Ross Ramsey | Texas Tribune

Managing Editor, Texas Tribune

Ross Ramsey is managing editor of The Texas Tribune and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. Texas Weekly was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly 2 million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas. Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was associate deputy comptroller for policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's director of communications. Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin bureau chief. Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.

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Political redistricting is for real nerds, for those sometimes overly serious people who have spent a great deal of time learning and thinking about something that’s outside the day-to-day experience or interest of the rest of us.

For the political lawyers, the subject comes with layers of statutes and case law and the certainty that one or more cases will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That’s nerd heaven, you know: dense, complicated, both dull and important and loaded with the chance to get the public’s full attention, if only for a second, every 10 years.

graphic by: Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

With hearings on redistricting scheduled for next week and deadlines for April primaries pending, a panel of federal judges told lawyers Friday afternoon to redouble their efforts to reach a quick settlement on interim political maps for the state's congressional and legislative elections.

That's not the first time they've told the lawyers to talk, but negotiations stalled this week when the state and some plaintiffs reached an agreement that several other plaintiffs didn't like.

Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

In a parallel political universe — one in which redistricting maps were in place and elections were on schedule — Texas would be getting national attention right now.

The four survivors in the Republican presidential primary race would be hitting all the stops on the barbecue circuit, wearing jeans and boots, raising money, posing for pictures and saying remarkable things to be played over and over on TV.

Instead, the earliest possible date for our primary elections will come after 34 states and territories have already spoken, either through primaries or caucuses. It could come later, leaving Texas to join 13 states that hold presidential primaries in May and June.

Just think of it. If the federal courts had approved the maps drawn by the Legislature, or those drawn by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio last year, we’d be less than two weeks away from early voting.

Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The state unveiled proposed redistricting maps, saying some of the parties in that litigation have signed off on at least some of the lines.

Today is a court-set deadline: Three federal judges in San Antonio told the redistricting parties that they needed to reach an agreement by this afternoon to preserve any hope of holding political primaries on April 3. Those primaries, already delayed from March 6, could be pushed back to May or June if maps aren't in place in time to stage the elections.

Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he had reached agreement on most parts of the maps with most of the parties involved. Notably absent from the deal are the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the NAACP, the so-called Davis plaintiffs, and the Texas Democratic Party, who sued over the Senate district maps in Tarrant County.

In a conference call on the proposal, Abbott says he's confident that the state will have a primary in April. "The plan that is now posted — that will not be objected to by a large number of parties to this lawsuit — addresses all of the Section 5 and Section 2 objections [under the federal Voting Rights Act]," he said.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The federal government — and the Obama administration in particular — were the targets of four Republicans running for the U.S. Senate at a business group's candidate forum this afternoon.

Ted CruzDavid DewhurstCraig Jamesand Tom Leppert talked for about an hour at a Texas Association of Business conference in Austin. They agreed on several points during the forum.

If you had just touched down in Texas, you might have thought the candidates were running for president, or that President Obama had moved to Texas to run for Senate.

Cruz said the election is about two questions: "Will the next senator from the state of Texas be a strong conservative? And No. 2, will the next senator from the state of Texas be a fighter?"

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Ron Paul can’t win the Republican nomination for president unless the mainstream of the GOP changes direction.

The Texas congressman is not going to come to them, and if you’re wagering that he will prevail, you’re betting that Republican voters will collectively slap their foreheads, drop what they’ve done for years and throw in with someone who has made his public career out of telling them they’re wrong about almost everything.

Paul is popular, smart, experienced and, so far, able to successfully duck anti-Semitic and racist writings that appeared in newsletters under his name in the 1980s and 1990s. He’s done well in the primaries, raised money and made his points.

He just can’t get voters outside of his core group to take him seriously.

Illustration by Todd Wiseman

It takes at least two months to put a primary election together once political maps are finally drawn, and if the federal courts don't spit out a final Texas map within the next three weeks, the state's primary elections probably can't be held on April 3.

During Monday's oral arguments in the Texas redistricting case, the justices on the high court asked about holding elections on time in April or as late as June. At one point, they were working backward from the general election date next November as they tried to sort out the complexities of reworking political maps in the face of election deadlines.

"Texas has a very early primary," Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said at one point during the hearing. "Some states have them for congressional races in — in the fall, and the latest presidential primary I think is at the end of June. So why can't this all be pushed back, and wouldn't that eliminate a lot of the problems that we are grappling with in this case?"

Graphic by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today about Texas redistricting and now must decide whether the state's primaries must be delayed to buy time for the courts to approve new maps.

It appears that the justices have to choose between waiting for the current round of lower court proceedings to play out, pushing back the primaries or choosing an interim map to use now, keeping the primaries on schedule.

The high court took the case in December, after a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio adopted an interim map of its own making for the 2012 primary elections.

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry has opened a whole new realm of campaign finance.

Perry is taking advantage of a wrinkle in state law that allows a state officeholder to collect a pension while also collecting a paycheck. For the governor, that’s a $92,376 annual pension on top of a $150,000 annual salary.

Sweet, right?

Old news, too, so let’s move on to 2014, and how this figures into that year’s elections. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is running for Senate, and a number of his political colleagues figure his state job will be open in 2014 whether or not he wins in 2012. Four or five current state officials are talking openly or semi-openly about that race, sniffing around for support and letting the money people around the state know they’re interested.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

Texas Democrats and Republicans agreed to hold unified primary elections on April 3, avoiding the costs and confusion brought on by litigation over new political maps for congressional and legislative districts.

The agreement moves all of the March 6 primaries — including the one for president — to the first Thursday in April. Texas voters would be left out of the Super Tuesday contests in early March.

The plan still needs approval from a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio, and the agreement assumes that the courts will have completed work on the maps in time to hold elections in April.

Under the agreement:

Photo Illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Forget everything. The candidate announcements, the relocations, the decisions not to run again, the who vs. who vs. who and the campaign finance. Poof!

With a one-paragraph order on Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court froze the Texas congressional and legislative elections and replaced pre-holiday candidate filings, politicking and fundraising with uncertainty and chaos.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman & Chris Chang/Texas Tribune

In a late Friday afternoon order, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the use of court-drawn maps for legislative and congressional districts in Texas, telling the lawyers involved to be ready for oral arguments next month.

The state asked the court for a stay on maps for congressional, Texas House and Texas Senate maps. The court's order asks for briefs from the lawyers by December 21, replies by January 3, and sets the cases for oral arguments on January 9. 

Photo by Texas Tribune: Todd Wiseman / Bob Daemmrich / Spencer Selvidge

Maybe the voters didn’t mean it. Could be they have reconsidered. It may have been a mistake, or a bunch of them got busy and never made it to the polls. Perhaps they were just as surprised the morning after the elections as the losers were, and maybe now the voters want their former incumbents back.

Or maybe it’s just that some candidates need to lose more than once to get the message.

It’s already clear, even with time remaining in the candidate-filing period, that the 2012 ballot will be stippled with retreads, officeholders who were cast out by voters last election but want to try again.

Photo by Lucia Duncan for KUT News

The promoters and track owners trying to put on a Formula One race in Austin apparently overcame their differences just in time — the F1 race for November 2012 is officially on the calendar.

The owners of the track — who stopped construction when the negotiations broke down last month — said this morning they will resume building immediately. That outfit, Circuit of the Americas, is run by Texas businessmen Red McCombs of San Antonio and Bobby Epstein of Austin.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The Legislature's foremost expert on school finance and one of its top public education advocates, state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, confirmed this afternoon that he won't seek re-election next year.

Hochberg, who took office in 1993 and is now the vice chairman of the House Education Committee and the chairman of the education subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee, said the time had come for him to pursue something new.

Photo by Marjorie Cotera for the Texas Tribune

 

The Texas primaries will be held on March 6 next year, with runoffs more than two months later, on May 22.

Maybe. If the federal courts decide redistricting maps should be redrawn before the voting starts, some of those primary contests could be moved to May.

There’s little time left to rework the maps — candidates started filing for the March primaries this week — so it’s possible that delaying some of the primaries is the only way to put new maps in place.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman / Chris Chang, Texas Tribune

The state's lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop elections under court-ordered redistricting maps today, saying the federal judges who drew the maps improperly disregarded the wishes of the Legislature.

Candidates started filing for the March 6 primaries this morning. The filing from Attorney General Greg Abbott asks the high court to freeze the election, saying the primary could be put off if necessary.

A panel of three federal judges in San Antonio proposed new congressional districts for Texas today. It looks like U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, won't be running against each other. The map is a proposal; the court is seeking comments from the parties by noon Friday.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White won in 12 of the new districts while losing the state. Barack Obama won in 13 of them, including in CD-23, where U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, R-San Antonio, is the incumbent. No other Republicans are in districts where the Democrats won. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, gets a new district where Obama won in 2008 and where White won in 2010. No other Democrats got new districts where Republicans won at the top of the ticket.

Texas got four new seats as a result of reapportionment because it grew faster than other states. White and Obama won in three of them; in the new HD-36, Obama lost but White won.

Click here for a larger version of the map.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

A six-foot duck was waiting outside the door of the Austin Club early Thursday morning — a supporter of Ted Cruz in a funny costume there to goad Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst into more live appearances with Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general.

Dewhurst, supporters of Cruz say in their promotional materials, is ducking those events.

The lieutenant governor slipped in another door on his way to an interview with The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith in front of a live audience of about 200 people. Dewhurst is the front-runner in the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Cruz, former Mayor Tom Leppert of Dallas and Glenn Addison, an undertaker, are also after the Republican nomination — all trying to wiggle into the spotlight with Dewhurst, who was first elected to statewide office in 1998.

A panel of federal judges in San Antonio proposed new redistricting maps for the Texas Senate and the Texas House late this afternoon.

The three-judge panel proposed one map for the Texas Senate, and two for the Texas House, one from the court and another from Judge Jerry Smith, who's on the panel and is a member of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Click on the image above to cycle through the proposed maps. 

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

State Comptroller Susan Combs, who's been way out in front promoting Formula 1 racing as an economic draw for Austin and Central Texas, says she's concerned about plans to hold races in New Jersey, because more events in other states could diminish the economic advantages of holding races in Texas. And she said, via written statement, that the state will do more economic analysis before it spends any money on the races.

Photo by Ben Philpott, KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is in damage control mode this morning, reminding supporters of gaffes by other candidates who became presidents after a painful stumble in last night's Republican primary debate in which he could not name one of three federal agencies he has vowed to abolish. 

Graphic by Texas Tribune

[Editor's note: This is the third of five stories about the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Monday we looked at Texas voters and the 2012 presidential contest. Yesterday, how voters rate Rick Perry's job performance. Tomorrow, voters' views on Mormon presidential candidates, immigration and the death penalty.]

Four months before the Republican primary, half of all GOP voters haven't decided who should be their nominee for the U.S. Senate, leaving the race wide open, according to the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. 

Among Republican voters who have chosen a candidate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst comfortably leads the field.

Graphic by Texas Tribune

[Editor's note: This is the second of five stories about the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Yesterday we looked at Texas voters and the 2012 presidential contest. Tomorrow, the races for U.S. Senate and lieutenant governor.]

A key part of Gov. Rick Perry's pitch to Republican presidential primary voters is the performance of the state's economy — especially in job creation — during his tenure as governor. But Texas voters, for the most part, are more likely to see him as a bystander to the state's success than its driver, according to the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Asked about the factors behind the state economy's relative strength, 65 percent of those responding attributed it to long-standing advantages such as the state's wealth of natural resources, its balanced budget, the absence of a state personal income tax and a lenient regulatory environment. Another 21 percent cited Perry's leadership in promoting lower taxes, lenient regulation and small government as the main reason the Texas economy has fared better than the national economy.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is statistically tied with businessman Herman Cain among Republican presidential primary voters in his home state of Texas, with the rest of the GOP candidates well behind the leaders, according to the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Graphic by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Texans for Lawsuit Reform is the biggest and richest tort reform group in the state. No surprise there. But as its political action committee has become the dominant financial engine for legislative races, it has helped create a Legislature that’s not only more conservative about legal issues, but more conservative, period.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, is quietly exploring a run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican sources told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday. McCaul is telling potential supporters that he's prepared to spend $4 million to $6 million of his own money.

In his first week as a presidential candidate, Gov. Rick Perry found there are more people than ever who are paid to parse his every word. And he’s making it easy for them.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich/The Texas Tribune

As Gov. Rick Perry has launched his presidential campaign, he’s turned to a talking point familiar to anyone who has heard him rail against the federal government over the last two years: the perfidy of the roughly $800 billion stimulus plan orchestrated by the Obama administration in 2009.

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