Posted on Wed, May. 14, 2003
Heroic Democrats have earned our gratitude
Bob Ray Sanders COMMENTARY- The Star Telegram
How do you stop a runaway freight train filled with hazardous materials and headed toward a
Although our friends at Burlington Northern Santa Fe or the folks at Union Pacific might
disagree, it seems to me that deliberate derailment has to be one option.
Maybe the only logical one.
The Texas House of Representatives, handicapped from the very beginning of this session by
weak and ineffective leadership, was hijacked early on by a self-serving congressman willing
to put his own agenda and the presumed agenda of the national Republican leadership ahead
of the people of Texas.
The majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, was
willing to force the Texas Legislature to adopt new congressional district lines that would
practically ensure the elimination of at least five Democratic congressmen.
Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick fell right in line, allowing a redistricting committee to put
forth DeLay's plan, send it to the full House and then gleefully await "debate" -- and the
foreordained floor vote.
But this freight train was also carrying some of the most important cargo of this state,
including school finance and children's health insurance legislation, when it was hijacked.
With DeLay as engineer and Craddick as conductor, the Legislative session was headed for a
train wreck. The only questions were: when, where and how many casualties?
It was time for responsible people who really cared about this state, its people and especially
its children to do what they thought was best.
A determined group of Democratic House members -- 58 to be exact -- didn't show up for
Monday's scheduled session, denying the speaker a quorum and the ability to conduct
At least 53 of the boycotting Democrats signed identical letters assailing the speaker and
DeLay for their arrogant, highly partisan and "misbegotten plan."
To avoid being seized and returned to Austin by the Department of Public Safety, most fled
across the Red River into Oklahoma, vowing that if Craddick didn't drop the redistricting bill,
they would remain absent from the House through midnight Thursday, which would kill that
bill and others.
The Republican leadership in Texas is crying foul now that DeLay has been outsmarted by a
group of courageous lawmakers who simply got sick and tired of heavy-handedness.
And, isn't DeLay supposed to be representing his district in Washington, D.C.? Lately it seems
he has been spending more time in Austin than some Texas legislators.
Some are calling this walkout "Killer Bees II," in reference to a 1979 incident when 12 liberal
state senators went AWOL and shut down the Senate for 4 1/2 days.
Regardless what you call them, they pack a powerful sting, and maybe they have been able to
put some people on notice that there are too many important issues in Texas for its leaders to
be wasting time playing power grab politics.
My hat is off to these mavericks for taking a bold stand. They have performed heroically for
the good of the entire state.
Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. (817) 390-7775 bobray@star-