• May 16, 2022
 Analysis: Political eyes are not all on the Texas prize you think

Graphic by Todd Wiseman

Analysis: Political eyes are not all on the Texas prize you think

The idea animating many political candidates, consultants and donors in Texas in 2020 is one that’s way down the list of concerns for many Texas voters: redistricting.

The 150-member Texas House has 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats, creating a GOP majority that could flip to Democrats if the minority party could wrest away nine spots.

Leave aside, for a moment, just how difficult that might be. Consider instead the interest it’s generating both inside and outside of the state.

The legislators elected in 2020 will draw the next set of political maps for the state’s congressional and legislative seats. Right now, Republicans hold the governor’s office and majorities in both the state House and Senate — a trifecta that virtually ensures the resulting maps will favor their party.

Winning a Democratic majority in the Texas House would give Democrats some leverage over at least some of the maps the state will use for the next decade of elections. Specifically, it could break the GOP’s control over the congressional maps that will be drawn after the 2020 census. At the very least, it would allow the Democrats to prevent Republicans from drawing those maps — and to throw the political cartography to federal judges instead of Texas politicians.

Republicans, for obvious reasons, like the numbers just the way they are. Because of its growth, Texas is expected to gain more seats before it draws those districts, and Republicans would like to remain in charge.

Other 2020 contests will get more attention. That presidential race you might have heard about, for instance. And after Texas Democrats choose from the growing list of relative unknowns running for the U.S. Senate, the challenge to Republican incumbent John Cornyn will get a fair amount of attention.

Sometimes, the important attractions are sideshows. In this case, the downballot races for federal and state legislative jobs could be, over time, the most consequential races on the Texas ballot.

In the normal course of things, redistricting maps go through the Legislature just like any other bills, approved by the House, approved by the Senate and signed by the governor.

Unlike most bills, however, the content of redistricting bills — new maps — have to be drawn. If the Legislature can’t draw them, others take up the task.

Congressional maps go straight to federal court if the people in the Texas Capitol can’t reach a compromise.

For Republicans, that would introduce a wild card — federal judges — who probably won’t draw the maps Republicans, left to their own devices, would prefer. For Democrats, that’s not such a bad deal. Sure, they’d like to draw their own maps, but the governor is a Republican and 2020 doesn’t look like an election where the minority party has even a rumor of a chance to take over the Senate.

Winning a majority in the Texas House, however farfetched that might turn out to be, is the Democrats’ best chance to throw the congressional maps to the courts. The result could be crummy for them — but the bet is they’d be less crummy than whatever a Republican majority might draw.

When it comes to legislative maps, the Democrats can’t turn Texas blue enough in 2020 to control redistricting in 2021. The numbers aren’t there, and the seats they really need won’t be on the 2020 ballot. The Senate is likely out of reach, and the governor is not on the ballot. But when the Legislature can’t find a compromise on legislative maps, the chore passes to a mostly dormant committee called the Legislative Redistricting Board.

And in this case, the Republicans have that panel all locked up. Its five members are the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House, the attorney general, the comptroller and the land commissioner. Right now, all five are Republicans: Dan Patrick, Dennis Bonnen, Ken Paxton, Glenn Hegar and George P. Bush. Four of them — everybody but Bonnen — won’t be on the 2020 ballot. Even if the House flips to the Democrats and a Democrat becomes speaker, the redistricting board would have four Republicans and a Democrat.

Don’t expect the next set of legislative political maps to be a delight for Democrats.

But the congressional maps, if the Democrats could swing the House, might be a different story. And the congressional maps are what Democrats outside of Texas are interested in.

The presidency is at the top of the lists: Republicans want to defend the incumbent, and Democrats want to send him home. Democrats have their eye on the U.S. Senate seat in Texas, and they have already put their stamp on efforts to try to flip a half-dozen of the Texas congressional seats now held by Republicans.

But both parties really want to draw those new congressional districts. And the map to that treasure goes through the Texas House.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: Ross Ramsey – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune


The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. Facebook (@TexasTribune) Twitter (@TexasTribune) Instagram (@Texas_Tribune)

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  • 5 Million democrat Californians should move to Texas to change our rig political demographics and start kicking republicans out of our state and turn it back to a beautiful Blue State.

    • Why don’t you just move back to Commiefornia and wait for the quake?

    • They already have moron. It didn’t help. You were one of the idiots that came from Commiefornia. Texas will stay red. BTW – Obviously you can read or comprehend. Reread the article loser.

    • Alberto is so funny yet totally delusional. Have fun trying to kick out Republicans from Texas moron. My AR15 is ready to go.

      Alberto for prison 2019!

  • When I left El Paso for San Francisco back in 1988, I’ll admit, I was down on my luck! unemployment in El Paso has horrible. The cities growth was stagnant when there were over 40 thousand people looking for work! But then the US Naval reserve called me one morning at my home, they asked me to join the Navy Reserve Weekend Warrior program. OK so I did, and I was assigned to the USS Texas CGN 39 reserve unit home ported in Naval Air Station Alameda California. But most of my reserve training took place here in El Paso.
    San Francisco was loaded with work demand, so I decided to stay in the Bay Area and land me a good paying job. When I left El Paso for California, Texas was a BLUE State and Ann Richards was our Governor! and California was a Red State they had a republican governor and it’s people voted republican for the longest time.
    But then came the era of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION and republican governor Pete Wilson was a racist just like all the rest of the republicans. We VOTED HIM OUT! and gradually slowly but surely California started to turn BLUE! Unfortunately back in Texas.
    Karl Rowe and the Bush family hijacked this state and turned it Red! I didn’t care, California gave me everything I wanted. Including the freedom to smoke marijuana without any fear of getting busted! GOSH! that was an American FREEDOM that most Texans will never experience in their lives.
    I never planed to return back to El Paso, but learned never to say never. OK! So now I’m home FOR GOOD and to STAY! and RETIRED!
    I can see that El Paso has grown tremendously! it wasn’t that way back in 1988! My first thought was: Where did all these people come from?
    Fort Bliss played an important role in the BRAC alignment and base expansion, but Fort Bliss lost it’s Air Defense to Fort Sill Oklahoma. And the Army brought in some racist deplorable bigots.
    You see! Mad Mike and Fero were not here before! they were kicked out of the Army,went back home to where the came from. And return back to El Paso as undesirable DRIFTERS!
    And they claim to have AR-15 assault rifles! why do they need these type of military guns for????
    We all know what these military weapons are used for! These are not our typical hunting rifles! they are used for killing people in mass numbers.
    El Paso has being Blessed that we have not had mass shootings like those in Florida,Las Vegas,Sandy Hook and New Zealand or elsewhere.
    But sorry to say that the Army is not sending us some of their best, Mad Mike and Fero are an example!
    These two are white nationalist supremacist racist bigots. Also known as trumpTURD DEPLORABLE’S!
    Any descent American can tell you that we don’t watch Fox, DEEP STATE PROPAGANDA FAKE News!
    So El Paso Texas, a city with 88% Hispanic population and our sister city of Juarez Mexico with a population of over 1 and a half million. And yet we have white nationalist supremacist bigots like Mad Mike, Fero, Gee Dubb over at KKKVIA forum, Jerry Rodol and other degenerates!
    They should all be in prison locked up waiting for Donald Trump to join them in 2021!
    So they can all be together wearing the same prison uniforms.
    Fero can stick his AR-15 UP HIS ASS HOLE and rotate on it by spinning fast! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! Come and get some BOY?

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