Democrats Cross Border in Fight Over Borders

The state legislature didn't accomplish anything for the third day in a row. It's all becuase most of the state's Democratic representatives are in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

The Democrats left Texas over the weekend in a last ditch effort to block a Republican backed congressional redistricting plan. They believe the new plan would take seats away from the Democrats, and give them to the G.O.P.

The run for the border has left many Repbulicans angry.  Representative Leo Berman talked to Channel 7 News from Austin. "They were expected to be here for 140 days by their constituents and at this time, their constituents are without representation in Austin."

Ironically, the standoff between Democrats and Repbulicans is not about representation in Austin, but representation in Washington. The Republican's wanted to pass a congressional redistricting plan to replace the one adopted just two years ago. Democrat Chuck Hopson from Jacksonville says changing the districts in such a short time in unprecidented in Texas' history.  "We only redistrict every 10 years in Texas. That's been our tradition. And, all of a sudden, after two years, they want to do it again."

The democrats say the proposal is full of gerrymandered districts, designed on purely polictical standards, not demographic data. Take Austin. Under the current plan, Travis County is split evenly into two districts. The new proposal would create four slices. One of those winds around all the way down to the Rio Grand.

East Texas would also see jagged boundaries. District One which includes Shelby County and the City of Carthage would be dominated by the population of northeast Houston. Cherokee County would be lumped in with parts of Dallas.

"The people in Cherokee County, my home county don't have anything in common with the people in North Dallas," says Hopson.  "We drive pick up trucks, they drive Mercedes."

Representative Leo Berman says the current design unfairly supports the Democrats. He claims it was rammed through by the Democratic leadership back when the Republicans were the minority. "We didn't bolt and run. We understood that we were in the minority. We voted no, and we accepted the process."

The Republicans have launched a political counter attack here at home. The party ran adds in the home districts of the runaway democrats, including one about Jacksonville's Hopson. The add says, "Texas State Troopers have been ordered to find Representative Hopson and arrest him. If you have information on the whereabouts of Representative Hopson, please call the Department of Public Safety." Hopson says DPS knows where he is.

The deadlock could end if either the Republicans drop the redistricting plan or the Democrats decide to go back to work in Austin. However, neither side seems likely to give in.