Letters to the Editor — Texas Democrats, inflation, free speech, Marriage Act, ERCOT

Luci Baines Johnson
Luci Baines Johnson
Luci Baines Johnson (right), daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson, embraces former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (left) after her speech to delegates and guests attending the Lady Bird Breakfast fundraiser at the 2022 Texas Democratic Convention at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, July 16, 2022.(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer )

By Letters to the Editor

Step up for Democrats

Re: “3 keys from Dem meeting,” by Gromer Jeffers Jr., Monday Metro & Business column.

You are right on, Mr. Jeffers, we need state and national elected officials to step up and support every Democratic candidate in Texas. We need to listen to former state Sen. Wendy Davis, who spoke at the Lady Bird Johnson breakfast on Sunday. “We [Democrats] have just been too damn nice,” she said.

We need to fight against the far-right GOP leaders who have restricted women’s rights, made it harder for people to vote and spent billions of taxpayer dollars at the border to keep immigrants out of the U.S. or bus them to Washington, D.C.

We have a lot of issues in Texas, like our flawed foster care program. While Gov. Greg Abbott has earmarked about $4 billion for border security, we have failed to find adequate space for children in the care of Child Protective Services.

The same leaders who have fought so hard to protect the unborn child have failed to care for the children already living here. That money would be better spent caring for children and providing improved living conditions for those forced into state care.

I heard state Rep. Julie Johnson speak at the convention and she challenged us to get people registered and to the polls to vote. There are less than four months till Election Day. Act now. Register to vote for change!

Kay L. Viney, Addison

Fight inflation

Re: “Fed can’t fight inflation alone — Recession isn’t inevitable, but Congress and White House should pitch in and face fiscal realities,” Monday editorial.

Good to know that The Dallas Morning News understands that the major cause of inflation is reckless spending by the federal government and that the Fed can’t solve the problem alone.

There are three ways to fight inflation. One is to raise interest rates. Another is to cut federal spending. Lastly, you can increase production by removing government regulation and creating optimism in the business community.

The last part was done by the Trump administration with considerable success. Former President Donald Trump created a booming economy with minimal inflation. It was killed quickly by the Biden administration. We need all three approaches.

Mac Smith, Dallas

Protect freedom of expression

I am very concerned about the state of free speech in this country. Free speech is a fundamental right in the U.S., yet this right is being trampled on by both sides of the aisle. When only one side is allowed to share their perspective, the entirety of our freedom is not protected. Our First Amendment right is innately threatened when only mainstream opinions are voiced.

I disagree with the views of many of my peers and politicians all the time. In fact, I find some of their comments and language reprehensible and offensive. Even so, I believe in protecting and allowing free speech. Their right to speak freely is more important than the fact that I disagree with their opinions.

We must do everything in our power to protect our freedom of expression, whether we agree with a particular position or not.

Galen Raper, Winnsboro

Treat everyone equally

My congresswoman, Beth Van Duyne, voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, and my two senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, have indicated they will not support legislation to protect members of the LGBTQ community and allow them to marry and build a future with the one they love.

Why can’t these elected representatives contemplate that their constituents have gay children? Do they ever consider that each gay child has parents, siblings and other relatives who take this issue personally? We take it seriously when their votes are an indictment and mistreatment of our relatives.

Treating everyone equally under the law would be how I would want to be remembered as an elected official.

Steve Richardson, Plano

Take climate stance, candidates

Hot summer months are nothing new to Texans. However, our power grid was not fully prepared for the record heat and energy demand witnessed these past 20 days across the state. My family and I experienced firsthand the effects when our air conditioning went out and we were forced to sleep in our van for three days as the temperature in our home reached 93 degrees. We weren’t the only ones — our neighbors faced similar issues. These intense, prolonged temperatures will soon become our new normal.

As Texas’ population continues to increase and as climate change intensifies, leading to hotter summers and winter extremes like the Big Freeze, our already fragile energy grid will continue to be pushed to the limits.

In light of the upcoming November midterm elections, I would like The Dallas Morning News to report on the climate positions of candidates, especially those in the 3rd Congressional District in Texas. I also hope to see how these future policymakers plan on holding ERCOT accountable as it plans for the impact of extreme weather conditions brought about by climate change.

Isabella Rivera Efimov, McKinney

Texas ignores prison problems

Re: “Cool Texas Prisons to 88 Degrees — It’s inhumane to let inmates face dangerous summer heat without relief,” Wednesday editorial. Texas legislators have long ignored changes in regard to our criminal justice system. Air conditioning in our prisons is just one of many problems. Perhaps not being a state that takes pride in such a high number of incarcerated persons would provide more funds to provide humane conditions. It seems to me that Texas legislators take more pride in punishment than rehabilitation, which in the long run is more costly to taxpayers.

Beverly Thomas, Carrollton

North Texas is ground zero for looming fight over how to draw legislative, congressional boundaries

An exterior of the Texas State Capitol in Austin

By Gromer Jeffers Jr.

An exterior of the Texas State Capitol in Austin
An exterior of the Texas State Capitol in Austin Wednesday February 4, 2015. Photo Credit: Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News, 02082015xNEWS Andy Jacobsohn / Staff Photographer

AUSTIN — State lawmakers Monday are convening to redraw Texas’ legislation and congressional boundaries, an exercise that will likely bolster the Republican dominance in the state, and — if history is a guide — lead to lawsuits that will claim that the new maps are discriminatory.

North Texas is an important region in the process. The area could get one of the two new congressional districts earmarked for the fast-growing state. Additionally, the makeup of the area’s delegation to the Legislature could change because Republicans are looking to expand their majorities in the House and Senate. Expect a big fight over the 10th Senate District, where incumbent Democrat Beverly Powell of Burleson is in a seat that Senate Republicans are trying to make more favorable for the GOP.

On Saturday, Senate officials released a tentative plan that gives the GOP a chance of at least 19, and potentially 20, seats in the 31-member upper chamber. The proposed new boundaries make it nearly impossible for Powell to get elected. Republicans hold an 18-13 advantage in the Senate.

“The proposed State Senate map is a direct assault on the voting rights of minority citizens in Senate District 10 and, if adopted, it would be an act of intentional discrimination,” Powell said Saturday in a statement. She pointed out that the new proposal would disenfranchise Black, Hispanic and Asian voters who currently have a strong voice in the district.

In order to make the 10th Senate District a GOP district, Republicans have proposed moving Black and Hispanic voters in the south, east and north to nearby districts, where their voting clout would be diminished. If the plan is approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, voting rights activists will pursue legal action.

The new Senate proposal also bolsters Collin County’s 8th Senate District for the GOP, which would help incumbent Republican Angela Paxton of McKinney. Because of demographic shifts, that district had been trending in favor of Democrats.

Republicans are expected to fortify House districts in Dallas County, if that’s still possible. Dallas County could lose a House seat because of a population dip and suburban growth in other counties. That could mean a new district elsewhere, perhaps Collin County.

State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, talked with retiring Sen. Jane Nelson (right), R-Flower Mound
State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, talked with retiring Sen. Jane Nelson (right), R-Flower Mound, during the opening of the special session on July 8, 2021. Photo Credit: Bob Daemmrich/CapitolPressPhoto, Bob Daemmrich / Bob Daemmrich/CapitolPressPhoto

Even though every Texas redistricting plan has been either changed or tossed out by a federal court after being found in violation of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans have pledged to draw fair boundaries.

“I’m confident we can at least get ourselves on the right track for fair maps,” said James White, a Houston-area Republican and member of the House Redistricting Committee. “We don’t have a choice. We have to maintain our focus on the Constitution, the state statutes and the Voting Rights Act.”

White said there’s always bickering associated with redistricting, a process steeped in politics and incumbency protection.

“We’re all human, obviously, but we just can’t let that get in the way of fair maps,” White said.

Matt Angle, a Democratic Party strategist and director of the research group Lone Star Project, has been active in numerous state and local redistricting efforts.

He said Republicans need to know that fair maps mean that there should be 13 Senate districts preserved that are currently controlled by minority voters. Those districts are represented by Democrats. Angle said that 67 House seats that Democrats control should be left under the control of minority voters, and that because the Texas population explosion has been sparked by minority residents, the congressional districts controlled by minority voters should rise from 13 to 15 seats.

Federal law protects minority-controlled districts, though whether all of the seats listed by Angle are controlled by people of color would be subject to legal interpretation.

“I expect that the Republicans are going to ignore the Voting Rights Act and act like it doesn’t exist,” Angle said. “They will just dismantle districts that are effective for minority voters, and my guess is that Tarrant County is the bull’s-eye.”

On Saturday, Angle said Republicans “took a meat ax to minority voters in Powell’s District 10.”

Texas senate redistricting  proposal
Source: texas legislative council

With their victories in the 2020 elections, Republicans can create boundaries that will help them maintain power well into the next decade. Though their redistricting proposals are certain to provide the opportunity to increase their majorities in the Texas Legislature and Congress, some Republicans are pushing their leaders to tone down the aggression that was evident in prior redistricting cycles. That’s because maps that aggressively expand GOP majorities could make Republican districts too thin to defend in future years, especially in suburban areas, where Democrats have been helped by transplanted residents.

Still, GOP operatives are likely to sell lawmakers on maps that could lead to significant gains.

Here are some factors to consider.

Drawing a new congressional district

There’s an argument that North Texas and the Houston area are in line for new congressional districts based on population trends. And it’s accepted by many analysts that at least one or both of those districts should be controlled by Hispanic voters.

In the Dallas area, both parties are prepared for a conflict over where to put a new district and how it will impact existing representation. Democrats would like to see a new congressional district for minority voters that won’t scuttle existing districts, most notably the 33rd Congressional District, an area represented by Democrat Marc Veasey, who is black.

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth spoke before Jill Biden made a drive-in campaign rally stop on behalf of her husband and then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, at Fair Park in Dallas, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Photo Credit: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News, Tom Fox / Staff Photographer

Republicans may reason that adding Hispanic population to Veasey’s district would lead to Latino voters electing their candidate of choice. Then they could create a new district favorable for a GOP candidate. If that happens, Democrats will argue — in court, if necessary — that Veasey’s district should be protected as is because Black voters in Dallas and Tarrant counties were essential to his elections.

There’s other drama as well. Republicans are likely to fortify the suburban 24th Congressional District, where in 2020 Beth Van Duyne held off Democrat Candace Valenzuela. They’ll also look at beefing up Collin County’s 3rd Congressional District, represented by Republican Van Taylor.

Another big question: Will Republicans tinker with Dallas County-anchored 32nd Congressional District? The once Republican stronghold has been won twice by Democrat Colin Allred. The district in northern and eastern Dallas County was represented by Republican Pete Sessions for 16 years, until demographic shifts and strong campaigning by Allred delivered it to Democrats. If Republicans do ticker with the 32nd District, they’ll have to do so without weakening the adjacent district represented by Taylor.

Members of Congress have been lobbying Texas legislators for much of the summer, and they are eagerly, perhaps nervously, awaiting their fates.

Targeting Tarrant County Senate seat

After Wendy Davis won the state 10th Senate District seat in 2008, Republicans have tried to get it back through the redistricting process. Their 2011 effort failed and was the subject of court battles.

Republicans are taking another crack at it by drawing boundaries that shift population to make it difficult for Powell to hold the seat, but a court fight would be expected if the district lines released Saturday are approved.

The proposed new 10th District would remove many of the diverse Fort Worth and Tarrant County neighborhoods Powell represents and add reliably red Johnson and Parker counties. Some minority voters in the southern portion of the 10th District were placed in the heavily Black 23rd Senate District, which is represented by Democrat Royce West of Dallas.

Senator Beverly Powell looked over documents at her desk on the second day of the 86th Texas Legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019
Senator Beverly Powell looked over documents at her desk on the second day of the 86th Texas Legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, at the Texas state Capitol in Austin. Photo Credit: Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News, Ashley Landis / Staff Photographer

Statewide, Senate Republican and House districts in the rural areas will have to dip into the cities and suburbs to find needed population. It’s unclear how that will affect North Texas.

Several Senate Republican seats are at risk of being one day being won by a Democrat. That includes the Collin County district represented by Paxton. She’ll likely see her district made stronger for a GOP candidate.

Dallas County remains a tough battleground for Republicans. In the new Senate proposal, one-term incumbent Sen. Nathan Johnson, a Democrat, is now in a heavily minority district. That means it will likely remain under the control of Democrats, and at some point, a viable minority candidate could emerge.

“I’m confident I can win reelection,” Johnson told The Dallas Morning News Saturday after viewing the Senate redistricting proposal.

Later in a statement, he pointed out that he was running in a significantly different district, which had been heavily anchored in North Dallas.

“I am excited to represent every resident of Senate District 16 as newly drawn,” he wrote. “I particularly look forward to forging new relationships in new areas, though it saddens me to lose from my jurisdiction many strong relationships built over the past four years.”

Angela Paxton acknowledged the applause of supporters at her election return party
Angela Paxton acknowledged the applause of supporters at her election return party at the Marriott Courtyard in Allen on Tuesday night, March 6, 2018. Photo Credit: Stewart F. House / Special Contributor

Impact on local Texas House delegation

Once again Dallas County could see its delegation to the Texas House shrink because of population trends. Lawmakers in the delegation concede that the county will likely lose one seat, compared with the two seats the county lost a decade ago.

Several lawmakers hope that Republicans will revamp the state’s 114th House District, which is represented by retiring Democrat John Turner. Whatever the case, it could be Collin County’s gain. Republicans could draw a district there that favors the GOP, swing either way or lean more favorable to a Democrat.

Gromer Jeffers Jr., political writer. The Howard University graduate and Chicago native has covered four presidential campaigns and written extensively about local, state and national politics. Before The News, he was a reporter at The Kansas City Star and The Chicago Defender. You can catch Gromer every Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on NBC 5's Lone Star Politics.
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