What are the Texas Democrats Doing While in Albuquerque? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/29/03

What are the Texas Democrats Doing While in Albuquerque?

Texas Democrats who are feuding with Republicans over congressional redistricting holed up in an Albuquerque, New Mexico, hotel Tuesday.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) met with the 11 Texas senators and welcomed them as "guests" to his state. Richardson says he learned about two weeks ago that the Texas lawmakers could be heading to Albuquerque.

Here's more:

-- The 11 state senators started the day at hotel meeting room, dining on breakfast of strawberries, melons, cereal and coffee.

-- The Texas lawmakers spent much of Tuesday ducking in and out of conference rooms at the Marriott. The senators talked about getting work done, e-mailing constituents and arranging meetings in New Mexico to discuss issues common to both states.

-- The Texas senators are hanging out at a ten-story Marriott that's shaped like a stepped pyramid. The hotel features a waterfall in its open lobby. Glass elevators ferry guests to hallways overlooking the lobby, which also has a bar and a restaurant.

-- Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso held impromptu news conferences, discussing concerns of health issues in his district.

-- Reporters, largely from Texas, milled around the lobby today, grabbing a quick bite of lunch and trying to buttonhole Texas senators, who also were trying to eat.

-- Three University of Texas students had driven to New Mexico to go camping this week, but they detoured to the hotel after learning the senators were on hand. Nick Schwellembach, John Pruett and Austin Van Zant say they crashed the meeting in order to thank the legislators.

-- Senator Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin rewarded them by taking them into a closed meeting with the rest of the senators and introducing them around.

-- Meanwhile, the visitors raised another controversy, also along party lines. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White objected to his New Mexico officers spending time protecting Texans from "bounty hunters" who might cross state lines to bring them back White is a Republican.

-- The scene drew interested bystanders, including one couple who stood outside the hotel holding protest signs. One read, "Chicken Run Part Deux."

-- Steve Lange of Georgetown, Texas, was on vacation at the Marriott. He said the sight of his home state senators making a fuss in Albuquerque upset him. He says it's one of those things where they're wasting a lot of time on political things instead of doing what the people had voted them to do.

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