The last three seats at issue on the House map were Margo (El Paso), Legler (Harris), and Garza (Bexar). In the interim maps, Margo is pretty safe, Legler has a chance to survive, and Garza will have to fight to survive. Pena is a goner. The Democrats got very little for their efforts on the House map. Some of their gains: The Vo/Hochberg pairing was reversed; Hochberg’s minority district was restored. If anything, the San Antonio court bent over backwards after having been chastised by the Supreme Court and did little to help Democrats. The court changed seven districts in South Texas. Lozano got Jim Wells and Kleberg counties, but he also got San Patricio, which is a Republican-leaning county. That could spell trouble for him. The bottom line is that the interim House map largely resembles the version passed by the Legislature. This was a foregone conclusion when the Supreme Court told the San Antonio Court it had overreached. The Democrats performed poorly in the negotiations. It was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. There were multiple groups of plaintiffs and each of them had their own sets of concerns. Abbott won the day when he cut a deal with national LULAC and MALDEF early in the negotiations. He split the Democrats and they never recovered. An attorney for the Democrats told me that they might end up with 7 to 8 seats over the original House plan. If so, the split in the House next year would look something like 93/94 R to 56/57 D, and many of the Republican seats are solid. In 2006, on the day after Democrats gained five House seats in the November elections, I was on a panel to talk about the election before the Greater Houston Partnership. One of my fellow panelists, a Republican consultant, made this observation: “The battle for rural Texas is over and the Republicans have won. The battle for urban and suburban Texas has just begun, and the Republicans are no better positioned to win it than the Democrats are.” The 2010 elections changed the game somewhat, but in the long run, the observation will be proven correct. The battles will be over the urban fringes in Harris and Dallas counties, where the old suburban neighborhoods are being replaced by apartments. The Republicans had to stretch their districts pretty thin in order to have winnable majorities. These are destined to be minority neighborhoods, and the deeper into the decade we get, the more Democratic these neighborhoods will be. Legler may win this year, but he is probably not destined for a long career in the House. Nor is Margo. There just aren’t enough Republicans to make these districts safe. This applies equally to north Dallas. But the same dynamic that rendered them powerless to change the House map applies to the Democrats’ efforts to rebuild their party. They’re divided and rent by jealousies. For all their efforts in redistricting, they accomplished virtually nothing on the House map.
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