Doggett Draws District 35 Challenger
There are already rumblings from the proposed district designed to oust Doggett
Republican efforts to oust Austin's Congressman Lloyd Doggett are starting to bear fruit: Last week, the Texas Tribune broke the news that state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, intends to run for the proposed new Congressional District 35, which would run from East Austin to San Antonio.
GOP map-drawers created District 35 partly to comply with federal mandates for "minority opportunity districts" – those in which minorities have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice – but also to get rid of Doggett, one of their mortal enemies. They redrew his District 25 in a way that makes it impossible for him to win, taking away most of his East Austin base and matching him with the conservative Hill Country, running north almost to Fort Worth. Doggett said that although he believes the map is illegal, "I'm ready to live in a Winnebago if that's what it takes," meaning that if the map withstands the inevitable court scrutiny (and assuming Gov. Rick Perry signs it into law), Doggett would move into the more winnable District 35.
Republicans have tried this before: Back in 2003, under the infamous "re-redistricting" led by then-U.S. House Majority Leader (and now convicted felon) Tom DeLay, they similarly made Doggett's old District 10 unwinnable for a Democrat, and drew District 25 to stretch from East Austin to the Mexican border, figuring the latter would be too Hispanic for a liberal Anglo to win. But Doggett moved into the district and won. A 2006 court decision later changed District 25's boundaries, and he currently represents southeast Travis County and several rural Central Texas counties.
As the Tribune notes, this race – again, assuming courts allow the bizarrely shaped district to stand – would pit an old political veteran against a rising star. Doggett, 64, was first elected to the Texas Senate in 1972, served on the Texas Supreme Court, and has been in Congress since 1995; Castro is only 36 and was elected to the Texas House in 2002; his twin brother is mayor of San Antonio.
"I've mixed it up with Republicans, and I haven't been shy about it, but I've also found a way to be effective by working with others and not alienating anyone," Castro told the Tribune, clearly referring to Doggett.
"Though Mr. Castro has not represented this district, he is apparently seizing this Republican-created opportunity instead of running from his own state legislative district to help us regain the majority," Doggett said in an emailed statement. "Most everyone but the Republicans agrees that this scheme violates the Voting Rights Act. I see this as more an election about them than him."