I'm not sure any state has had a more convoluted redistricting process than Texas, where the Republicans control the trifecta but the Voting Rights Act keeps them from running entirely rampant. That's meant a year of tug-of-war between the Texas legislature, the Obama administration's DOJ, and various sympathetic and unsympathetic judges both in Texas and DC. (It's fitting it should have been the site of the nation's biggest redistricting battle, since Texas had by far the biggest gain of any state: four new U.S. House seats to allocate.)
We've seen more different maps than I can keep track of, each subsequently knocked down... and finally gotten to the point where the courts needed to intervene and put out some kind of interim map that may be in place only until 2014 (if even that far) but that at least allow the primary elections to proceed. On Tuesday, that map was released.
(click for larger)
The net result, well... it isn't that good
for Democrats, seeing as how it's virtually identical to the "compromise" map floated by Republican AG Greg Abbott. How you'd feel about that question kinda reflects on whether you're a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person, though: on the one hand, three of the four 'new' (i.e. 33 through 36) districts created are Hispanic-majority, solidly-Dem districts, just as the state's population growth (where more than three-quarters of the growth between 2000 and 2010 was non-white) would seem to require.
On the other hand, the new map preserves Republican attempts to gerrymander two existing districts, the Austin-area 25th and Corpus Christi-area 27th, into their favor... so, on the balance, it still seems like the majority of the redistricting spoils went to the Republicans. Confused? Texas Redistricting blog's Michael Li explains (I'd seriously recommend you read his whole piece... in fact, given the choice between reading what I have to say on Texas redistricting and what he has to say, I'd say go with him):
On the congressional map, Republicans are claiming that the map results in a 2-2 split of the state’s new congressional districts and gives them 25 out of 36 seats overall.
Most of the redistricting plaintiffs disagree, saying the Republican count is highly disingenuous and that the court’s congressional map actually fails to create any new minority seats.
They argue that while the map, on the surface, creates three new minority seats (CD-33, CD-34, and CD-35), it also takes away two current districts (CD-25 and CD-27) where minorities have been successful in electing their candidates of choice and additionally weakens a third district (CD-23) to the point it may not perform. As a result, they say minorities end up with the same 11 or 12 seats they would have after a normal, non-wave election.
This map, although everyone is treating it like it's final at least for the purposes of the 2012 election, may still
not be a done deal. Li explains that it still will need to be run by the DOJ again for purposes of VRA section 5 preclearance, and that the parties (any interested Dem, or even GOP Rep. Joe Barton, who got one of the GOP's shorter straws) could also pursue another stay request to the Supreme Court... though with the likely May 29 primary election date, there may not be much desire left to keep kicking the can on this. But, seeing as how it's an "interim" map, look for the courts and the legislature to once again resume discussing what a more permanent map will look like.
Over the fold, we'll talk a bit more about some of the new districts...
Here's our chart of the changes in partisan composition to the districts, comparing Obama/McCain results under the old and new lines.
If you're wondering how we cobbled that together so fast, it's all already helpfully made available by the Texas Legislative Council
, who also have reams of gubernatorial race data and demographic data as well. (Or, if you want to see it all in one handy place, check out user TDDVandy
's super-thorough diary.)
Unlike California or Florida, there wasn't any renumbering of the existing districts, and it looks like (with the exception of Lloyd Doggett in current TX-25) we'll see all the current Reps. continuing to run in the same-numbered districts, with no members pitted against each other. So the need for a full-blown district-by-district description and separate cheat sheet, like with those states, isn't as overwhelming. Instead, let's just walk through the districts that are the biggest changes:
• TX-06: This district in the Tarrant Co. suburbs between Dallas and Ft. Worth, has been held by Republican "Smoky" Joe Barton for ages. It's become one of the least-red districts held by a Republican -- though not even swingy, let alone blue, at 42% Obama (up from 40%).
• TX-07: Republican John Culberson's district in west Houston is 40% Obama (down from 41%), but it's also 30% Hispanic and rapidly moving in that direction. Not likely to be in play any time soon, but demographic change might move this one toward our column by late-decade (if this map stays in place).
• TX-14: This has to be encouraging for Democratic ex-Rep. Nick Lampson, who's running in the new 14th, which looks more like the way this district was configured in the 1990s when it was a more Dem-friendly seat for him (stretching from Galveston to Beaumont). It's gone from 33% Obama to 42% Obama. (The seat is open, thanks to Ron Paul's retirement.)
• TX-17: It'd be nice if Dem ex-Rep. Chet Edwards would come back for another whack at his old seat (which he lost in '10); the Waco-based seat just went from 32% to 41% Obama, to free up GOP voters for a GOP-friendly 25th. Doesn't look like a strong Dem challenge is forthcoming here, though.
• TX-23: This is the only Obama-won district held by a Republican, Quico Canseco (who knocked off Dem Ciro Rodriguez in '10). While it's 69% Hispanic, it's swingy turf and made marginally more Republican via tinkering around the edges in San Antonio's suburbs (now 50% Obama, down from 51%).
• TX-24: I've always had an eye on this district (in the suburbs between Dallas and Ft. Worth, centered on DFW airport) held by GOPer Kenny Marchant, as it, more than maybe any other district in Texas, has seen its Hispanic share zoom up (currently 23%). The GOP made it a bit safer for Marchant, though (now 41% Obama instead of 44%), relegating this one to another long-term project for the Dems.
• TX-25: Somehow, the GOP managed to take this Austin-area district that used to be safely Dem for Lloyd Doggett at 59% Obama, and made it a GOP-friendly one at 43% Obama. They accomplished that by cracking Travis Co. (where Austin is) five ways, and running this district up through Fort Hood all the way up to the southern exurbs of Ft. Worth that used to be in TX-17. Don't look for Doggett to run here (who'll probably run in one of the Hispanic-majority seats with a Travis Co. tendril), meaning a likely GOP pickup.
• TX-27: Here's the other existing district that the GOP managed to re-engineer in their favor. Freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold, the unexpected victor over long-time Dem Rep. Solomon Ortiz in the mostly-Hispanic Corpus Christi-based 27th, was looking like a one-shot wonder, but now has a safe district with the removal of Hispanic areas to Corpus Christi's south and the addition of right-leaning Victoria. (Of course, a lot of this is new turf to Farenthold, and he might lose a GOP primary to someone with a better local base.) It goes from 53% Obama to 40%.
• TX-32: This district in north Dallas is another one of those long-term projects from the Dems. Held by Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, it's now the 2nd-least-red district held by a Republican (44% Obama, though down from 46%). With a rapidly-increasing Hispanic share (now 26%), look for continued blue-ification.
• TX-33: This is the new Hispanic-majority CD for the Dallas/Ft. Worth area (which, in older maps, the GOP decided wasn't exactly necessary at all). It went through some iterations where it was strongly Dem but had no racial plurality and might have elected an African-American, but the version we've ended up with is 66% Hispanic (and 69% Obama).
• TX-34: This district is an odd critter, centered on the Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley, but also snaking up northward to take some mostly-Hispanic rural counties off Blake Farenthold's hands. Look for it to elect a Dem (seeing as how it's 83% Hispanic and 60% Obama).
• TX-35: The new Hispanic-majority district stretching between the Austin and San Antonio areas seems unnecessarily non-compact, designed around one community of interest (i.e. people interested in getting rid of Lloyd Doggett). Look for a big primary battle between Doggett (as the majority of his constituents wound up here) and Joaquin Castro, though whichever Dem wins should be safe in the general, given that the district is 63% Hispanic and 63% Obama. [UPDATE: Commenters point out that the San Antonio-based Castro is now likelier to run in the 20th, left open by the retirement of Charlie Gonzalez, though Doggett still seems likely to face another Hispanic primary challenger (unless he can ward everyone off through the size of his warchest).]
• TX-36: Of the four "new" districts, this is the Republican one, at 30% Obama and 66% white. It seems to be made up of leftover parts and pieces, linking the easternmost reaches of Houston's suburbs, the refinery town of Orange, and rural swaths of east Texas.
Finally, as always, here's our patented redistribution analysis, provided by jeffmd: