Texas Senate Democrats Continue Exile in New Mexico

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Texas Senate Democrats (search) remained in self-imposed exile in a New Mexico hotel, sure that they had won this round in a bitter fight to stop a Republican redistricting (search) plan - but certain that they would face another.

By leaving the state, the 11 Senate Democrats have so far denied the GOP-dominated Senate a quorum, and the current special session ends Tuesday. Republican Gov. Rick Perry (search) has promised to call another if necessary.

"This is long from over," Sen. Royce West, a Democrat, said Monday from the New Mexico hotel where the senators have been for nearly a month. "It's probably the beginning of the second quarter, if you want to use a football analogy."

Democrats repeated their refrain of keeping "all options open" and gave few hints about their next move.

They want to defeat the Republicans' latest attempt to push a plan through the Legislature intended to increase the number of Texas GOP members of Congress.

Democrats left Austin to block a Senate quorum and halt business in the chamber. They went out of state so that Texas law officers couldn't arrest them and bring them back to the Capitol.

Dave Beckwith, a spokesman for Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (search), said the Democrats have few options.

"They are sitting there without an exit strategy and they're hoping something will fall out of the sky that will give them a way to come back," Beckwith said.

Dewhurst has proposed a break after this special session that could allow the Democrats to return before another session is called. Democrats say they want more details before deciding to come back.

"If indeed there's going to be a cooling-off period, let's make it a definite period of time where no games can be played," West said.

Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (search) of San Antonio said the Democrats are prepared to stay away another 30 days if necessary.

"So to Rick Perry we say, stand down, stand down from his pointless redistricting," she said. "Stop wasting tax dollars in your attempt to steal through partisan redistricting what you could not accomplish in legitimate elections."

Perry's spokeswoman Kathy Walt said it is the Democrats who should step down and return to their jobs for the sake of Texans hurt by the standoff.

"The Democrats walked off the job and when they left, they left more than $800 million in funding for critical issues on the table. Those issues are still pending. They need to come back to work," she said.

Texas Republicans, citing GOP state voting trends, want more seats in Congress, where Democrats currently hold a 17-15 advantage.