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Fight over political boundaries may delay Texas primary election again

So, with district lines hazy at best, longtime Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett's hedging his bets, essentially engaging in two simultaneous campaigns — one in the Austin-centered seat drawn by the San Antonio court (similar to his current district) and another in the Lege-drawn district that pushes him straight into San Antonio territory. "When the Supreme Court stayed that [court-drawn] map, that raises the definite possibility that the map won't stay in its current form. There's that substantial possibility I'll still have to run in San Antonio," Doggett said last week. Doggett's kept one full-time campaign staffer in town, and for the first time in recent memory he'll skip Austin's Martin Luther King Day March, opting instead for San Antonio's East Side march next week.

The justices on Monday were clearly looking for ways to punt, even though state party officials who hold their biennial conventions in June have warned that pushing primaries past April 3 (they were originally scheduled for March 6) could jack the whole process. Justice Samuel Alito remarked on Texas' "very early" primary, saying, "Why can't all this be pushed back? And wouldn't that eliminate a lot of the problems that we are grappling with in this case?"

Alito suggested Texas could push its primary back as far as June 26, giving the federal D.C. court time to rule on pre-clearance.

Chief Justice John Roberts summed up the problem this way: "You cannot assume that the Legislature's plan should be treated as if it were pre-cleared. … The district court in Texas cannot assume or presume what the district court here in D.C. is going to do."

"So how do we decide between those two? You have two wrong choices," he said. "How do we end up?"

Good question, chief. •

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