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May 31st, 2011
Updated: Doggett slams congressional redistricting proposal

UPDATED: U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, whose District 25 currently includes Hays County, gave the following statement to The Mercury this afternoon: “Splitting Hays County in thirds is as outrageous as carving Travis County into fifths. But there is nothing crazy about this cunning and devious plan to divide Kyle, Buda and San Marcos. Instead of one advocate devoted to Texas State and other local interests, three crooked congressional districts will make it difficult for citizens to know who represents them. This is just the latest version of efforts initiated by Congressman Lamar Smith to drown the voices of Hispanics in a Tea Party sea. No wonder Republicans have kept their maps hidden and their lips sealed. Their outrageous plan will result in congressmembers, who are less accessible, less accountable, and more beholden to monied, special interests, as election costs soar in these bizarre districts. This proposal does a real disservice to families across Hays County.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hays County, which in the last decade has been represented in Congress by everyone from U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo to U.S. Ron Paul of Lake Jackson would have three congressmen under a new redistricting map released today by the chairmen of the Legislature’s redistricting committees.

Under the proposal, which will be considered in a special legislative session, the easternmost part of the county would fall in the new congressional district 35, one of the additional seats the state has coming its way under the new census results. The western half of the county would fall in District 25, a seat held by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett. The center part of the county, including much of San Marcos, would fall in Lamar Smith’s District 21.

by ROSS RAMSEY

Now there’s a congressional map.

Texas lawmakers finished their own redistricting maps during the regular session, but waited until the first day of their special session to unveil a congressional redistricting proposal. It’s available online at the Texas Legislative Council’s website. It’s a joint effort by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton — the chairmen, respectively, of the House and Senate redistricting committees.

It includes a district for each of the current 32 incumbents and adds four new open seats, two of them with blacks and Hispanics in the majority. Those two districts voted for Democrat Bill White in the last gubernatorial election the other two new districts gave more than 56 percent of their vote to Republican Rick Perry.

The new open seats are west of the DFW Metroplex in Parker and Wise counties; in Central Texas stretching south from Austin to San Antonio; in South Texas in a district that stretches from the Rio Grande north to Lavaca County; and in Houston and East Texas in a district that starts in Houston and loops to the north and then east and then south in a horseshoe that ends in Jefferson County on the Louisiana border.

The map includes 14 congressional districts where black and Hispanic voters make up a majority of the population. All but three of those are Hispanic districts, and three of the 14 have Republican incumbents: Reps. Joe Barton of Ennis, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, and Francisco Canseco of San Antonio. The new districts in Central and South Texas, have minority majority populations.

No incumbents got paired in the same districts, but not all of them got off scott-free. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, would go from a current district where Rick Perry won 41 percent of the vote in November 2010 to a new one where the Republican governor got 55 percent. Farenthold would get some partisan cover in the new map; his current district gave Perry 49 percent, while his new one gave the governor 57 percent. Canseco’s improves a bit, too, going from just under 50 percent for the governor to just over 53 percent.

Perry hasn’t put congressional redistricting on the agenda of the special session, but is expected to so do if legislators can show they’ve got the support to pass it without a long and contentious fight.

See a zoomable version of the map at the Texas Legislative Council website here.

ROSS RAMSEY is editor of The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Hays Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.

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