Two days before Christmas, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan opened a national Democratic campaign for 2004 accusing Attorney General John Ashcroft of racial disenfranchisement in the Texas congressional redistricting case.
Conyers, an African American leader who is senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a Dec. 23 letter to Ashcroft. He demanded that Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials appointed by President Bush withdraw from the Texas case. Refusal to do so, said Conyers, "has placed both the reputation of the Justice Department and the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy."
The racial disenfranchisement accusation is based on Democratic claims that the Republican-drafted Texas redistricting packs minorities into as few congressional districts as possible. It follows continuing Democratic complaints of racism behind the 2000 Florida vote controversy.
WHO WINS LOUISIANA?
Although Sen. John Breaux is spreading the word he never would have stepped away from seeking a fourth term in 2004 unless he were certain a Democrat would succeed him, national Democratic operatives are not so sure of winning.
Breaux's optimism is based largely on the failure of Republicans ever to elect a senator from Louisiana in an open election. His handpicked successor is Rep. Chris John, a Breaux protege who is slightly more conservative than the moderate liberal senator.
However, the last two election triumphs of Democrat Mary Landrieu for Louisiana's other Senate seat were very close. The designated Republican nominee for 2004, Rep. David Vitter, appears to be much stronger than the two candidates defeated by Landrieu. One Democratic rating organization privately classifies the seat as "leaning Republican."