Of Cabbages and Kings
by BOB BARTON
Ten years ago the Hays County Commissioners Court spent much of the summer in battle between its four Republican members over redistricting the 36 bailiwicks from which commissioners are elected.
Once again, hearings on the once-a-decade redistricting chore are under way. Plans are not fully developed yet because many decisions can’t be finalized until the state legislature completes the task of revamping Texas House and Senate districts as well as the soon-to-be 35 Congressional districts.
They won’t be final until the state legislature concludes at the end of June.
Supervised by the Rolando Rios law firm of San Antonio, which also did the 2000 commissioners court redistricting, the current study committee is composed of commissioners Will Conley of Wimberley and Debbie Gonzales-Ingalsbe of San Marcos, joined by city council veteran Sandra Tenorio of Buda and Republican County Chair Kent Wymore, also a Buda resident.
A decade ago, infighting, mostly between County Judge Jim Powers and commissioners Bill Burnett, Russ Molenaar and Ingalsbe on one side and combative commissioner Susie Carter of Precinct 2 on the other, centered on alleged attempts by her fellow Republicans to put together a redistricting map that would force her to move from her home near Uhland if she wanted to continue to serve. She preferred to instead shift several strong central Kyle boxes, which have been traditionally Democratic, to Democrat Ingalsbe’s precinct, thus giving her a better shot at re-election.
This stirred up a rebellion by the majority of the Kyle City Council and then-Mayor James Adkins effectively led a delegation to a hearing in the opposition to the change. Eventually large numbers of citizens off FM 150 East were placed in Ingalsbe’s precinct and Carter succeeded in keeping her home in Precinct 2.
She won another four-year term in 2002, but lost the seat to Democrat Jeff Barton in 2006. Mark Jones of Kyle won the post last November and will serve through 2014.
This year’s commissioners court realignment must be in place by the beginning of the year and will be in effect until 2020.
Action Monday night in the State Senate that establishes three congressional seats in Hays County may speed up enactment of the redistricting of our four commissioners’ precincts. It will make the job more complicated, since dividing our county into three congressional districts complicates all sorts of things.
Affirmation of the these within the county will certainly zip through the Texas House and be signed by Governor Perry. Unless the Federal Election folks intervene, as they did five or six years ago, no other Texas county with a population less than a million is split this much to suit the desires of the powerful political class.
The new decision puts all of us who live east of Stagecoach Road and FM 1626 in the Buda-Kyle area and San Marcans who live in Debbie Ingalsbe’s precinct, into a new Congressional District 35. It reaches into heavily Hispanic areas of San Antonio and will attract one or more promising politicos from that area. It also includes parts of Guadalupe, Caldwell and Comal counties, generally Democratic strongholds.
Next spring’s Democratic primary will almost surely bring on a gigantic battle. The gerrymandering in Austin will force Congressman Lloyd Doggett to move into the new district. Even running against a popular San Antonian, he will probably be a slight favorite to hold onto a seat, albeit a new one.
Because of District 35’s heavy Democratic base, the next congressman will be decided in the Democratic primary.
Not so coincidentally, the battle for District 21 in the middle of Hays (including a big part of Buda), Comal and Bexar counties will be in the Republican primary in which incumbent Congressman Lamar Smith will easily win.
And, lest we forget, Wimberley and Dripping Springs voters will help, not very materially, choose the congressman from District 25 that stretches westward through countless counties all the way to the Fort Worth suburbs.
Ain’t democracy with a little “d” great? Our betters in Austin let us apply the window dressing to their selfish machinations that surely feather someone’s nest!