And Then There Were None
No white Texas Democrats in Congress, that is. Unless the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court finds violations of the Voting Rights Act, the new map for Texas is a twofer for Tom DeLay, of Sugar Land, the majority leader of the U.S. House, who conceived and executed the brazen mid-census redistricting coup. It ensures continued Republican control of Congress by turning seven districts represented by white Democrats into Republican bastions and the remaining three into minority Democrat bailiwicks. The aim is to polarize Texas politics along racial lines, which is to the GOP's benefitat least for now.
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BREAKING UP IS EASY TO DO
Districts 1 and 4. Targets: Max Sandlin (Marshall) and Ralph Hall (Rockwall).
To neutralize the advantage of incumbents, the redrawn boundaries take away these Democrats’ most loyal constituents and replace them with voters they’ve never represented. In District 1, Sandlin loses the Democratic counties along the Red River and picks up the heavily Republican counties of Smith (Tyler) and Gregg (Longview). In District 4, conservative Democrat Hall loses Smith and Gregg, where he drew considerable bipartisan support. He gains Sandlin’s Red River counties—but also a big chunk of Republican Collin County.
TURN OUT THE LAMPSON
District 2. Target: Nick Lampson (Beaumont).
His old district took in the upper Gulf Coast, running from the Louisiana border down to Galveston. Lampson retains his home county of Jefferson, a labor stronghold, but Galveston is gone. In its place are east Houston suburbs—and, in all likelihood, a new Republican congressman.
District vanished. Target: Jim Turner (Crockett).
The DeLay map dismembers Turner's Piney Woods district between Beaumont and Tyler and parcels it out among safe Republican seats, including districts 1, 5, 6, and 8. This shatters the "community of interest" principle—keeping areas with common concerns together—in favor of partisanship. Here, the rural, small-town territory formerly represented by Turner, a rural, small-town Democrat, will henceforth be represented by six Republicans, five of whom live in the Dallas, Fort Worth, or Houston suburbs.
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
District 9. Target: Chris Bell (Houston).
His former district incorporated the refinery towns along the Houston Ship Channel, black and Hispanic neighborhoods, and the Rice University-Texas Medical Center area— the archetypal white-plurality, urban-Democratic district. Not anymore. The new district, only 17 percent white, is drawn to elect an African American.
THAT DOGGETT WON'T HUNT
District 10. Target: Lloyd Doggett (Austin).
What's Lyndon Johnson's former Hill Country congressional district doing in the Houston suburbs? Getting a new GOP congressman, that's what. LBJ himself couldn't win here, much less Doggett, who now contemplates running in sneaky—oops, make that snaky—District 25, envisioned by the GOP as a new Hispanic seat anchored in South Texas. If Doggett loses to a border-region Hispanic, Austin will be the largest city in the country without a resident member of Congress.
District 24. Target: Martin Frost (Dallas).
The new map removes 150,000 residents of inner-city Fort Worth from Frost's district. This gambit could cause the entire map to fail if the Justice Department or the courts find that the retrogression of minority voting strength violates the Voting Rights Act. The GOP response? District 9, a new African American seat in Houston, evens things out.
District 17. Target: Chet Edwards (Waco).
In the past, Edwards has held onto his seat thanks to bipartisan support in the two Fort Hood counties, Bell and Coryell, and in his home county of McLennan (Waco). Republican state senator Kip Averitt, of Waco, tried to keep the three counties together, as his constituents wanted, but that would have let Edwards survive. Instead, Bell and Coryell are now in District 31, and Edwards got hard-core Republican Fort Worth suburbs.
ABILENE AND MEAN
District 19. Target: Charles Stenholm (Abilene).
Speaker Tom Craddick wanted a new district for his hometown of Midland, and the battle was joined over whether Midland-based District 11 or Lubbock-based District 19 would include Stenholm's Abilene base. Neither Craddick nor state senator Robert Duncan, of Lubbock, wanted his hometown candidate to have to run against the ag-friendly Stenholm, who has survived many a Republican challenge. Duncan agreed to take Abilene if District 19 added Deaf Smith County (population: 18,000), making the seat safer for GOP freshman Randy Neugebauer.
District 29. Target: Gene Green (Houston).
If DeLay knows what he is doing—and while you may not like it, he usually does—only one white Democrat has a shot at getting reelected: Gene Green. The district was created by Democrats in 1991 to elect a Hispanic, but low turnouts have enabled Green to hold the seat so far. The new lines raise the Hispanic majority four points to 66 percent, and Green does not live in the new district. Republicans want this seat to be Hispanic—and the lesson of redistricting is that sooner or later, what Republicans want, they get.