Current map: 82 seats > 55% R
Proposed map: 92 seats > 55% R
+ 10 “safe” R seats
Depending upon how you look at it, Republicans gain ten seats as a result of the proposed House redistricting map, or they lose seven seats.
They gain ten because they currently have 82 seats that are at least 55% Republican and will have 92 if the map is adopted.
They lose nine because, due to seven pairings, their supermajority of 101 will shrink to 94.
The seven Republican pairings:
One of the key decisions concerning this map was to reduce the number of seats in Harris County from 25 to 24. The math called for Harris to get 24.4 seats. Solomons stuck by the strict interpretation of that number, which resulted in the pairing of Hochberg and Vo, and the ultimate loss of a Democratic seat. I’m told that Republicans feared a court challenge if they gave Harris 25 seats, but I don’t buy it. The R’s were out to maximize seats and they had the wherewithal to do it.
The pairing of Republicans Dan Flynn and Erwin Cain should not surprise anyone. Go back to the speaker’s race last fall. Bryan Hughes claimed that a member of Straus’s team (presumed to be Larry Phillips) had told Hughes that he was safe but that Flynn and Cain would be paired. Sure ‘nuff. At the time, I found the story to be unlikely. Silly me.
The Landtroop and Charles Perry pairing is hardly a surprise either–two Republican freshmen. I referred to Landtroop in a post earlier in the session as the “MVP” – “Most vulnerable player.” Perry clearly has the advantage in this matchup.
When Dallas County qualified for only fourteen seats due to declining population, it was a certainty that both of the lost seats would be Republican. (All of the county’s six Democrats were protected by the Voting Rights Act.) The Dallas pairing of Cindy Burkett and Joe Driver could be resolved if Driver, whose double-billing of $17,431.55 in travel expenses made news last year, were to retire. Another possible Dallas County pairing is Linda Harper-Brown and Rodney Anderson, in a district that includes Irving and Grand Prairie.
Population decline in southeast Texas caused another Republican pairing, Michael “Tuffy” Hamilton vs. Alan Ritter. Readers will recall that Ritter switched parties in the hope of surviving the Republican tsunami of November 2. He surely knew, when he did so, that his options for 2012 were to lose to a Republican or to be paired with a Republican.
Did the Straus team punish any of their opposition? Wayne Christian lives in Shelby County (population 25,224) and cannot be thrilled about seeing Harrison County (population 62,110) added to his district. Maybe there was a another way to draw the district, but then again, maybe Solomons didn’t try too hard to do it.
I should point out that although the map was drawn to elect 92 Republicans, there is no assurance that it will do so. The battle for Dallas County is over, and the Democrats have won. In the long run, the demographic tide cannot be reversed. In due course, the 2010 elections in Dallas County will be seen as an anomaly and Democrats will regain many of the seats that they lost. The area between Northwest Highway and LBJ will be fiercely contested between the parties, as it has been since 2006, but the Republicans will be lucky to hold their own. I’d wager right now that by the end of the cycle represented by this map, Republicans will be down to 85 seats due to continued white flight into the collar counties around the Metroplex, and into Fort Bend County and Northwest Harris County outside of Houston. Ten years from now, Republicans will find themselves in the same position they are today: losing seats due to pairings in population-poor East and West Texas. Republicans enjoyed a huge growth spurt in the nineties by knocking off rural Democrats, but there are very few Republican opportunity seats left in rural Texas. Gallego’s seat is a potential pickup, and Eiland’s. Tracy King’s, perhaps. When the next House map is drawn, Republicans will be looking at Latino districts for pickups.