A twofer of Joe Holley stories on redistricting the State House …
» Chron: Harris County will likely lose state House seat
» SA Express News: Complexities of redistricting
I mention the San Antonio story in passing since I don’t have too much to add to it. They aren’t growing or shrinking the number of districts. The county’s balance of population is shifting toward the North and Northwest, which means decent-to-good things for the GOP. About the only interesting thing to watch for there is whether the GOP can protect the newly-elected John Garza in HD117. It should be doable since there’s enough population to split off from the fast-growing GOP districts.
As for Harris County, we’ll be dropping a seat. And here’s a taste of what the talking heads think might happen …
“Scott Hochberg’s gone,” [GOP consultant Allen] Blakemore said. “He’s under, and he’s a white Democrat.”
That sentiment could be premature, said political scientist Mark Jones, of Rice University.
“Hochberg is gone if you change the district by too much,” he said. “He’s well-known in the area he represents, but if he has to pick up population in an area where he’s not all that well-known, he could be in trouble. He’ll be fine if he keeps, maybe, 65 percent of his current district. He’s more endangered if you create a district that’s more Hispanic.”
I don’t doubt the creativity of GOP mapmakers, but I’d love to see the map that Blakemore has in mind that does away with Hochberg. And to address Professor Jones’ point … why stop at 65%? Why not suggest that Hochberg could be 100% drawn out of his district if the GOP wanted to aim at him? I suggest that because it’s been done before. Like precisely 10 years ago. The map below shows Hochberg’s old District 132 (green) and his current District 137 (blue). Unless perhaps the GOP is willing to split Bellaire and West U, I don’t see many good options for erasing Scott Hochberg from the map. There just aren’t that many folks in Southwest Houston looking to replace the guy.
While I’m guessing that neither District 137 or 149 (Vo) was created as a VRA district, they both now represent situations where the GOP would risk retrogressing if they tinkered with them too negatively. I don’t put it past the mapmakers to try … but I do hold some skepticism about their ability to succeed.
The path of least resistance for the GOP is to cede a little bit of ground in the urban districts, shore up some defense for the demographic changes in the suburban counties (plus Tarrant), and lock down the changes in rural counties (and districts like Dee Margo’s El Paso seat). It’s a path that probably gives them a solid lock on 90 or so seats this decade.
That obviously means there would be about 10 GOP members looking for jobs in two years. Some of that is inevitable, with population losses in rural counties probably accounting for half the cuts the GOP will see from their majority. The tradeoff would be that losses in Harris and Dallas would happen along with growth in Fort Bend, Collin, and Denton. As Burka noted with the Dallas County example, there are plenty of Paxton supporters who will be hard-pressed for favors in this process. And just to highlight two names that Holley didn’t throw into the mix: Ken Legler and Debbie Riddle were on the other side from Straus during the “race” for Speaker. Legler is already a few precincts shy of being unelected. And Riddle lives just on the other side of Tomball from Allen Fletcher, so it’s easy to pair them. Just a few suggestions.
We’ll see soon enough. But for the time being, I’ll pick the “over” on Hochberg being able to win again in 2012.
SIDENOTE: Well, also for the time being, I’ll note that Holley’s Chronicle article might be considered “biased” by Republiblogger/scorekeepers if the party labels of all involved were switched. Funny how that only works one way, huh? Also funny that Holley couldn’t find one example to balance out the “Hochberg is gone” talking point. Just saying.