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Remember the Texas Eleven?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Quorum-busting Texas senator who fled to ABQ in 2003 advises Wisconsin Dems to hang tough.

The flight of Wisconsin’s Democratic senators to prevent a quorum from voting on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill isn’t exactly unprecedented.

New Mexicans may remember the so-called Texas Eleven, a group of Texas Senate Democrats who fled Texas for Albuquerque for 46 days in 2003 to prevent the passage of controversial redistricting legislation that would have benefited Texas Republicans.

And even though the widely publicized self-imposed exile at Albuquerque’s Marriott Pyramid ended up just delaying instead of stopping the GOP plan, one of those Texas senators, state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh is urging the 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators who fled to Illinois last week to hang tough, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“Stay close. When one gets picked off, the game’s over,” said Shapleigh, who represents Senate District 29, covering most of El Paso. “Second, deliver a message. People have to have a clear idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Shapleigh and 10 other Democrats kept the Texas state Senate from getting the necessary quorum for about six weeks, but one member decided to go back on his own in what the others characterized at the time as a “betrayal,” and the redistricting plan eventually passed, giving the GOP more seats in Congress, the Journal Sentinel said.

State Sen. John Whitmire, the longest-serving member of the Texas State Senate who represents District 15 in north Houston, was the lone Democrat to break ranks, telling people at the time that he wanted to preserve consensus in the state Senate instead of engaging in no-holds-barred partisan civil war, according to Whitmire’s Wikipedia profile.

Shapleigh told the Journal Sentinel last week that he and the other 10 Democrats had agreed in a caucus that the only way to stop the Republican majority from voting on the redistricting plan engineered by then-U.S. Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, was to flee the state.

Earlier that year, 52 fellow Democrats in the Texas House tried to delay passage of the plan by fleeing to Oklahoma for a week, preventing the GOP majority from passing the redistricting plan during the 2003 regular session and earning the nickname “Killer Ds.”

The runaway senators, who called themselves the Texas Eleven (later the Texas Eleven Minus One, after Whitmire’s departure), even developed a logo — a silhouette of Texas inside New Mexico’s Zia symbol under the words “Never, Never, Never Quit,” the Journal Sentinel reported.

Shapleigh, who recently announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, told the Journal Sentinel that if Wisconsin’s Democratic senators stay out for long, family or job issues likely will arise tempting at least one of them to head back home.

But Shapleigh said that as a Democrat he believes they are correct to insist that collective bargaining for public employees be kept in place, the Journal Sentinel said.

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