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Redistricting: The Texas Angle

ยป Hotline: Redistricting Q&A: Matt Angle

Hotline's On Call blog finally gets around to their third Q&A, this one with Texas' own Matt Angle. Among the highlights - he's not high on Lloyd Doggett's chances of getting a fair map.

The Hotline: How do you think Republicans will go about drawing the map? Where will they put the districts?

MA: I think their starting place will be to try to hold their districts. And they'll do that by keeping the minority percentage the same, but putting in high-voting Anglo-Republicans. High turnout Republicans. What they did this time is they won because you had high turnout among Anglos who vote straight-ticket Republican.

And then they will draw a new Hispanic district in Dallas County and just say that that's a new Hispanic district. Because you can draw it there and not hurt any incumbent. Then they'll draw some kind of Hispanic district, or at least I'll call it a "Hispanic district" from Austin, South. But rather than leave the rest of Travis County for Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D), they'll break up Travis County into three or four pieces.

So Doggett will face a tough race. Either they'll get rid of him by putting him a Republican district or they'll make him run in a Hispanic district. Doggett's been elected in a Hispanic district before; maybe he can do it again. But it keeps Democrats from netting up seats. So then, in effect, what they will have done is created three new Republican districts.

It'll be interesting to see if that's the case. I suspect it'll come down to who Straus names as chair of the Redistricting Committee. And as more-or-less fair as Straus has been since being elected Speaker, there's zero chance of anyone he names as being a better GOP alternative for Dems than Delwin Jones ever was.

I'm a little torn in speculating on Travis County. On the one hand, there's a sizable enough Anglo Democratic population that spliting it up as they did the DFW minority communities in 2003 only means that the districts that do incorporate those areas will be made less safe. But on the other hand, there's a lot more heavily-GOP turf surrounding that population base so it's not inconceivable that the white liberal base in Austin could be fracked any number of ways. To compare it to DFW, think of the core to be broken up as being surrounded by a lot of Kay Granger-type districts, with next to no Pete Sessions or Terry Marchant districts that are headed toward swing status. Likewise, it's easier to put Travis County's minority communities into a separate district, but that's pretty much what the 2003 map did to Doggett. So what's left to do?

The current CD25 has nearly 2/3 of it's population in Travis County, with that section registering at 50% Black+Hispanic. Outside of Travis County, every other county is even more Anglo. The screenshot below shows the % of Anglo population in Travis County from the recently released 2005-2009 ACS data (dark green = >75%; med green = 55-75%; lite green = 40-55%; gray = <40%). Doggett's CD25 is the southeastern section outlined in white. It includes a number of additional counties to the east of Travis, plus Hays to the south. Obviously, there's Anglo population to shed from the Travis portion of the district. But with the district as-is, losing that population will mean that what remains of Travis County will be a smaller percentage of the overall district and picking up surrounding counties (not to mention, additional counties than what it already represents) will make it more of a challenge to make the district any more of a minority opportunity district that the VRA will dictate. A third option might be to make the district turn south to pick up Hispanic population, but that makes life harder for finding real estate for Blake Farenthold and whatever other South Texas districts snake up north. And yet, even with all that effort it doesn't strike me as a given that you get rid of Lloyd Doggett even if you were to find a way to draw a 55% B+H district. Far from it.

In short, it's easier for all involved to just pack in as much Dem/minority boxes as possible, learn to live with Lloyd Doggett, and be done with it. But if Angle's concern is well-founded, we could be seeing the height of creativity in trying to draw Dogett out.

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  1. I think Matt Angle is right. In the era of the 2003 redistricting or its aftermath, at least one Latino advocacy group made public a plan which attempted to create a Hispanic district by connecting Austin to San Antonio. I think that’s what will be tried and Doggett will have to run in that district.

  2. This is along the lines of what they’d have to do: eliminate all the Anglo parts of Travis and snake down to SA, picking up Hispanic pockets in Seguin, San Marcos, New Braunfels and Caldwell County. This version gets you to 46% Hisp, 36% Anglo and 14% Black. Not hard to believe that it’ll clock in at 50% Hispanic with the new data and there may be enough improvements to make those numbers even better, but I think anything that involves picking away at minority communities in Travis starts to pose problems with Justice. Again, all this effort, and it’s not a given that you run Lloyd Doggett out of Dodge.

    If they do this, it’ll likely take four cuts (three different GOP seats in addition to Doggett’s shrinking one) into Travis County to ensure the safety of those districts. Mathematically, I’m sure it’s not a problem. But it’ll be interesting to see how they can do that while maintaining compactness and communities of interest any better than the extent to which the 2003 map does.


  3. Everything I have tried with Dave Bradlee’s page has led me to the exact same conclusion. (I even drew a near identical district as the one you have in your comment above.) Simply put: You can’t get rid of Doggett without either breaking up Travis into about 5 or so parts or really screwing something else up. Best to pack them and let Doggett live.

  4. When the long thin CD25 was created in 2003 that ran from Austin all the way to McAllen, Doggett essentially camped out in the valley campaigning — and he took the seat. So even if a Hispanic district is attempted Austin to San Antonio, I think Doggett likely wins that seat. But even if Republicans concede that they probably can’t get rid of Doggett, they’ll want to look good by turning a seat held by the Democrats anyway into a HISPANIC seat held by a Democrat.

    And, after all, they’ll want to protect themselves from challenges under the VRA.

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