Every now and then, as I wander through Amarillo, I encounter people I knew in my previous life as a journalist and with whom I maintain friendly relations to this day.
I ran into one of them today. He is former Bushland School Superintendent John Lemons. We chatted about this and that, about people we know and how they’re doing these days. Then the conversation turned to an old friend of his, former U.S. Rep. Larry Combest.
Our discussion pivoted to a position the Amarillo Globe-News had taken while I was working as editorial page editor of the newspaper: It dealt with congressional reapportionment.
I told John that I have grown to regret a position the paper had taken, and which I had expressed through editorials published on the matter. The G-N argued for the “reunification” of Amarillo into a single congressional district.
A brief history is in order.
The 1991 Texas Legislature, which was dominated by Democrats, redrew the state’s congressional districts. Seeking to protect Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Sarpalius, the Legislature split Amarillo in half: Potter County would be represented by Sarpalius in the 13th Congressional District; Randall County’s congressman would be Republican Larry Combest.
The realignment outraged the G-N at the time. They paper began calling for the city to be made whole by being put back solely into the 13th District.
The gerrymandering worked through the 1992 election, as Sarpalius was re-elected to his third term in Congress; so was Combest. The paper kept up its drumbeat for unification. The city’s interests were being split between men of competing political parties, the G-N said.
Then came the 1994 election. Sarpalius ran into the Republican juggernaut. A young congressional staffer named Mac Thornberry defeated him. Thus, the city would be represented by two congressmen from the same party.
I arrived at my post in January 1995 — and the paper kept hammering away at the unification theme. Bring the city together, we said. I scratched my head a bit over that one. I couldn’t quite understand why we were so upset with divided representation, given that both Reps. Combest and Thornberry were of the same party. They were rowing in unison, singing off the same page, reciting the same mantra … blah, blah, blah.
I told Lemons today that the city was able to “double its pleasure, double its fun” with two members of Congress representing its interests. One of them, Combest, held a leadership position on the House Agriculture Committee.
But we kept it up.
I told my pal John Lemons today I regret not pushing my boss at the time to rethink the notion that Amarillo needed to be made whole.
So … now I’m sharing my regret here.
I had a wonderful — and moderately successful — career in daily print journalism. However, it wasn’t regret-free.