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Wednesday, August 09, 2006 

Summary of Texas' New Districts

Speaking of elections, here in Texas there have been some recent developments that have occurred ever since the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ordered Congressional District 23 to be redrawn because the Court found CD 23, as racial gerrymandering in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

After Republicans won control of the Texas state legislature in 2002, former Rep. Tom DeLay and his merry sycophants state GOPers tried to make redistricting a major issue during the 2003 legislative session, since in 2001, both the Democrats and Republicans were unable to agree on a new district map to correspond with the 2000 census. Under state law, when both parties are unable to agree, the federal court can take control and redraw the map. However, after the judges drew the new map, the Republicans were still not satified because the map would still give the Democratic Party a majority of Congressional seats. In the end, the Rethuglican majority won out and was able to redistricted Texas.

Briefly recapping, the reason Texas is redistricting again is due to the four different law suits there were filed in federal court in Texas that were brought by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Travis County, group of Democrats (known as the Jackson plaintiffs) and the American G.I. Forum of Texas. The four different suits later were all consolidated. LULAC argued that the Equal Protection Clause that the new plan set by the Rethuglicans had violated the equal protection of the law that states that "no state shall...deny to any person within its jurisdiction."

The GI Forum, a civil-rights organization, went about it in a different angle. Nina Perales, attorney for the GI Forum of Texas, argued that it was not a partisan issue, but how the state responded to the growing Hispanic community and that the actions of the legislature served to "dilute minority voices and discriminated against Hispanics."

Perales said that the CD 23 was a "Latino opportunity district" composed of 55% Hispanic registered votes that was intended by the court to elect a Hispanic candidate of choice. She argued that Henry Bonilla, despite being Hispanic and Republican, was the Anglo candidate of choice and because he almost lost in 2000, the Rethuglicans strategically redistricted his district to ensure his reelection the next term. Once the legislature removed about 100,000 Hispanics in the newly redistricted district, it reduced the Hispanic vote to only about 44 percent.

The SCOTUS ruled that splitting Laredo and Webb County into Districts 23 and 28 was a violation of the Voting Rights Act, and that the adjoining District 25 was not in compliance. Therefore, the SCOTUS ordered that the district court would be charged with making the necessary changes.

Responding to the SCOTUS's decision, recently, a special three-judge US District Court panel redrew a new map that changed the Congressional boundaries of five existing districts, CDs 15, 21, 23, 25, and 28. After hearing 14 different proposals that were submitted by various groups, the District Court decided to adopt their own plan The District Court order in case can be found here and its opinion here.

Here is a summary of the changes:
1. there were no pairings of incumbents. The map will take effect for the 2006 elections. There will be a special election will occur in November.

2. CD 15 - Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Mercedes)
Current Makeup:
Hidalgo (57%), Bee, Brooks, Colorado, De Witt, Fayette, Goliad, Jim Wells, Lavaca, Refugio; and Bastrop (65%) Cameron (26%), and San Patricio (43%) Counties

New Makeup: Hidalgo (67%), Bee, Brooks, De Witt, Duval, Goliad, Jim Wells, Karnes, Live Oak, Refugio; and Cameron (26%) and San Patricio (43%) Counties

Demographic Makeup:
Total 651,625
White - 128,479 (19.7%)
African American - 12,822 (2.0%)
Hispanic - 505,553 (77.6%)
AA+H - 516,679 (79.3%)

This district will continue to be a solid Democratic District. Those who were represented by Lloyd Doggett’s old CD 25 district in Duval, Karnes, and Live Oak Counties and part of Hidalgo County will continue to be represented by another Democrat, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Mercedes).

3. CD 21 - Rep Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio)
Current Makeup:
Bexar (19%) Blanco, Comal (82%) Hays (41%) and Travis (34%) Counties

New Makeup: Bexar (25%), Bandera, Blanco, Comal, Kendall, Kerr, Real, and Travis (16%) Counties

Demographic Makeup:
Total 651,615
White - 443,634 (68.1%)
African American - 44,598 (6.8%)
Hispanic - 138,585 (21.3%)
AA+H - 181,194 (27.8%)

This will continue to be a solid Republican District. Those who were represented by Rep Henry Bonilla’s in Bandera, Kendall, Kerr, and Real Counties and Rep Henry Cuellar’s remaining Comal County’s 18% will be represented by Republican Rep Lamar Smith of San Antonio.

4. CD 23 - Rep Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio)
Current Makeup:
Bexar (14%) Bandera, Brewster, Crockett, Culberson, Demitt, Edwards, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kendall, Kerr, Kinney, Maverick, Medina, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Reeves, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde, and Zavala, El Paso (4%), Sutton (69%), and Webb (48%) Counties

New Makeup: New CD 23 Makeup: Bexar (27% southern side) Brewster, Crockett, Culberson, Demitt, Edwards, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kinney, Maverick, Medina, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde, Zavala Counties; El Paso (part) and Sutton (part) Counties

Demographic Makeup:
Total 651,612
White - 195,693 (30.%)
African American - 21,402 (3.3%)
Hispanic - 424,198 (65.1%)
AA+H - 443,500 (68.1%)

With the loss of Webb County and all of the Hill Country Counties, and picking up most of South San Antonio, the political climate most likely change more towards a Democratic leaning. Rep Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio) seat will know become very competitive, which was the GOPs biggest fear. CD23 actually lost voters to adjacent districts, so those who will be affected have already been noted.

5. CD 25 - Rep Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin)
Current Makeup:
Travis (31%), Caldwell, Duval, Gonzales, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Live Oak, Starr; and Hidalgo (43%)

New Makeup: Travis (50%), Lavaca, Hays, Gonzales, Fayette, Colorado, Caldwell, Bastrop (65%).

Demographic Makeup:
Total 651,618
White - 344,899 (52.9%)
African American - 67,989 (10.4%)
Hispanic - 221,081 (33.9%)
AA+H - 286,132 (43.9%)

This district will also continue to be a solid Democratic District. Those near Travis County and the sounding counties who were represented by Rep. Ruben Hinojosa in Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca, Hays, and Bastrop (65%) and Rep Henry Cuellar’s remaining 59% from Hays County will still be represented by a Democrat Rep Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin).

6. CD 28 - Rep Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo)
Current Makeup:
Webb (52%), Atascosa, Frio, Guadalupe, La Salle, McMullen, Wilson, and Zapata; and Bexar (20%), Comal (18%) and Hays (59%) Counties

New Makeup: Webb, Frio, Guadalupe, Jim Hogg, La Salle, McMullen, Starr, Wilson, Zapata; and Hidalgo (33%) Counties

Demographic Makeup:
Total 651,627
White - 132,158 (20.3%)
African American - 9,482 (1.5%)
Hispanic - 505,250 (77.5%)
AA+H - 513,158 (78.8%)

This would be a solid Democratic District, but based on Rep Henry Cuellar’s (D-Laredo) voting record, Rethugs might have lost Rep. Bonilla, but they do have Rep Cuellar. It might as well be looked as an even exchange. However, things change because for those who fell in Rep Doggett old district Frio, Jim Hogg, the other half of Guadalupe, and Hidalgo’s 33% will now be represented be represented by Rep Henry Cuellar, and they might decide to shake thing up.


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