2003: Quorum of Democrats in the Texas Senate in Albuquerque

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Texas Senators Leticia Van de Putte and Mario Gallegos, Jr. examine a map of Texas at the Marriott Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Thursday, July 31, 2003. Democratic state lawmakers fled Texas for the second time in three months to stop a Republican campaign to redesign the state’s congressional districts.

Star-Telegram Archives

This is no way to make a revolution.

The vagabond Democrats in the “Texas 11” Senate don’t even know if they are coming or going.

All they know is they’re still stuck in New Mexico, making a noble stand for Texas Senate tradition in a cramped hotel boardroom between a racquetball lounge and a convention. mortgage loan sales.

Help from the hotel here at their Marriott Albuquerque fortress can’t even hang the Texas flag right there.

The sign outside the senators’ press conference on Monday identified the event as the “Ramos / Orozco wedding”. The next day, 11 of Texas’ most powerful lawmakers were transported to a smaller room to make way for the Senior World Racquetball Championships lunch.

What started as a last minute vacation turned into a month of waiting. Fearing the deception that would have locked them in the Senate chamber on July 28, they ran for the state line instead.

Now they are 11 road runners eluding Republican Governor Wile E. Perry. They escaped again on Wednesday, choosing not to return for a Laredo court hearing and risking falling into a Republican trap.

Instead, Texas’ most notorious fugitives have remained locked here in a town where their getaway is now topical at the bottom of the page.

The Democrats’ daily statements are reported somewhere under the latest West Nile Mosquitoes update and the New Mexico Lobos college football opening preview this week. (One of Albuquerque’s many tourist attractions is the former home of busy football coach Dennis Franchione.)

Willie Nelson and a pickup truck of VIP Democrats have come and gone. Texans are still trapped here halfway between Austin and California, facing another weekend of hotel TV movies and another spaghetti dinner at the Macaroni Grill.

Having gone too long and too far from Texas, they are not the celebrities their fellow House Democrats were in Ardmore, Okla.

Albuquerque, essentially a collection of souvenir shops surrounded by a city, made fun of the bizarre Texan or Texan politics.

Except at the Rattlesnake Museum.

“They were there!” shouted Bob Myers, the director of the American International Rattlesnake Museum, excited.

He rummaged through the cash drawer and produced the business card for State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville.

Myers smiles. “They seemed really comfortable in that environment,” he said, sticking his tongue in his cheek and pointing to a gallery of 50 different living rattlesnakes.

Must feel like the Texas Senate, I said.

“Hey !!” he protested. “Now let’s not shoot the snakes!

“Compare them to politicians – it’s not fair to snakes!”

At the nearby National Atomic Museum – as in atomic bombs – the names of the senators did not appear anywhere in the guestbook.

Gift shop manager Tony Sparks said, “Are they still in town?” If they came, he said, he would sell them an Albert Einstein bobblehead doll or, for the ladies, a set of matching earrings in the shape of tiny atomic bombs.

It does not seem very democratic to me. But this group may be desperate enough to line up weapons.

They worried me the moment I walked in on Monday.

The hallway at the Marriott was lined with men and women lying on trailers. Doctors were running around, stethoscopes dangling from their necks.

A very serious woman with a clipboard cut me off.

She asked, “Are you ready to bleed?”

I feared the worst. The Texans must be surrounded by bounty hunters, I thought. I guess they must have made their way.

I was about to charge down the hall when I was nearly run over by a large, bright red costumed mascot.

It was Ubie, the local United Blood Services mascot, and the event was Rock & Roll Up Your Sleeve Blood Drive.

Finally, I saw a guy with a radio microphone. I asked him where to find the Texas senators press conference.

“Senators?” he asked, looking puzzled. “It’s the radio.”

He pointed to a table for “Hot 95.1 – Old School & Today’s R&B.”

“We are here for the blood drive,” he said. “Hey, get a fridge magnet.”

Eventually I found the room marked “Texas 11” – next to the left sign of the Ramos / Orozco wedding on Saturday night.

By the time senators finished complaining about Republicans in Texas, a quartet of barbers were outside serenading the blood donors.

The refrain: “Ain’t Misbehavin ‘.”

Tuesday, the racquetball championships needed this room for a lunch. The Texans were therefore demoted to a smaller meeting room in Lounge J, almost off the freeway on Interstate 40.

For their triumphant press conference on a day when the Senate had to adjourn the special session, the senators were faced with a room large enough for three rows of six chairs.

Democratic assistants stood in two of the chairs to adjust the Texas flag. (Hint: place the star on the right and the flag will be right side up.)

Texas 11 chief Senator Leticia Van de Putte, pharmacist D-San Antonio, warned that restoring consensus in the Texas Senate would be “a long process.”

Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, a lawyer, prophetically said their time in Albuquerque was “far from over.”

Then, down the hall, he glanced at the mortgage selling training in the next boardroom.

“Someone is making money,” he said with a smile.

Then he looked wistfully down the hall.

“One of these days we’ll be going back to Texas,” he said.

“One of these days.”

West’s thought was interrupted when a man in a T-shirt and sweatpants came running past. He was heading for the racquetball lunch.

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and went on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 sessions of the Texas Legislature. First at the scene of a DFW airport crash in 1988, he interviewed passengers fleeing the burning plane. He first appeared in the newspaper before his birth: he was sold for $ 600 in adoption classifieds.


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