The day before Thanksgiving, we learned that three federal judges in San Antonio had rejected the Republican legislature’s partisan slicing of Travis County’s U.S. Congressional districts. Instead of five, we now have three — including the Austin-anchored CD 25 represented by Lloyd Doggett.
No stranger to redistricting attacks, Congressman Doggett has been the target of the Texas right wing throughout his career, and Rick Perry has been an especially ardent foe. But this time around, the political assault was so obvious that a conservative court rejected the Legislature’s maps.
It’s been a long road of uncertainty, but barring a Supreme Court stay, the redistricting lines are set for the 2012 elections.
Back in the saddle and cheerfully on the phone, Congressman Doggett talked with us about the challenges of recent months and the victory of last week.
QUESTION: I bet you had a pretty good Thanksgiving!
DOGGETT: Thanksgiving began a few hours early! Libby and our daughters were busily preparing for Thanksgiving on Wednesday when we got the news. We paused from our preparations to do an impromptu press conference on the front porch of our house.
I’m so thankful for the many people who stood with me through these challenges. So many friends and long-term allies gave their support. There was an extraordinary level of uncertainty. I really did not know if I would be devoting my time on Thanksgiving to packing up boxes and moving to yet another neighborhood.
QUESTION: What do you think of your court-drawn CD 25? You’ve finally got the University of Texas, which is where your legal and political careers were born!
DOGGETT: Well, it’s great, and it includes the entire University area, not just the campus. Libby and I met at the University and have all of our degrees from there, so it’s special. So much of Austin is brought back together in this one district — most of Austin east of MoPac and up to Braker Lane, west to Rollingwood and some of Westlake.
QUESTION: Is it overstating the case to say that the new court-drawn map rejects the Republican redistricting plan?
DOGGETT: It’s a complete rejection of Perrymandering and a recognition of their violation of the Voting Rights Act. This really repairs some of the damage done by Tom DeLay. In ’04, when Libby and I lived at 12th and Lamar, they drew a line around our house and split out every neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. Now Austin is reunited in a way that’s good for the community, and it’s also good for us.
QUESTION: Redistricting seems doomed to partisan greed, doesn’t it? This is a victory for Travis County in the ’12 elections, but the court has called it an “interim map.” We could be facing Republican revenge in the ’13 Legislature, couldn’t we?
DOGGETT: I don’t take anything for granted. This is not my district; it’s the district that I serve. They may very well come after me again. You can’t totally remove politics from redistricting, but you can make it less of a vicious partisan attack. All of this could have been avoided by good-faith redistricting in a less aggressive way. This is an example of pursuing the DeLay course of action.
QUESTION: After the Legislature turned CD 25 into an odd-shaped district that cut out your constituents in East and South and instead went West and North, you spent quite a bit of time campaigning in the new CD 35, which connected parts of Austin and San Antonio. What was that like?
DOGGETT: What a contrast, going into an area where very few people even knew who I was. But I renewed some acquaintances, made some new friends and learned a lot about San Antonio. I think I will come out stronger in Congress for having gone through that experience. But it’s not something I want to do again. I’ve had enough character-building for a while!
QUESTION: Any thoughts on your new campaign for reelection?
DOGGETT: I don’t know what my competition will be, but the last time I faced a very serious Tea Party challenge. We’ve got to do more to reach out and win people over … and get them to turn out to vote.