Putting Texas Politics on the Map
U.S. CONGRESSDistricts: 32 (up from 30)
Actual range: 597,401 (--8.32%) to 845,541 (+29.76%)
And you thought gerrymandering was illegal? Take a good look at Dist. 6 (Joe Barton) in the Metroplex. See, gerrymandering at the federal level is illegal only if you're doing it solely to create a majority-minority district. In the Dist. 6 case, what you've got is an elephant hunt -- GOP heavy hitter Barton picks up a bunch of middle-class white suburbs, leaving the adjoining working-class and rural areas to Districts 12 and 24 (Kay Granger and Martin Frost). Unfortunately for the Democrats' plan, Republican Granger, former mayor of Fort Worth, took Dist. 12, once Pete Geren's district.
Unlike Lege districts, Congressional boundaries have to contain exactly the ideal district population, but the lines can be drawn anywhere that passes the inevitable judicial smell test, which the new 1990 districts (drawn as minority enclaves) did not, which left the courts to redraw 13 of the 30 seats now on the map. But the mapmakers get to add two seats this time, and that's where the action is. Where do they go?
Chances are they'll look pretty loopy. There's half a district's worth of extra people in the heavily Republican Houston suburbs: Dists. 7 (John Culberson), 8 (Kevin Brady), and 22 (Tom DeLay) -- once you fill up the underweight, mostly Democratic inner-city Dist. 18 (Sheila Jackson Lee). There's more than a half's worth around Dallas, between Dists. 3 (Sam Johnson), 4 (Ralph Hall), 6 (Barton), and 26 (Dick Armey), though some of those people will have to fill up not just inner-city Dist. 30 (Eddie Bernice Johnson) but, at some remove, the two Panhandle districts. Dist. 13 (Mac Thornberry), the state's most underweight, stretches from Amarillo to Denton, and will further have to give back part of Lubbock to fill up Dist. 30 (Larry Combest) so it'll have to take some excess voters from Dick Armey.
So look for a lot of redrawing of boundaries all along I-45 to accommodate a new seat between Dallas and Houston. (If logical lines were drawn, Barton, Frost, and Dist. 5's Pete Sessions -- whose seat already stretches along I-45 -- would all be living in the same district, so don't expect logic.) The other big node is right here, between Districts 10 (Lloyd Doggett), 14 (Ron Paul), 15 (Ruben Hinojosa), 21 (Lamar Smith) and 23 (Henry Bonilla). That's a little misleading, since Hinojosa is from, and mostly represents people in, Hidalgo County, but the northern parts of his range are fair game.
A new district would have to avoid Bexar County, since Bonilla, Smith, Dist. 20's Charlie Gonzalez, and Dist. 28's Ciro Rodriguez all live in San Antonio, though their combined districts stretch from Laredo to El Paso to San Angelo. But a roughly triangular district stretching around the Austin city limits -- the city is almost exactly the IDP, so Doggett is safe -- from Williamson County to Victoria to New Braunfels would meet the need. (Ron Paul could make up his resulting slack by taking some of DeLay's voters in Brazoria County, which is where Paul actually lives.)
It would also be Mike Krusee's congressional wet dream. And -- the latest rumor has it -- Kirk Watson's as well.