by JEN BIUNDO
Travis County Democrats are howling at a recently approved redistricting map that shuffles the capital city into four separate state senate districts, none of them based in Austin.
But Hays County is facing its own redistricting indignities. Under the redrawn lines, Hays County Commissioners will deliberate their agendas in the county courthouse, which will be represented in the senate with a seat based in Laredo. Upon adjournment, they could walk across Hopkins Street for a drink at the Tap Room, represented by a senate seat based in San Antonio.
The proposed redistricting map slices through downtown San Marcos and bisects the city of Kyle, leading local leaders on both sides of the aisle to worry the new map could compromise Hays County’s representation in the Texas Senate and dilute the influence of Hays County’s minority population.
“I’m more in favor of keeping Hays County all together if we can,” said Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones.
Hays County currently sits in Senate District 25, now represented by Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio). The newly approved map shaves off half of San Marcos, eastern portions of Kyle, and the towns of Niederwald and Uhland, placing them into the 21st District, currently represented by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).
“To be perfectly frank with you, when I saw the new configuration I was shocked,” said Zaffirini, who has served in the Senate since 1987. Her district, which previously extended from the border to Bexar County, now reaches into eastern Travis County, a length of nearly 250 miles. But she added that she’s up for the challenge.
“I’m known for my work ethic and I will do my very best to represent every county in my district,” Zaffirini said. “I’m delighted to represent Hays and Travis counties.”
In the Buda-Kyle area, precincts 127, 229 and 234 would head into Zaffirini’s district. In San Marcos, precincts 110–114 and 116 would make the change.
“That concerns me that it’s dividing us up that way,” said Pct. 1 commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, whose constituency would be split into two senate seats. “I’m not sure if we would be well represented. I just feel that we need somebody that is more local, that understands the issues that we’re dealing with in this area.”
Hays County’s east side has historically been home to a heavily Hispanic population, which tends to vote Democratic. The proposed map pulls a large proportion of Hays County’s Latino population out of Wentworth’s district and tosses them into Zaffirini’s border district, which was already 71 percent Hispanic.
“Senator Zaffirini has her hands full with major border issues that have no direct impact on us,” said Buda councilmember Sandra Tenorio. “Just because we’re all minority doesn’t mean we have everything in common. A Hays County Hispanic doesn’t have everything in common with a Laredo Hispanic.”
The Senate approved the map in a 29-2 split earlier this month, with the Democratic minority saying they were more worried about the map that could be created by the Legislative Redistricting Board if lawmakers couldn’t come to terms. Democrats promise that they’ll contest the redistricting in court, claiming it will dilute the representation of minorities.
“It’s packing and cracking at its worst,” Zaffirini said, referring to redistricting strategies of “packing” minorities into a single district to reduce their influence, and “cracking” the remainder among many other districts.
Though Republicans already hold a 19-12 majority in the state senate, the new map could shore up their position and flip some seats red.
Next up will be congressional redistricting, which may shuffle Hays County out of Congressmen Lloyd Doggett’s Austin-based seat. Congressional redistricting maps have not yet been made public.
Hays County will likely fare better in redistricting for its state House seat. Currently, Jason Isaac’s District 45 represents Hays, Caldwell and Blanco Counties. Following a decade of growth, current proposals call for District 45 to lose Blanco County, which has just under 10,000 residents, but otherwise remain unchanged.
The state must undergo a redistricting process every ten years, following the results of the decennial Census.
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A couple of additions. Precinct 120 would also be in the new SD 21. This precinct includes a number of Student-Oriented apartment complexes in the Aquarena Springs/Uhland Road area. I’m also under the impression that the new HD 45 will include Hays and Blanco, and Caldwell will be in HD 17. The story has this reversed.