By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald
For congressional and legislative candidates in Texas, the song remains unchanged: hurry up and wait.
A federal three-judge panel in San Antonio isn't optimistic that political parties can agree on a temporary redistricting map anytime soon, eliminating any hope of primaries in April.
Last week, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Jerry Smith, a member of the panel, told both sides to prepare for a May 29 primary, calling the April 3 date "extremely unlikely."
Locally, some politicians and candidates are watching the redistricting saga unfold with concern, while others are unperturbed about the extra time the litigation has produced in the election calendar.
"I feel like I've died and gone to heaven, having all this extra time," said Killeen resident Claudia Brown, a Democratic candidate for state House District 54.
"I've started to work, so (the uncertainty) doesn't bother me, she said. "(The process) is in limbo, but it's not a bad thing. Sometimes you have to take the worst and make the best of it."
Neither Brown or her general election opponent, State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, has primary challengers, so they are dealing with less ambiguity.
But Aycock said he's cautious about campaign spending. "We're not spending much money," he said. "We're holding tight until we know what the primary lines are going to be."
One thing Aycock has spent money on is hiring Craig Murphy, an Austin-based political consultant.
"We tell clients in a campaign you can get additional money. You can get more fundraising done. The one thing you can't get is any more time," said Murphy. "This election is the opposite. Every campaign is always in a rush, but you have more time to get things done this time."
Ted Delisi, another Austin-based consultant, has been retained by State Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple.
"The only thing you can do is raise money and work on your grassroots campaign," said Delisi. "It's obviously frustrating, I think, from the perspective of a campaign strategist. Things are changing overnight."
While more time is typically helpful, Delisi sees a later primary affecting voter turnout because families leave on vacations in late May.
"The political market is a lot like the bond market. It hates surprises," said Delisi, adding that recruiting volunteers during the summer heat might become a challenge as well.
Belton resident Wes Riddle, a Republican candidate in the 25th Congressional District, said the ambiguity surrounding the district lines hasn't changed his campaign strategy.
"We have not taken a wait-and-see attitude. We made a deliberate decision we would continue to campaign," said Riddle, who has a four-person paid staff.
"I've been betting on Texas," he said. "I believe the lines drawn for District 25 will be upheld, so it didn't make much difference to me (to wait.)"
Temple resident John Alaniz, a Republican candidate running against Sheffield, said waiting on district lines hasn't factored into his campaign strategy either.
"I've got a campaign consultant that's been helping me since last year and some other supporters, but (redistricting) hasn't had any effect at all (on my campaign)," said Alaniz. "I'm relying heavily on volunteers who believe in this campaign."
Murphy said he tries to help his clients see the delay as a positive thing, but it varies on a case-by-case basis.
"Some candidates who started late are happy with the extra time, while others who have been campaigning for a year want it over with," he said. "It's like a pregnancy that won't end."
Contact Sean Wardwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.
Texas redistricting timeline
April 1: Census day.
Summer-Fall: Regional redistricting outreach hearings held in selected cities.
Dec. 21: U.S. Census Bureau delivers the 2010 state population totals for apportionment. Statistics show that Texas has grown by 20.6 percent since 2000 and has gained four new congressional seats for a total of 36.
Jan. 11: 82nd state Legislature convenes.
February-June: Nine federal lawsuits and seven state lawsuits are filed over the state Legislature's redistricting process.
March-June: Public hearings on redistricting held.
May 21: State Legislature passes the senate redistricting bill, S.B. 31, and the house redistricting bill, H.B. 150.
June 17: The governor signs bills on the Legislature districts.
June 20: State Legislature passes the congressional redistricting bill, S.B. 4.
July 18: The governor signs S.B. 4, on the state congressional districts.
July 19: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott petitions the federal court in Washington, D.C., for a declaratory judgment validating Texas' congressional, state senate, state house and State Board of Education redistricting plans. (The case is still in litigation.)
Sept. 6: Federal court hearings start on the consolidated redistricting lawsuits in San Antonio.
Nov. 8: The San Antonio court decides to draw interim maps for the 2012 elections.
Nov. 23: The federal court in San Antonio releases interim maps, and Texas immediately asks for a stay of those maps and a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jan. 9: The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments from state and plaintiffs on the validity of the San Antonio court-drawn maps.
Jan. 20: The U.S. Supreme Court rejects the interim maps and orders the San Antonio court to resume its work.
Feb. 14: The San Antonio court, after seeing how far apart both sides still are, asked both sides to anticipate a May 29 primary.