anti-employer immigration legislation in our era; restricting voters rights through onerous voter ID requirements and biased redistricting; raising medically unsound obstacles to the long-held reproductive freedoms of women; and cutting billions of dollars to public education, further weakening the Texas economy. And yet, in the face of these pressing challenges for Democrats, Mr. Ramos has chosen to worry about whether his “fishing buddy” is gay. He has, moreover, apparently decided to hurl inflammatory bigoted remarks (such as referring to gays as a “sinister movement” and comparing homosexuals to “children stricken with polio”) to deflect attention from his own utter incompetence and misconduct as party chair.

The good thing, if we can find a silver lining in these turbulent times for Bexar County Democrats, is that Mr. Ramos is a dinosaur at the brink of extinction. He is irrelevant to our times, will be removed as party chair, and will never again be elected to public office in this county or state — not because of his age or ailments, but because of his archaic and decrepit discriminatory views that are contrary to the definitive trend of justice in the entire Western Hemisphere. True leaders do not succumb to irrelevancy even after their physical death. Even as early as the 1970s, the iconic Mexican-American civil rights lion Cesar Chavez strongly and vocally supported lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights.

Following this icon’s visionary leadership is a swell of voices that will continue to increase, from all corners, condemning Mr. Ramos’ bigoted remarks and calling for his resignation. Indeed, the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio hope and demand that all fair-minded Bexar County Democrats, including our elected officials, party leaders, and voters strongly voice their opposition to Mr. Ramos’ views, demand his immediate resignation, and support his ouster.

—  admin