1 Community, 1 District? House Redistricting Committee Meets in Austin

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Lloyd Doggett: the man many Austinites proudly call their U.S. Congressman, the man others wrongly think represent them, and the man who won't lose. In 2003, Texas Republicans tried to get rid of him. He had to move, but he still managed to hold a seat in Congress. Even this year, in the Republican wave of Republican waves, he managed to hold on. Even when the map-drawers split Austin, there will be at least one Democratic seat in the area — and Doggett's going to get it.

But as much as I love Representative Doggett (and as much as I wish I could call HIM my Congressman instead of one Lamar Smith), it's not about him. It's about us, the people of Austin, receiving the right representation.

At 10 AM today, the voyaging House Redistricting Committee will finally gather in the state's capital. I hope our city shows up, too. From the advisory:

The House Committee on Redistricting, the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence will be holding a series of joint public hearings at various locations around the state this year. The purpose of these hearings is to allow citizens interested in the redistricting process to offer public comment and communicate directly with legislators.

The Austin redistricting hearing will be held on Wednesday, November 17, 2010 in E1.030 the Appropriations Room in the State Capitol. The hearing will begin at 10am.

Anyone who lives in this city will confirm that Austin has a character of its own. Hell, anyone who comes here just for a year or two will tell you that, too; even if they're one of the odd folk who don't like this city. Austin's more of a coherent community than most other cities, and it would be only right and fitting to return to coherent representation.

Austin's a weird and progressive city. There's no reason we shouldn't have a Congressman to embody the ways our weirdness turns into liberal policy choices. As anyone can see with Congressman Doggett, we'll get our man whether the mapmaker wants us to or not. And there's no reason to burden rural Texas with the Austin boy, either.

The question is: this year, will they listen?

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  1. “Burden rural Texas”?
    I hope you're joking. Otherwise, this post just might exemplify everything that's wrong with the Austin liberal establishment.

    • An Anecdote is needed
      I think perhaps I worded that wrong.

      But I have some very conservative family members in rural Texas who hate Lloyd Doggett with a passion — more than even President Obama (who they also hate). However, we have come to a conclusion that it would be appropriate for Lloyd Doggett to then represent all of Austin, so that they could have a Congressperson who better represented them.

      I was really just trying to convey that sense — the one among Republicans in rural Texas who the state legislature is hurting.

      • Why do they hate Lloyd Doggett?
        We had a number of soft R's turn against Lloyd in my county this year, but I think that has more to do with our messaging and a general malaise about who we are and what we represent, rather than anything Lloyd himself has done. I don't like my Congressman (Michael McCaul), either, but gerrymandering by political preference would be even more unmanageable that what we do now.

        I doubt Lloyd will get hemmed back into more friendly confines; I can see them doing the opposite, in fact.  

        • Lloyd will always have the Travis Co. Dem Seat
          I'm pretty sure Congressman Doggett will have the Democratic seat that goes into Travis County — it would be impossible for them not to make one, and as he has shown willingness to do before — he will move if need be.

          Austin just loves the guy.

          And with Doggett, I'm not sure if the problem is messaging, at least not on a local level. There's no getting past that Congressman Doggett is one of the most liberal members of all Congress, and they're simply not there. True, my particular family members are Fox-News-watching Republicans, but there are other Democrats that they would prefer.  “Austin Liberal” isn't just a moniker – it's an accurate description, and one I'm proud of — but they aren't.

  2. Deviations
    Since the deviations of the 3 Austin district looks like around 565K, or 80% of 1 district, the Republicans cannot simply keep the current split of Austin by making the districts more compact without risking losing at least one, if not both, of TX-10 and TX-21.  

    • Thanks for the link
      Those numbers do present a challenge for the Rs:

      – McCaul (CD 10) +235,235

      – Smith (CD 21) +129,834

      – Doggett (CD 25) +102,324

      I'm not surprised that CD-10 is so over-weighted, given the growth in both the Austin and Houston/Katy ends of the district.

      Last Friday, Sen. Watson said that he thinks it likely that three of the new districts will be drawn as Republican leaning and that one will be Democratic leaning.

      Conventional wisdom might think that the Border might get a new Dem district, but their growth is less than half the estimated size for a new district (277,528 pop. out of 698,552 needed):

      – CD 27 +6,177

      – CD 15 +60,701

      – CD 28 +109,039

      – CD 23 +96,508

      – CD 16 +5,103

      Which suggests that the Lege will have to look elsewhere, probably Austin-San Antonio or Corpus) for the additional 421,024 to make up a district.  The overpopulation for Smith, Doggett and Paul (CD 14 +52,233) only offers an additional 284,391 population, 136,633 shy of a new district. CD 10 could then make up the difference, particularly if one of the new Republican districts goes to suburban Houston.  But you also need to take into account the underpopulation in the West Texas districts (CD 11 14,634, CD 19 28,365, and CD 13 -51,001).

  3. Catch-22
    It is in the Republicans' best interest to put Doggett in a Travis-only district. McCaul's district needs to lose some Travis while it is impossible to get rid of Doggett. While it would be nice to keep Travis together, it will create absolute safety for McCaul and Smith if their districts cede Travis to Doggett's district.

    • Yes, but
      McCaul lives in Austin.  It certainly looks likely, though, that Smith will have a smaller district outside Travis and based in the Bandera Belt.

  4. These hearings are pro forma
    They have to hold them, but you know that they're not really looking for citizen input, and especially not from Democrats.

    On the other hand, testimony at these hearings, and more importantly the hearings that will take place in the spring, will be part of the public record of the redistricting process, and will be considered by the DOJ, or by the courts, when they rule on whether the maps that the lege passes are legal. So once the census comes out with its large-scale numbers and assignment of congressional seats to states (December), once they come out with their official numbers (somewhere between mid-February and April 1) and once the lege starts carving things up, it will be very important for activists to get organized, to voice our objections to bad plans, and to ask for better ones.

    Expect to be very busy with this from April to the end of the legislative session.

    BTW, the Travis County Democratic Party has a committee looking at redistricting issues (I'm the chair). We've met and we're starting to look at things, but until the census weighs in, there's not a lot to be done.  

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