Here's Your Congress!

The U.S. Supreme Court refusal to stay the new Republican-drafted congressional map formally inaugurates the electoral season

Indianapolis is said to hold the bragging rights for being the largest U.S. city not located on a navigable body of water. After November, Austin may acquire an equally dubious distinction: the largest U.S. city without any direct representation in Congress. That's one possible outcome of the new Texas congressional map, effectively ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court last week when the court refused, without comment, to block the use of the map for the March primary elections. The court may still agree to hear the full case against the map, but any decision will come too late to affect the outcome of the primaries or the November election.

That means that Friday's filing deadline effectively closed the matter of the congressional races -- what you see is what you get, which in this aggressively polarized Republican map looks to be even more over-determined than usual. Here's a rough and ready breakdown:

Almost Local

District 10: This is now a West Houston-based district that claws all the way into a bit of our west side, and it will elect a Republican. Mayor Emeritus Gus Garcia considered a symbolic run (he lives in the slice north of 290 East) but thought better of it, and in the end no Democrats filed. There are now eight GOP candidates, all of whom oppose abortion, terrorism, and taxes just about equally. Early name recognition likely goes to former Judge John Devine of Houston, former U.S. Attorney Michael McCaul of Austin, and intermittent Austin candidate and banker Teresa Doggett Taylor, who may scuttle McCaul's hopes of riding this end of the district to a run-off while the others -- Brenham buffalo rancher Pat Elliott, Houston sports promoter John Kelley, Houston corporate attorney Dave Phillips, mortgage banker Ben Streusand, and Katy public relations man Brad Tashenberg -- fight it out with Devine.

District 21: Although the map drafters fiddled a bit with his San Antonio-based district, 17-year incumbent Rep. Lamar Smith will have little trouble beating unknown Dem opponent Rhett Smith, who lists his occupation as "private security."

District 25: This Northeast-Austin-to-McAllen district is the only one of the three new "Austin" districts where local voters can reasonably expect to have much influence. In the Democratic primary, current District 10 incumbent Rep. Lloyd Doggett faces newcomer Leticia Hinojosa, a UT grad and McAllen judge. Doggett has name and money, but the Hispanic-majority 25 is a "barbell" district with 52% of the voters at the Valley end (Starr and Hidalgo counties), but with heavier turnout generally at this end. Whichever Dem survives will face last-minute surprise filer and former Public Utility Commissioner Rebecca Klein, who has suddenly remembered her maiden name, Armendariz. She faces a transplanted Alaskan missionary from Mission, the even more improbably named Regner Capener, who says the White House is now twisting his arm to drop out and leave a clear field for Klein (instantly endorsed by Gov. Perry).

Potential Donnybrooks

District 1: Incumbent Democrat Max Sandlin faces an uphill battle against the winner among a half-dozen GOP hopefuls in a district redrawn to be even more heavily Republican. State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, who regularly tag-teamed with Burleson Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth to slash health and human services, is the best known of the elephants.

District 2: District 9 incumbent Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, was evicted by the new map, but many of his voters landed in District 2, where he'll face the winner among six Republicans, the best known of whom is probably Ted Poe, a hang-'em-high Houston judge known for inventing headline-grabbing sentences.

District 9: This new district is in theory drawn for an African-American Democrat, but current District 25 Anglo incumbent Chris Bell, D-Houston, is moving over to face former Houston NAACP Chair Al Green and Beverly Spencer of Alief. Could be a close (and possibly bitter) primary.

District 17: District 11 incumbent Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, has made a career of narrowly beating Republicans, but the new 17 may be too high a climb. He'll face one of three Republicans, the best known being state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, who badly wants to take her hard-right axe to Congress.

District 19: No primaries here -- freshman incumbent Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, faces longtime District 17 incumbent Charles Stenholm, R-Abilene, in a battle to decide who gets to pass out West Texas welfare: agricultural and military subsidies. Stenholm's longevity might overcome the new map.

District 28: Incumbent Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, faces what looks to be a bitter primary fight with former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar of Laredo, a wobbly Dem who may do well in a now less-Democratic district -- although still not Republican enough to give much hope to any of the four obscure Republican challengers.

District 32: This may be the highest profile race, featuring longtime District 24 incumbent Rep. Martin Frost, bumped out of his district into the Republican-leaning back yard of incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions, in for the fight of his life. Likely a national party battleground, and the big guns will be out.

Incumbent Walkovers

District 3: Sam Johnson, R-Plano (one primary opponent)

District 4: Ralph Hall, now literally R-Rockwall (two primary opponents, two Dem candidates)

District 5: Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas (one Dem opponent)

District 6: Joe Barton, R-Ennis (one Dem opponent)

District 7: John Culberson, R-Houston (one primary opponent, one Dem)

District 8: Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands (one Dem opponent)

District 11: GOP accountant Mike Conaway is not an incumbent, but he's the designated congressman of Speaker Tom Craddick and President George Bush. (one primary opponent, one Dem)

District 12: Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth (one Dem opponent)

District 13: Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon (no opponent)

District 14: Ron Paul, R-Clute (no opponent)

District 15: Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes (three GOP candidates)

District 16: Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso (two GOP candidates)

District 18: Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston (no opponent)

District 20: Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio (one primary opponent -- his ex-wife, one GOP candidate)

District 22: Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land (two Dem candidates)

District 23: Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio (two Dem opponents)

District 24: State Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, is not an incumbent, but the new 24 was drawn for him. (three primary opponents, one Dem)

District 26: Michael Burgess, R-Highland Village (one Dem opponent)

District 27: Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi (two GOP candidates)

District 29: Gene Green, D-Houston (the GOP tried to draw him out, but nobody else is running)

District 30: Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas (no opponent)

District 31: John Carter, R-Georgetown (two primary opponents, one Dem)

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