A Census of Power

Twenty and a half million. That’s Texas’ projected population in 2000—an increase of more than 20 percent since 1990—and Republicans are salivating at the prospect of gaining seats in the mandatory 2001 redrawing of legislative and congressional districts. Any area that did not keep up with the state’s growth rate will lose seats. The most vulnerable regions are rural West and Northeast Texas and, surprisingly, the urban counties of Harris, Dallas, and Bexar; West Texas rates to lose two seats, and the urban counties one each. The Republican suburbs around those counties will gain seats, and so will South Texas. The Republicans’ ace in the hole is that if the redistricting lines are not to their liking, the governor (either a nonpresident Bush or current Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry) can veto the bill and shift the mapmaking to a board of state officials that will be dominated by Republicans. By eviscerating Democratic districts, the GOP’s dream plan could produce as many as twenty new Republican legislative seats and nine new seats in Congress, says Austin political consultant Mike Baselice, who is briefing the Texas House Republican Caucus. Democrats now hold a 17-13 edge in the congressional delegation and a 78-72 majority in the Texas House, but those majorities will not long survive the turn of the century.

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