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Doggett faces toughest battle yet

Wednesday, November 12, 2003 by

Congressman says chance of winning in court less than 50-50

Embattled Congressman Lloyd Doggett says the legal challenge to the redistricting map has “less than a 50-50 chance of succeeding” in next month’s federal trial, an assessment that has forced Doggett into high gear in his campaign to win a new Congressional seat.

Doggett has announced he will run in the newly constituted Congressional District 25, the only Democratic-majority district left in Travis County. And while Travis County will likely end up being the largest county in the nation without its own Congressional district, that’s not sufficient grounds for a panel of federal judges to declare the map illegal. “This map is clearly wrong on so many grounds,” Doggett told the South Austin Democrats at a meeting last night. “It looks crazy—and it is crazy and unfair to us—but that does not provide a legal basis to invalidate the map.”

Doggett has a little less than four months to win a Democratic primary in a district that is almost evenly divided between Travis County and South Texas, a Congressional district that takes almost seven hours to drive from one tip to the other. The district also includes some areas Doggett represented in the statehouse more than a decade ago, such as Caldwell County.

For Doggett, today’s schedule is a campaign swing through a portion of the future district, including Karnes City, Kennedy, Three Rivers and George West. “My option is to run and to run hard because I don’t believe this seat can be won by waiting,” Doggett told the crowd, many of whom were eager to volunteer for his campaign.

A lot of the areas of the proposed district are still unfamiliar to Doggett. He joked that he thought he had good support in Kennedy, until he realized his mail was coming from the state correctional facility. That drew a laugh from the crowd.

Doggett’s opponent in the Democratic primary is Rep. Kino Flores (D-Mission); however that field may also include Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos. Doggett said he had attended two Veterans’ Day events with Barrientos on Tuesday and respected Barrientos’ right “to keep his options open.” Doggett said CD 25 was drawn to ratchet up regional and ethnic tensions.

The crowd at Rosie’s Tamale House last night was standing-room only, probably three times the number of attendees at most month meetings. The crowd included Rep.Eddie Rodriguez and Commissioner Margaret Gomez. Anyone expecting Doggett to trash House Majority Leader Tom DeLay last night—Doggett entitled his talk “dealing with DeLay”—would have been sorely disappointed. He told the group DeLay was “tough and able, bright and creative.” Democrats should learn from DeLay’s tactics “as much as we deplore the agenda,” Doggett said. He added that DeLay believes in his ultra conservative agenda.

“He has developed an incredible set of ties with the K Street lobby interests who want to exploit our environment, invade our privacy and enjoy a non-regulatory environment,” Doggett told the crowd, adding that the Sugarland Republican has created such a strong coalition that he can threaten to bring the wrath of right-wing special interests down on errant lawmakers.

DeLay is so organized that he can count and predict a vote down to the last House member, even letting Republicans in marginal districts vote last and “vote the wrong way” when it can ultimately benefit their future campaigns. Doggett cited the prescription drug bill, currently in conference committee, as one of those DeLay maneuvers.

Doggett says he does expect to see DeLay’s fingerprints on efforts to derail his campaign, including “significant Republican participation in the primary.” Doggett said he has faced off enough times against some of DeLay’s biggest supporters—over choice, the environment and big tobacco—to know he is going to face some tough opposition.

“It’s just a question of when the first mailer comes,” Doggett said.

Doggett admitted that this campaign would be the hardest campaign he has ever run. A number of South Austin Democrats—some who live in the proposed district and others who don’t—volunteered to help Doggett in his campaign. But even a high turnout in Travis County in his favor, Doggett explained, will not be enough to win CD 25. “People will care about redistricting,” Doggett said in answer to one question, “when they realize that Travis County is no longer represented by a member of Congress who is pro-choice, pro-environment, home in Austin almost every weekend and accessible to the people of Travis County.”

This race will be a turning point in Travis County politics, Doggett said. “The tough fight will be worth it,” he said, “if he is there on the steps of the Capitol, smiling back at DeLay when the new Congressional delegation is sworn in on the steps of Capitol in 2005.”

Planning Commission says no to neighborhood mechanic

Residents of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood turned out at Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting to stop a zoning change on East 3rd Street. Mechanic Adam Reavis, who lives in the 1000 block of East 3 rd, had opened an auto-repair shop in the garage of his home. He applied for a zoning change to allow the business use after a complaint to the city resulted in a red tag from inspectors. But the Planning Commission unanimously recommended against the change from SF-3-NP to GR-CO-MU-NP, citing the preference in the neighborhood plan for the area to remain residential.

Reavis told the Commission he had not intended to use the home as a place of business when he moved in. He had rebuilt the home’s garage with the intent of storing his personal vehicles, but gradually began using the facility for minor automotive repairs. “I was doing a mobile business. A couple of times I’d fix one in there . . . eventually it just got out of hand and it became our place of business,” said Reavis. He also expressed surprise at the opposition to the automotive use, considering the industrial business located directly across the street, the Austin Pipe and Supply Company. “It sounds like people are dropping dumpsters,” he said. “They recycle metal and sell pipe.” Given the 18-wheeler traffic and noise associated with the facility, he argued, a small automotive repair shop with two to three customers per day would not further harm the neighborhood.

While Reavis had signatures in favor of the zoning change from some of his closest neighbors, others in the neighborhood disagreed. Both Marcos DeLeon and Gavino Fernandez spoke against the zoning change, and several more residents signed up in opposition. They noted that they had fought during the neighborhood planning process to phase out industrial uses in general and restrict automotive uses in particular. “We do have a lot of pride and integrity in our homes,” said Frances Martinez. “For this to be rezoned would be a step back for us.”

Commissioners unanimously sided with the neighborhood, but not without expressing some sympathy for Reavis. “I hope that in the long term, neighborhoods will be open to talking to owners of small businesses and maintain some flexibility, even where there is a plan in place,” said Commissioner Chris Riley. But he and the others pointed to the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan and the associated future land-use map as evidence of the neighborhood’s wishes for the area. Commissioner Dave Sullivan moved to deny the zoning change, and Commissioner Matthew Moore provided the second. The vote was 5-0. Commissioners Maggie Armstrong, Michael Casias, Niyanta Spelman and Rhonda Pratt were not present at the meeting.

©2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved

Republicans fight amongst themselves . . . There’s nothing like success to spoil solidarity and the Republican Party is proving no exception to the rule. Kirk Overbey will have a press conference at 10am today to announce his intention to dislodge Alan Sager as chair of the Travis County Republican Party. Overbey claims that Sager, who has been chair for the past three years, has mismanaged party finances, failed to make sure filings with the Texas Ethics Commission were made on time and refused to recognize valid quorums of the party’s executive committee. “His behavior has embarrassed Republicans and discouraged political activity among the Party’s most dedicated members,” says Overbey. The press conference will be in the Speaker’s Committee Room at the Capitol . . . Patterson to address RECA . . . Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson will be the guest speaker at today’s Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel . . . Firefighters sponsor benefit for Rodriguez . . . The Austin Association of Professional Firefighters is hosting this evening’s fundraiser for Rep. Eddie Rodriguez. The party is at Jovita’s, 1617 S. 1st Street, from 5:30-7:30pm. For more information, call 443-2027 . . . Tonight’s meetings. . . The Airport Advisory Commission will meet at 5pm at ABIA Room 160. Members of the Resource Management Commission will be looking at Austin Energy’s proposed Energy Resource Plan and making recommendations to the City Council. The Commission will also hold a public hearing on the matter. The Parks and Recreation Board’s Land and Facilities Committee will meet at noon in the PARD Main Office Conference Room. They will hear an update on remediation at Mabel Davis Park and consider a recommendation to the City Council on transfer or sale of land on Town Lake. They are also expected to make a recommendation on a variance request by the Austin Marriott Hotel across from Brush Square . . . HEB talks to Save Barton Creek . . . The Board of the Save Barton Creek Association got a preview Monday night of the zoning change that Stratus Properties and HEB will be requesting from the city. Attorney Steve Drenner, who represents Stratus, told the group the tract had been slated for apartments but the grocer prefers that location over one that had been planned for retail. He said the plan is for 32-percent impervious cover, a point which caused Colin Clark of SOS to object. Clark said SOS believes that any change to the zoning puts Stratus and future landowners in the position of new applicants—meaning they should abide by the SOS Ordinance requirement of a 15-percent limit on impervious cover. The application to change the zoning has been filed recently and is likely to be played out over a lengthy timeframe.

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