Texas Primaries Loom as Redistricting Lawsuits Drop
New maps and new challenges
New Maps, New Challenges
As we reported last week, even before Gov. Greg Abbott had signed into law the fruits of the Legislature's quick and dirty redistricting process, the new lines on Texas' electoral maps were under fire in court. A suit filed in federal court in El Paso by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of more than a dozen Texas Latino plaintiffs has now been joined by a case filed in Austin that's part of the national Democratic watchdog effort led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Both cases allege that Texas has violated (again) Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by managing to draw maps with fewer "opportunity districts" than exist currently, in which Black and/or Latinx voters, together or separately, can elect the candidates of their choice without being overruled by white voters. This retrogression used to be a no-brainer VRA violation that GOP mapmakers would go to lengths to avoid (or pretend to), but the Lege and Abbott (and his brand-new Secretary of State John Scott) appear willing to roll the dice with the ever-more-GOP-friendly federal courts. The two lawsuits detail the ample evidence from the legislative record that Texas never even attempted to meet its VRA obligations, despite 95% of its population growth since 2010 being among its residents of color. The MALDEF suit asks the court to kick the maps back to the Lege or draw its own maps that don't dilute Latinx voting strength statewide; the Holder suit, which focuses on the congressional map, asks the court to order up two new Latinx-majority districts in South Texas as well as new opportunity districts in Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth.
More Districts, More Candidates
Filing for the 2022 primaries begins in two weeks, on Nov. 13; unless the courts quickly and thoroughly set the new maps on fire, no delays in the election calendar are expected while the litigation plays out. So people need to hustle! While 2018 and 2020 candidate Julie Oliver, state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, and Texas Dem standard-bearer Wendy Davis have all not ruled out running in the new TX-37, a safe Dem seat anchored in Central Austin, the entry of current TX-35 U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett into that primary has sucked up much of the oxygen. Across the highway, where Doggett's current seat will continue to link the Eastside to the Alamo, state Reps. Eddie Rodriguez of Austin and Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio – who were allies when Rodriguez ran for the Texas Senate seat now held by Sarah Eckhardt, who is also not running for Congress, yet – have both expressed interest in TX-35, where Austin Council Member Greg Casar has all but announced his campaign.
Down ballot, the new maps' reordering of Texas House seats across the Hill Country has dictated the plans of multiple incumbents and former challengers. Current HD 20 Rep. Terry Wilson of Marble Falls says he'll move to stay in that district, which now lies in Williamson County. Current HD 73 Rep. (and 1/6 participant) Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg says he won't move to stay in that district, which now lies in Hays and Comal counties, and will run for something "closer to home," perhaps a Gillespie County post. Both Wilson and Biedermann live in the new HD 19, along with the crimson redoubts of Western Travis County. Former CM Ellen Troxclair, who for months was running for the Senate, switched to HD 19 after the Senate map turned foul for her; she's now likely to face erstwhile ally and 2020 candidate Justin Berry in that primary, while another 2020 GOP nominee, Carrie Isaac, may have the solidly red HD 73 all to herself. Berry and Isaac's respective opponents a year ago, Reps. Vikki Goodwin and Erin Zwiener, now have safely blue seats for the foreseeable future.