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Supreme Court Leaves Texas in Tumult

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The Supreme Court decision to grant a stay for Texas' court-drawn Congressional map has led to election chaos for Rep. Blake Farenthold and others in the state.

A Supreme Court decision pushed Lone Star State politics into turmoil last week, throwing the Texas Congressional map — and the 2012 elections — into chaos.

“I don’t know where I’m going to run,” freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) said in a phone interview today. “I don’t know where to file, what district I live in, or what district goes where.”

On Friday evening, the nation’s highest court granted Texas GOP officials’ request for a stay on a court-drawn map that benefited Democrats. The court’s future decision on the map will affect the boundaries of the Lone Star State’s 36 Congressional districts, a handful of which could be crucial in deciding control of the chamber next year.

Even Republicans privately conceded they were surprised the high court took up the redistricting case, which will determine whether a trio of federal judges in San Antonio had the authority to overhaul the state’s interim Congressional map last month. The court scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 9, but in the meantime, the timeline for next year’s elections — including the presidential and Senate races — is in a state of confusion.

“This has far-reaching effects up and down the ballot — presidential, U.S. Senate, Congressional, state legislative, you name it,” said Chris Perkins, a Texas redistricting expert and GOP strategist. “Virtually all Texas elections are going to be affected by this case.”

A federal court in San Antonio will hold a conference Tuesday to determine how to handle the scheduled Dec. 15 filing deadline. Texas insiders agreed the filing deadline, as well as the primary date, will likely have to move back.

There’s talk that the state could host one primary on March 6 for statewide contests and other unaffected races and then hold a primary for affected races in May. Or Texas officials could move all contests to a May 22 primary.

Either way, the political consequences are far-reaching under a split or delayed primary.

Texas strategists say turnout will lag in the Senate primary in March if the House primary is moved to a different date. In the presidential race, the primary is currently scheduled for March 6, known as “Super Tuesday,” when votes are likely to matter more than in May.

Even the political parties differed on how to proceed with accepting House candidate filings.

The Texas Democratic Party is continuing to accept candidate filings until the Dec. 15 deadline unless they hear otherwise from the courts, spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said. But the Republican Party of Texas instructed county GOP chairmen to “not accept applications for Texas House, Texas Senate or U.S. Congress.”

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