I was asked recently by some out of staters on what the Texas congressional delegation might look like after redistricting. There has been concern that with Republicans controlling the Governor's office, both legislative chambers, and all the members of the Legislative Redistricitng Board (not to mention adding 4 new seats) Democrats could face more losses.
While I won't put anything past the GOP in Texas when it comes to redistricting there are two factors that I believe will moderate the damage.
- The first is that for the first time since the 60s, a Democratic led Justice Department will review our maps to ensure they meet the Voting Rights Act standards for African American and Hispanic seats.
- The second is the Republican gains in 2010 of TX-17, TX-23, and TX-27.
As such, our delegation will now be a 23-9 GOP to Dem majority; that's before we talk about adding an expected 4 seats in redistricting. Even with our creative map-makers I don't see how you could draw all 4 new seats to be Republicans and try to create a 27-9 map that passes muster with the Justice Dept. Based upon population estimates, there is a general expectation that the new districts would probably end up with 1 each in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, somewhere around the I-35 corridor between DFW and Austin/San Antonio, and then one in South Texas.
DFW currently has ~7 Congressional seats and only 1 of those is a Democrat. I'm not sure how you add a seat there and not force a 2nd Democratic seat to come into existence when you consider the Democratic shift in Dallas. I'm also not sure how you create another seat in South Texas and protect both TX-23 and TX-27. I don't see how you can create 3 Republican districts along the border. Something has to give.
In Central Texas, I would guess they may just draw Lloyd Doggett back into Austin and pack his Democratic seat again in order to create an I-35 seat that's more safely Republican. As far as Houston, there's just so many people that you can probably create whatever you want, but you have to start with the Voting Rights Act districts and work out from there.
If we had the same map in 2 years that we do now (as if there was no redistricting), I would say we'd probably pick back up TX-27 and then TX-23 for a 21-11 map. That's the natural balance of the currently drawn map under 'normal' conditions. If you have to draw in 4 more seats, Democrats would have to get 1 of them and it's possible that we could get 2 if the GOP ends up having to try to protect their pickups this year. That's the silver lining of course, in that Democratic losses in 2010 leave very few takeover targets for the GOP while adding 3 more Republican incumbents who will want to be protected.
So all things considered, I think both the Dems and the GOP will add 2 raw seats to their delegations with Dems having a chance at picking up another 2 by defeating currently held Republican seats. It could also be a total wash in the case the GOP loses TX-23 and TX-27 but instead wins 3 of the 4 newly created districts meaning both sides pick up 3 seats for a net change of zero.
Another challenge will be the GOP's 2 new Hispanic Congressman. Canesco in TX-23 (Ciro's seat) will have to be defeated in a General Election, it's hard to make his seat more Republican without making it less Hispanic so the VRA will probably keep him competitive. Bill Flores in a new TX-17 (Chet's) could be vulnerable to a Anglo primary challenger given the Republican party's recent history with defeating sitting Hispanic Republicans (see: Victor Carrillo). I'm not exactly sure what happens with Blake Farenthold in TX-27 which is a Hispanic district now with an Anglo Republican Congressman. Though to be fair, Anglo Democrat Gene Green represents a
African American Hispanic district in Houston and has for years.
With 24 million people, 36 districts, and Republicans drawing the maps, anything is certainly possible, but there is not much more damage to be done to the Democratic delegation at this point in Texas and entirely possible that it will be at worst a wash with the chance to even gain a net seat or two in 2012.