The Dallas County redistricting situation
Wed February 23, 2011 12:05 pm

The previous map, drawn by the Legislative Redistricting Board in 2001, allowed for sixteen seats. It now appears that, due to population loss, Dallas County will qualify for only fourteen seats. Two members are going to lose their seats. The problem for Republicans is this: Four seats belong to African-American Democrats (Helen Giddings, Eric Johnson, Barbara Mallory Caraway, Yvonne Davis). Two seats belong to Hispanics (Rafael Anchia and Robert Alonzo). If Republicans draw the map to eliminate two Democratic seats, by pairing, say, Giddings and Johnson, or Anchia and Alonzo, so that six minority districts are reduced to four, such a solution would likely be regarded as a regression under the Voting Rights Act.

The remaining ten members of the Dallas County delegation are Republicans, and four of them are going to be paired--with other Republicans. There is no way around it. The two seats that Dallas County is going to lose are odds-on to be Republican seats. This is where, shocking as it may seem, politics could get involved. Redistricting reflects the lyrics of that favorite Christmas tune: "He's making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice." When redistricting chairman Solomons starts making his list, he will remember that Kenneth Sheets and Cindy Burkett, both Paxton supporters, have been naughty. Dan Branch, Solomons himself, and probably Will Hartnett are are going to be on the "nice" list.

The Dallas districts are going to be dicey to draw in any event. Huge population losses in the county will leave GOP members fighting each other for  whatever Republican areas they can find -- mainly the affluent area around White Rock Lake. Several of the Dallas County Republican members are in the same situation as the Democratic WD-40s used to be: occupying forces in enemy territory. (The term WD-40 is likely to disappear from the institutional memory, as the WD-40's themselves have vanished, so I had better define it: "Rural white Democrat of middle age.") Their names were Farabee, Homer, Hopson, Ritter, King, McReynolds, et al. All represented districts that voted Republican at the top of the ticket but might vote Democratic down-ballot. Now the situation is reversed. Several north Dallas Republicans are occupying seats that used to be enemy territory, seats that flipped Democratic in 2008 and Republican in 2010. Some of the new incumbents are going to be hard to protect--Rodney Anders0n, for example, won by couple of hundred votes in the best Republican year since 1994. In towns beyond the Dallas city limits, where the population is increasingly Republican, Driver (Garland) and Button (Richardson) should be safe, but Harper-Brown (Irving) will probably find herself fighting for survival, as usual. And you know what the tiebreaker will be whenever there is a close call: Naughty? Or nice?

[The original version of this article has been edited to make corrections involving the number of minority Democrats (six) and the names of certain members.]

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