News Room

February 23, 2011

Retired state Senator Eliot Shapleigh from El Paso sent the following letter to the Milwaukee Sentinel editor. Shapleigh was one of 11 Senate Democrats who left the state for Albuquerque, N.M. in the summer of 2003 to deny a quorum needed for the Senate to approve a controversial redistricting bill. After holding out for 48 days, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, threw in the towel – and the Texas Legislature approved another congressional redistricting map.

Written by Retried Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, Gary Scharrer

Mr. Tom Tolan
Editor/Milwaukee Sentinel
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dear Tom:

What happens in a quorum break is that time adds clarity to what's really at stake.

With the Texas Eleven, the clarity was that Tom De Lay and Karl Rove had a dramatic plan for a "permanent Republican majority', Rove's words, not mine.

In 2002, De Lay illegally laundered thousands to the Texas House, elected his buddy Tom Craddick as Speaker, and then rammed thru a breathtaking re-redistricting bill in the Texas House then Senate. That's right-a second bite at the redistricting apple since he thought that the 2-1 Republican 5th Circuit Panel drawn plan from the year before did not give him the five new congressmen he wanted. Raising money to elect his House Speaker was cheaper that beating five Congressional incumbents, among them Lloyd Doggett and Chet Edwards.

Once his audacious re-redistricting plan was done in Texas he planned to replicate it in other electoral vote rich Republican states like Pennsylvania .

One thing I have to say is that De Lay's plan was breathtaking in its audacity. His idea to re–redistrict had never been done before. Until Tom, common folk thought that the founding fathers meant for us to draw lines only once a decade after each census. Who would have thought that meant twice if you did not like what you got the first time. Explaining that to a national audience was very hard-similar to what the Wisconsin Democratic Senators have to do now. Here in Texas De Lay's money laundering took ten years to prove, try and convict.

On the radio, day after day for 48 days from Albuquerque one courageous Democrat from El Paso openly called De Lay's plan a 'right wing coup d'etat."

What Tom De Lay did not count on was a 5-4 Republican Supreme Court reversing his new lines (at least as to two districts) getting indicted for money laundering, finally getting convicted, and of course, losing at Dancing With the Stars.

What Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin now is pretty clear too. Using the deficit for cover-his is an audacious first in 70 year try to kill collective bargaining. It's not the pension cost; it's not the health care. It's not fixing the deficit. It's all about Koch. The Koch's got him into office-and the Koch's now want a return on their investment, the real prize of collective bargaining.

Time adds clarity. Time will tell.

Senator Eliot Shapleigh
D-Gods' Country
El Paso, Texas