“PCG is against redistricting,” Haldenby says. A recent poll of PCG members indicated that the membership is fervently against redistricting and a recent board of directors vote was unanimous against any plan to revise Congressional districts at this time.
The Texas House of Representatives, in a special session called by Texas Governor Rick Perry for the purpose of passing a redistricting plan, recently passed a redistricting proposal and passed it along to the Senate, where it met with less than overwhelming support.
The Senate Jurisprudence Committee is working on alternate plans, which PCG opposes.
“Redistricting is supposed to be done every ten years, following the census,” Haldenby explains. “In 2001, Texas legislators could not agree on a redistricting plan and turned the matter over to a bi-partisan panel of federal judges, who drew up the lines currently in place.”
PCG supports retaining those lines until the next census and maintaining the consistency necessary to represent the citizens of Texas fairly.
Haldenby says Texas agricultural interests must “be careful about when we lie down. If we lie down at the wrong time, we may not get back up.” Redistricting, under current plans, could eliminate another rural representative and leave the state’s farmers, ranchers and rural residents without the strong support they’ve enjoyed for decades.
In one proposal, the 19th District could pair long-time Representative Charlie Stenholm (D) with newly elected Randy Neugebauer (R).
In the past, Stenholm, who is the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, and the recently retired Larry Combest (R) who chaired that committee, worked closely together to assure Texas and U.S. agriculture were well represented in Congress.
“PCG is interested in preserving the representation of rural Texas in Congress, “Haldenby says. “We do not want West Texas to lose a representative in Congress and we do not want to see an erosion of influence of our congressmen who represent the interests of agriculture and petroleum.”
Little support for redistricting exists in the state. “The Senate Jurisprudence Committee held a total of 7 hearings around the state from June 28 through July 9,” Haldenby says. “A total of 2,620 testimonies were heard with 2,325 or 88.7 percent speaking against any redistricting plans at this time.
“Only 217 or 8.3 percent testified in favor of redistricting and 78 persons or just under 3 percent testified with no preference stated.”
The redistricting proposal results from Republicans taking control of all three branches of the Texas state government in the last election. As the ruling party, they hope to redraw districts to assure that more Republican congressmen are elected.
Justification, they contend, comes from a new electorate that favors a Republican agenda.
But breaking away from established practices for redistricting, according to Haldenby, sets a dangerous precedent.
“What if Democrats take over again after the next election? They will want to redraw districts again and they’ll have ample precedent to do that. What if Republicans don’t like the people, Democrat or Republican, who are elected from these new districts? They’ll be tempted to redraw them.”
It’s best, according to PCG, to maintain the current district lines until the next census, in 2010.
“There is a lot of advantage to Texas citizens to maintain consistency,” he says.