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About That “New Hispanic District” In Houston …

» Chron: Garcia faces uncertain future as court term ends

Ostensibly, this is an article wrapping up County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia's time in office. But this tangential point about what she might do next caught my redistricting attention (emphasis mine):

A former Houston city controller and an attorney who hasn't practiced for more than 25 years, she's still interested in seeking public office, perhaps trying to win back her courthouse job in 2014 or running for what is expected to be a newly drawn, Hispanic-majority congressional seat. (She ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 1992.)

Call me a skeptic, but I don't see this happening. The 2003 redistricting was aimed at ridding Tom DeLay of those pesky, moderate white Dems from his state. Creating a second Hispanic district in Harris County in 2011 only increases the odds that the situation reverts and that Houston sends one more of those type of Democrats back to Washington.

Granted, Tom DeLay is no longer the one calling the shots. But what would the motivation for creating such a district be? It would make it harder to draw two African-American seats (which they won't be legally able to retrogress, plus it's in the GOP's own interest to maintain them).

Also, when you start mapping out the two core population areas of Hispanics, you risk blocking options for what you can do with GOP areas. You'd end up having to connect an East End-to-Baytown wing to Gulfton, or a Northside wing to Highway 290. Both moves severely limit what you can do with the surrounding areas. I just don't see all that work as being worthwhile for the Texas GOP to send John Whitmire to Congress.

This represents a significant note for future redistricting in the era of Hispanic population growth: due to the diffusion of Hispanic population growth, it is less likely that there will be gains made in Hispanic VRA districts. In other words: the fact that you have strong Hispanic population growth in Cypress really doesn't mean much for creating a new Hispanic opportunity district there.

And keep in mind that the population growth in the Houston AREA is not within Houston. It is not even Harris County when looking at the aggregate. To highlight a mathematical point from this old post:

» State Population Growth: 20.6%
» Harris County Population Growth: 19.7%
» Fort Bend County Population Growth: 57.1%

What strikes me as likelier is that CD22 and CD02 contract, and the Harris County portion of CD10 might have a new label. If I were to place a small wager, I'd expect to see Ted Poe's district more fully contained within Harris County. And that'd be your "new" district ... half of CD02 and half of CD10.

Standard redistricting disclaimer, of course - there's a lot of game theory involved in who wants what and who has good enough relationships in the lege to make anything happen. 100% of the advantages fall to members of the Texas GOP. My assumption is that there's not much motivation to create something for Dems unless it just makes life easier on their own (as would be the case with a DFW minority district - and might be the case with the new Hidalgo-based district). If I'm wrong on that assumption, then hey ... welcome to the new world order!

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  1. I agree with Greg’s conclusions about a new Hispanic district in Harris county — I don’t think it will happen. The only way it would happen is if it can be reasonably demonstrated that two VIABLE Hispanic districts can be created, thus making it a Voting Rights Act Section 2 issue. My take is that will be difficult to do, as the current Hispanic district in Harris county (CD29) has such low voter turnout compared to other districts and already contains most of the solidly Hispanic areas of the county. More interestingly, even Hispanic advocates seem to consider CD29 as non-performing for Hispanics because the district elects an Anglo Democrat.

    I realize it doesn’t matter that Gene Green is Anglo if he is supported by the resident minority population — and I know how Hispanic Democrats rushed to defend Green as “their man” during the Republican’s controversial 2003 redistricting — but consider two things:

    1) In the first election cycles after the district was created (1992, 1994, and 1996) Hispanic candidates ran against Green and lost.

    2) During the recent redistricting hearings in Houston, two different advocates for Hispanic Congressional seats quoted statistics about the number of Hispanics in the state, implied a number of Congressional seats that Hispanics SHOULD HAVE, then quoted the number of seats that Hispanics DID HAVE. CD29 was not one of those seats the advocates claimed because their tally was based solely on the ethnicity of the current officeholder.

    So looking at the current CD29 I find it hard to believe an ADDITIONAL VIABLE Hispanic district could be created in the area, although, as Greg has said, a new DEMOCRATIC district could created, in a fashion similar to John Whitmire’s Senate seat.

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