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Inside Politics

Don't mess with Texas Dems

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

Texas Dems
Texas House Democrats wave to supporters gathered on the south steps of the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Friday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Since when do you get the Play of the Week for walking off the job? Since Texas Democrats did it this week.

Walking off the job can get you called some rude names in Texas.

"The majority of Texans see them as cowards," Texas GOP Chairwoman Sue Weddington said.

But somehow, the renegade representatives ended up looking like heroes.

"We weathered some troopers. We weathered some tornadoes. And we weathered Denny's," said state Rep. Jim Dunnam, chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives upon their return Friday.

How did they make the walkout work? By choosing a terrific target.

"We have a message for Tom Delay -- Don't mess with Texas," said Dunnam, amid cheers from fellow Democrats.

The walkout dramatized what looked like a power play by DeLay -- trying to ram a bill through the Texas Legislature that would redraw district lines to give Republicans at least four more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

And, not coincidentally, help DeLay keep his job as majority leader.

"Let me point out that last week, Congressman DeLay wasn't in Washington attending to his duties as a national leader. He spent several days in Austin. And he missed at least fifteen roll call votes as he took those days off to work on the redistricting efforts," said state Rep. Pete Gallego to reporters Wednesday at a hotel in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where the Democrats were staying.

How's that for walking off the job?

When the news got out that Texas authorities had followed up on DeLay's suggestion and asked the feds to help round up lawmakers on the lam, Democrats had a field day.

"Tom Nixon DeLay. Not since Watergate thirty years ago has anyone tried to invoke federal law enforcement officials to resolve a political, partisan dispute," said U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas.

On Friday, the Texas Democrats returned in triumph to claim the Political Play of the Week.

Happy Democrats proclaimed, "Oklahoma's OK, but we're glad we're back in Texas!"

Texas Republicans accused the Democrats of abandoning the tradition of the Alamo -- a serious charge in Texas. Texans are supposed to stay and fight.

But the defenders of the Alamo lost. The Democrats won.

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