Hutchison’s Hospitality

Senator, Other Texas Republicans Play Host to Gov. Perry Here

Posted September 23, 2003 at 5:44pm

While Republican legislators in his home state continue to negotiate a compromise on Congressional redistricting, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) will spend time on Capitol Hill today and tomorrow for a series of fundraisers and other appearances.

Perry’s visit, which includes speeches to the Heritage Foundation and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, has led Democrats to suggest that the fundraisers are a reward for Perry’s active role in the ongoing attempt to redraw the state’s district lines to elect more Republicans to Congress.

“Rick Perry sold out Texas to the national GOP, and [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay is scratching his back now,” said one Democrat with strong ties to the state.

Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Perry, called the Democrats’ quid pro quo analysis of the fundraisers “another one of their unfounded conspiracy theories.”

Both events will benefit Perry’s re-election committee — Texans for Rick Perry — and feature Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and John Cornyn (R) as well as DeLay on the honorary host committee.

Hutchison has often been discussed as a potential primary challenger to Perry in 2006. Her office did not respond to a call seeking to decipher whether her presence at today’s events signaled an end to her possible interest in a gubernatorial run.

The other 14 Texas House Republicans will also be in attendance. Former Rep. Tom Loeffler (R-Texas) and lobbyist Wayne Berman are invited as well.

The first event, a breakfast at Charlie Palmer Steak, requires a $2,500 contribution for the hosts and $1,000 for individual donors. Possible contributions for a reception later in the day at the National Mining Association headquarters range from $100 to $1,000.

Perry raised and spent more than $26 million in his resounding defeat of wealthy businessman Tony Sanchez (D) in 2002. He was running for a full four-year term after becoming governor in December 2000 when George W. Bush was elected president.

The governor’s D.C. visit comes amid a third special session of the Texas Legislature dedicated to redistricting. The first two — and this year’s regular legislative session — were marked by Democrats’ parliamentary delay tactics, which included denying a quorum by fleeing the state — once to Oklahoma and once to New Mexico.

The state House has passed a plan, and the state Senate was expected to follow suit late Tuesday night, that favors Republicans, but the two bodies remain at an impasse over the fate of West Texas’ districts.

On Tuesday, Perry proposed a compromise map that would preserve the seats of Reps. Charlie Stenholm (D) and Randy Neugebauer (R) while also creating a new district for the Midland area.

That idea presumably would sate state House Speaker Tom Craddick’s (R) desire for a district centered on his hometown of Midland while overcoming the objections of state Sen. Robert Duncan (R) about the House’s plan that pushes Stenholm and Neugebauer into a single district.

The Perry map, however, left the entire eastern half of the state undrawn, leaving legislators questioning how the addition of a Midland seat would affect other districts.

Under both the House and Senate plans, Republicans would likely pick up three to six seats in the 2004 elections. Aside from the debate over Stenholm’s Abilene-based 17th district, Democratic Reps. Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, Ralph Hall, Nick Lampson and Chet Edwards would be adversely affected.

Democrats currently hold a 17-15 edge in the delegation after redistricting deadlocked in the state Legislature in 2001 and a three-judge federal panel drew a status quo map, awarding the two seats the state gained in reapportionment to Republicans.

State House Republicans tried earlier in the year to reopen redistricting but were unable to pass a plan during their regular session because House Democrats fled to Oklahoma, preventing the GOP from establishing the necessary quorum to bring up a piece of legislation.

Perry quickly called a special session in which Democrats again thwarted Republican attempts to redraw the lines.

A second special session was called, which led to the departure of 11 Democratic state Senators to New Mexico to once again rob Republicans of a quorum.

The “Texas Eleven,” as they became known, were transformed into celebrities by the national Democratic Party and held up as the latest example of Republicans’ abuse of power that allegedly began with the 2000 presidential election.

MoveOn.org, a liberal grassroots fundraising operation, raised $1 million to oppose the re-redistricting and is currently running Spanish-language ads across the country calling Bush a “misleader.”

Jonathan Grella, a spokesman for DeLay, noted that the Perry fundraiser is no different than these Democratic events.

“These are the same Democrats who hosted a fundraiser for the runaway Democrats from Texas in the name of redistricting,” Grella said. “They also boasted of the money raised by MoveOn.org to support their cowardly ways.”

One Texas Democrat rejected that comparison, responding: “The circle of hell reserved for people who sell out their state to a political party is reserved for Rick Perry right now.”