Court throws out judge-drawn Texas electoral maps

The Supreme Court has thrown out electoral maps drawn by federal judges in San Antonio that favored minorities.

According to the Quorum Report, the order stated, "Because it is unclear whether the District Court for the Western District of Texas followed the appropriate standards in drawing interim maps for the 2012 Texas elections, the orders implementing those maps are vacated, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

The Supreme Court’s decision leaves office holders like Congressman Lloyd Doggett in limbo. He’s continuing to campaign as if his district will stretch from East Austin south to San Antonio.

"I’ve been in San Antonio every week this year and will be there again next week, just in case this ‘Perry-mandered’ map resurfaces and I have to seek election in a district where half the people are folks I’ve never represented before," Rep. Doggett said.

He believes his district could be redrawn to cover a smaller, more concentrated area. It would be a plus in his eyes, because he says long, narrow districts compromise lawmakers’ ability to serve their constituents.

"You cannot have members of Congress that are as accessible if they are stretched out across hundreds of miles, or even 90 miles to San Antonio," he said.

Doggett’s still wary when new maps will be ready. A three-judge panel in San Antonio’s tasked with creating them, but not the way they did previously.

Under the previous maps, minority groups complained they were denied sufficient voting power by Republican lawmakers who sought to maximize GOP electoral gains in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Steve Munisteri with the Republican Party of Texas thinks it’s too early to tell if the GOP will get the advantage.

"The ruling from the Supreme Court has been fast enough that, if the Bexar County three-judge panel can draw maps within a week, maybe even two weeks, we can still hold April 3rd," he said.

Some are skeptical the primary could be pushed back a few weeks, maybe even into May, creating the possibility of two primaries.

"Generally speaking, the more we delay the elections, the less input we are going to have into the presidential primary process, the smaller the turnout and more ideological the likely primary voters," Harvey Kronberg with the Quorum Report said.

Controversy over the maps arose from redrawing political boundaries based on results of the 2010 census which found that Texas added more than four million new residents, mostly Latinos and African-Americans, since 2000.

To view the full order click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg explains more in the video below.

Abbott, democrats respond to SCOTUS Redistricting Ruling

It’s back to the drawing board for the San Antonio federal court tasked with creating interim redistricting maps. The Supreme Court ruled today that the three-judge panel didn’t take the original legislative maps into account when it redrew the district lines.

The ruling is seen as a victory for Attorney General Greg Abbott, who sued over the constitutionality of the district court’s actions.

He issued this statement today:

"The Supreme Court confirmed that the San Antonio court drew illegal maps, without regard for the policy decisions of elected leaders. As the Justices point out, courts are ill-suited to make policy judgments and redistricting is primarily the responsibility of the State. The Court made clear in a strongly worded opinion that the district court must give deference to elected leaders of this state, and it’s clear by the Supreme Court ruling that the district court abandoned these guiding principles.

The Supreme Court’s swift decision will allow Texas to move forward with elections as soon as possible, under maps that are lawful."

Democrats, meanwhile, are defending the interim maps, which favored their party. The Texas Democratic Party issued this statement, today:

“The Supreme Court did not strike down the interim maps. They issues they had pertained to the process by which the court arrived at new maps, not necessarily the maps themselves.

While it is not clear what the final districts will look like at this point, what is clear is that the state’s original maps have been found to be discriminatory in some way by every court which has examined them.

The state’s maps completely ignored the demographic realities of Texas. The Supreme Court did not approve the state’s maps and we don’t expect they ever will.”

It’s still not clear where the state’s primary schedule stands. It is currently slated to be held on April 3, but will likely be pushed back. There is also the possibility of a split primary.

And of course, there is still the issue of the pre-clearance trial underway right now in a Washington D.C. court. That panel is determining if the original legislative maps violate the Voting Rights Act. If those maps are pre-cleared, they would then be used for the 2012 election, assuming the decision comes down in time for ballots to be printed.

Perry: I’m suspending my campaign, endorsing Gingrich

YNN’s Alana Rocha shares more from Charleston, South Carolina in the video above.

Gov. Rick Perry suspended his presidential campaign in South Carolina Thursday morning.

“There is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign. Therefore, today, I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for president of the United States,” he said.

During his speech Perry said, he believes the mission is greater than the man. He said the mission is not only to defeat Obama, but replace him with a "conservative leader who can bring about real change."

“The future of our country is at stake, and the road we are on, President Obama’s road, is a dangerous one,” he said.

Perry said he believes Gingrich is the man to do beat Obama, calling him a "conservative visionary."

“I have no question that Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative reformer [and] the ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement,” Perry said.

Perry ended his campaign by saying he was following Sam Houston’s lead of strategic retreat.

“I will leave the trail, return home to Texas, wind down my 2012 campaign and I will do so with pride knowing I gave fully of myself of myself of a cause worthy of this country,” he said.

Click the video above to see Gov. Perry’s full remarks from South Carolina Thursday.

Democrats respond to Perry’s decision

The Texas Democratic Party released a statement right after Perry’s announcement. TDP spokesperson Anthony Gutierrez called it a smart move by the governor.

You can read the complete statement below:

"Dropping out of this race is the first smart decision Rick Perry’s made in a long time. Unfortunately, the aftermath of Rick Perry’s presidential bid will affect Texans for a long time.

Rick Perry’s presidential run didn’t only damage his ego. It had real, devastating consequences on our entire state. Rick Perry used our last legislative session and state budget as a prop to launch this run. He put his political aspirations ahead of the needs of Texas children, slashed billions from public education and refused to use any of the $6 billion in our state’s savings account.

Tens of thousands of public school teachers are unemployed right now because Rick Perry wanted to position himself for a presidential run. Despite their shared affinity for firing people, not even Rick Perry could get excited about endorsing Mitt Romney. Even Perry was bright enough to recognize a vulture capitalist when he saw one.

Sadly, Rick Perry’s dangerous political agenda did not dissolve with his presidential campaign. Perry’s Texas Republican clones are marching on to implement the most extreme aspects of Perry’s out of touch policy proposals.”

We will post the Republican Party of Texas’ response as soon as it arrives.

Obama administration to reject Keystone XL Pipeline

The U.S. State Department will formally reject the Keystone XL Pipeline this afternoon. Pipeline operator TransCanada, the company which was applying for the Keystone XL permit, will be allowed to reapply with an alternate route through Nebraska.

The 1700 mile Keystone XL pipeline was designed to run from Canada to the Texas Gulf bringing oil from the tar sands up north to our refineries here. Whether or not it was built was up to the State Department. Environmentalists were not happy because part of the pipeline was scheduled to run through the Nebraska Sandhills. Critics thought it would eventually leak and harm the country’s largest aquifer which supplies groundwater to Nebraska and seven other states.

TransCanada maintained the pipeline posed no environmental risk… and said it would bring thousands of jobs to Texas and the other states.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Republicans fill South Carolina for Saturday primary

Days out from the South Carolina primary, Republicans from more than a dozen southern states are descending on the Palmetto State to meet, network and continue vetting the GOP presidential candidates.

More than 2,000 Republicans from all over the south are already in Charleston for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

Ruth Ulich, the chair of the conference, says South Carolina voters will have a more conservative perspective in mind when they head to the polls, differing from Iowa and New Hampshire voters.

“Southern voters tend to be very conservative, so I believe that is what you will see play out,” she said. “I believe there are three legs of being a complete conservative, whether it’s a strong national security, whether it’s the debt and the money problems, or whether it’s social issues—those are the three things that come together that make a complete conservative.”

The conference runs from Thursday until Saturday, just in time for election watch parties.

Poll: Dewhurst leads Senate field

David Dewhurst continues to enjoy a substantial lead in the race to fill Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat.

A Public Policy Polling survey shows Dewhurst at 36 percent. Former Solicitor General Ted Cruz is polling in second with 18 percent. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert has 7 percent support. Former ESPN Analyst Craig James is ar 4 percent. Joe Agris is at 2 percent. Glenn Addison and Lela Pittenger both receive 1 percent. 31 percent of voters are undecided.

The same poll shows what voters think about James, less than a week after he jumped into the Senate race. Only 30 percent of voters, according to the poll, have heard of James. Among those voters who know of him, most do not like him. Only 11 percent rate him positively, 19 percent have a negative opinion of James.

You can find more about the poll, including how the votes break down by college loyalty, by clicking here.

Turkey ‘strongly condemns’ Perry’s debate remarks

Gov. Rick Perry is drawing fire from the Turkish Embassy over comments he made during last night’s Fox News debate in South Carolina.

When asked if Turkey should be a part of NATO, Perry said, "Obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by, what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then yes." He also advocated cutting American foreign aid to the nation.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a strongly worded statement today calling Perry’s statement "baseless and inappropriate.” Dr. Ahmet Davutoglu defended Turkey’s contribution to NATO and its role in the fight against terrorism, and took direct jabs at Perry’s foreign policy knowledge and his struggling campaign.

Statement from Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmet Davutoglu:

"We strongly condemn the unfounded and inappropriate allegations expressed yesterday evening about our country during a debate held in South Carolina by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is running for Republican Nomination for the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election.

Those individuals who are candidates for positions requiring responsibility such as the U.S. Presidency are expected to be more knowledgeable on global affairs and more careful in their statements.

Turkey became a member of NATO when the Governor was just two years old. It is a member which contributed significantly to the Transatlantic Alliance’s history of braving many challenges and it will continue to do so. Turkey has also been among the front line countries in the fight against terrorism. Turkey is co-chairing with the U.S. the Global Counterterrrorism Forum. Our leaders are respected political figures whose opinions are highly valued not only in the U.S. but also in our region and throughout the world.

In any case, the weak support that Mr. Perry received at the opinion polls and the primaries has revealed that his unfortunate views are not shared by the Republican Party grassroots.

This reflects the commonsense of the U.S. electorate. The U.S. has no time to lose with such candidates who do not even know America’s Allies."

Statement from Turkish Ambassador to the US, Namik Tan:

“I am disappointed and concerned that Turkey and its time-tested ties of alliance, partnership and friendship with the United States became the object of misplaced and ill-advised criticism during last night’s Republican candidates’ debate. Needless to say, the Turkey described in the debate simply does not exist.

“Turkey is a secular democracy that has for decades been an essential and trusted partner of the U.S. Our bilateral relations are based on the common values of democracy and respect for human rights, rule of law, and free market economy. Whether in the fight against terrorism or violent extremism, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria or against the proliferation of WMD, we stand side by side to tackle the many common threats and challenges of our times. Through NATO and bilaterally, Turkey and the U.S. will continue to cooperate day in day out to establish peace, security and prosperity around the world. Contrary to statements during the debate, Turkey receives no significant sums of foreign aid dollars from the U.S. Indeed, Turkey is a strong and growing trading partner with the U.S. in general, and with Texas in particular creating thousands of jobs throughout that state.

“Turkey is obviously not the same country that Governor Perry visited in the 1970s. As an accession country to the European Union and a founding member of the Council of Europe, Turkey has been continuously reviewing and enhancing the rights of all its citizens irrespective of their ethnic or religious background. Moreover, Turkey is now the 16th largest economy in the world, and the 6th biggest economy in Europe enjoying one of the most robust growth rates in its region and beyond. Its democratic standards, its economic strength, and its secular nature make Turkey an inspiration at a time when the Middle East and North Africa are undergoing a major transformation.

“While it was unfortunate, we do hope this episode in last night’s debate leads to a better informed foreign policy discussion among the Republican Party candidates, one where long-standing allies are treated with respect not disdain.”

Perry polling third in Texas among GOP presidential field

A new poll shows no break for Gov. Perry, even at home. A Public Policy Polling survey shows Perry in third in Texas for the GOP presidential nomination. He is behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

A previous PPP poll in September showed Perry winning Texas, beating Romney by close to 40 points. Now, Perry is in third with 18 percent. Romney is at 24 percent and Gingrich has 23 percent.

Rick Santorum beats Ron Paul in Paul’s home state, 15 percent to 12 percent, putting Santorum in fourth. However, in a head-to-head poll Santorum is the only candidate who beats Romney in Texas. Romney beats Perry head-to-head but just barely, 46 to 45 percent if the April 3 primary had only their two names on it. In PPP’s September poll, a head-to-head match up between Romney and Perry showed Perry winning 72-18.

The same poll shows Texans feel Perry is hurting the state’s overall image, with 39 percent saying Perry’s run for their party’s nomination has created negative perceptions of the state. Only 13 percent say Perry’s run has been positive.

Dewhurst senate campaign raises $1.5 million in 4th quarter

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s Senate campaign announced it raised more than $1.54 million from donors in the fourth fundraising quarter. The campaign said 93 percent of those donors were in Texas.

According to the Dewhurst for Texas campaign release, Dewhurst has received over $6.1 million in only two quarters.

"I am very grateful for this tremendous outpouring of support," Dewhurst said in the statement. "Across the state, Texans are responding to our powerful message of stopping President Obama’s war on the Texas economy, repealing ObamaCare, cutting spending and taxes, and passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution."

We reached out to the other Senate campaigns. We will post their totals when we receive them.