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Thursday , October 18 2018
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Report: ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering Gives TX GOP Unfair Advantage

HOUSTON — Redistricting designed to favor one political party has skewed election results in many states, and a new report says Texas is among the most extreme examples.

The Brennan Center report, called “Extreme Maps,” said partisan bias in drawing district lines in seven closely divided battleground states has given Republicans at least 16-17 additional seats in the current Congress.

According to report co-author Michael Li, gerrymandering in Texas is relatively easy because, despite being a mostly red state, is has pockets of blue that invite the party in power to skew the lines in their favor.

“Texas is a state that has a lot of purple territory,” Li said. “For example, Harris County is a 50-50 county, and you could say the same for the Dallas-Fort Worth area overall. And it’s those purple areas that give you the opportunity to gerrymander.”

Li said gerrymandering by Texas Republicans accounts for a significant portion of their 25-11 seat advantage in the state’s Congressional delegation. The report found that partisan bias in district maps in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina have accounted for seven to ten extra Republican seats since 2011.

Li said extreme distortion of political maps takes place when a single political party has control of the redistricting process.

“Simply by making sure that you have an inclusive process where lots of people – not only lawmakers from the other side, but also community members – can weigh in, you actually see these problems completely disappear,” he said.

Bias also was found in states where Democrats controlled redistricting, but those states have relatively fewer congressional districts and, therefore, less of an impact.

While courts have found that districts drawn to disadvantage minority groups are unconstitutional, gerrymandering for partisan gain has been allowed. But Li said there is now a sharp racial divide between the parties.

“That really shows you where the court’s jurisprudence is lacking,” Li said “And hopefully in the next year or so, the court will also say that partisan gerrymandering, in addition to racial gerrymandering, is out of bounds.”

A political gerrymandering case from Wisconsin may make it to the Supreme Court in the coming term.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

Will Hillary Clinton Compete for Texas?

WASHINGTON — Recent polls show Hillary Clinton within single digits of Donald Trump in Texas. And Clinton herself told a national magazine last month that she believed the Lone Star State was flippable.

So is a competitive fall presidential campaign coming to a precinct near you? Don’t count on it.

There is little evidence that the Clinton camp will mount a sustained campaign this fall for the state’s 38 electoral votes, according to more than a dozen interviews with state and national Democratic officeholders and operatives.

To be sure, the Democratic presumptive nominee herself fanned the chatter in May, when she told New York magazine that she thought Texas might be in play “if black and Latino voters come out and vote.” And both Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have a soft spot for the state, dating back to the time they spent in Texas as operatives working on behalf of George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign.

But no one interviewed for this story — people familiar with the Clinton campaign’s electoral strategy, Texas politics or both  — anticipates any sort of serious general election campaign targeting Texas voters in the fall.

“While I’m encouraged by these poll numbers, I take it with a whole shaker full of salt,” said former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost. “I think Texas is going to be in play at some point. I think it would take a lot for Texas to be in play, [but] I think Hillary will make it a closer race than in the past.”

In national politics, it’s assumed that at some indeterminate point, a booming Hispanic population will make Texas competitive.

But for now, Democrats view Texas as too conservative and too expensive.

In the most recent statewide contest, the GOP’s standard-bearer, Gov. Greg Abbott, carried the state in 2014 by a 20-point spread. And in these polarized times, presidential candidates do not organically win states their party has not regularly won in previous presidential elections. It would be a staggering development for Democrats to carry such a state without sustained television, field and voter registration campaigns.

It’s still early, but neither Clinton nor her allied groups have placed television advertising reservations in Texas. And in a dozen interviews with state and national Democratic operatives and officials, not one person said there was any evidence that the Clinton campaign was expecting that to change.

“I’m not hearing that anyone is going out of their way to do anything in Texas above what they always do,” said Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick, who is also a Democratic National Committee member.

There is a plausible argument that Trump’s inciting racial rhetoric is so uniquely galvanizing that Democrats have an opportunity to register and turn out the state’s dormant Hispanic voting population.

Patrick concurred that Trump presents an opening for Democrats for the future and he could imagine organized labor trying to take advantage of the situation to register Hispanic voters in the fall. But while that would be a smart long-term strategy to turn Texas competitive, national Democrats say they don’t see much chance for flipping the state in the short term.

Officially, the Clinton campaign indicated Texas is on the radar. “Hillary for America is committed to reaching voters in Texas and supporting Democrats down ballot now and in the future,” said Marlon Marshall, the director of State Campaigns and Political Engagement for the Clinton effort.

“While Hillary Clinton offers clear plans to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, Trump’s reckless rhetoric and divisive ideas continue to alienate diverse communities like those in Texas,” he added. “We look forward to engaging voters throughout this election on the choice they face for the future of this country.”

Even as most other Democrats downplay the state’s competitiveness in the fall, they are quick to caveat that their calculations are based on conditions as they stand now, in midsummer. Trump is running an underfunded and erratic campaign, prompting some to wonder if the bottom could fall out for him in Texas.

Judging by its June television advertising, the Clinton campaign and its allies groups are spending on the usual battleground states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia — according to NBC News.

There is also a possibility that Clinton may have to run a defense in Rust Belt states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But should the campaign feel confident and move to a further offensive position, Texas is still likely to remain on the back burner.

There are plenty of cheaper and more competitive states — like Arizona and Georgia — that will come before Texas.

Arizona is intriguing to national Democrats because it boasts an increasingly bitter Senate race, with embattled 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain on defense.

Thanks to a rigid redistricting map, Texas by contrast has few down-ballot Congressional opportunities for Democrats. There is no Senate race in the state this cycle, and there is only one competitive House race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its aligned outside groups are expected to fully invest in challenging U.S. Rep. Will Hurd in the Texas 23rd. Democrat Pete Gallego is vying to win back the seat after being defeated by Hurd two years ago.

But multiple national Democratic sources say they do not anticipate investment in Texas beyond that race.

The Clinton campaign recently unveiled a 50-state strategy, and the campaign is expected to install a state director in Texas soon. A Clinton source said the aim in Texas would be to begin laying groundwork for the future.

“It’s interesting if it gets closer,” said Frost. “That has implications for the future.”

Texas Republicans, of all groups, are perhaps the most enthused over the idea that the state could be in play in the fall.

Republicans say they would love to see Democrats drawn into what they view as a hopeless money pit. But also, within a state GOP torn over its own nominee, a Clinton offensive could be just what it takes to rally an otherwise morose group.

READ MORE Texas Republicans in Congress Not United Behind Trump
“The quickest way to activate disenfranchised GOP donors who won’t give to Trump would be an aggressive effort by Democrats to win the state,” said Brian Haley, a Texan who was a top fundraiser in two previous GOP presidential campaigns.

Abbott is one of multiple Republicans who have already sent fundraising emails on the notion.

“She has already made it known that winning Texas will be a focus of her campaign,” Abbott campaign director John Jackson wrote in a recent missive, referring to Clinton. “It’s clear that Hillary will not only continue Obama’s liberal leadership—she will be even worse!”

Trump, to be sure, unnerves some Texas Republicans who worry his rhetoric will repel a generation of Hispanic voters. But many caution that Texas Hispanics do not break down along monolithic party lines.

Chris Perkins, a Texas-based Republican pollster, warns that as polarizing Trump is, Clinton also has her own image struggles.

“Public polls do show that Donald Trump is not very well liked among Hispanic voters, but the theory that they’re going to turn out in record numbers for Hillary Clinton, somebody they also do not have a good opinion of — doesn’t make mathematical sense,” he said.

Author:   – The Texas Tribune

UT Poll: Most Texas Voters Support Banning Muslims, Building Border Wall

A majority of Texas’ registered voters believe Muslims who are not U.S. citizens should be banned from entering the country, according to results of a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll released Tuesday.

The survey found that 31 percent of voters “strongly supported” denying such people entry, with another 22 percent “somewhat” supporting the idea. Thirty-seven percent of voters opposed the effort while 10 percent expressed no preference.

Among Republicans, 76 percent said they would support banning non-U.S. citizen Muslims from entering the country. About 25 percent of voters who identified as Democrats agreed. 

A majority of the respondents of the survey, 51 percent, also favored the immediate deportation of undocumented immigrants, while 52 percent said they either “strongly” (34 percent) or “somewhat” (18 percent) supported building a wall between the United States and Mexico. Twenty-four percent of the Democrats supported immediate deportation compared with 73 percent of Republicans.

Seventy-six percent of the Republicans asked also favored a wall separating the two countries.

The poll also found that there is less-than-majority support for immigration reform with or without a path to eventual citizenship. Half of the respondents were asked about comprehensive immigration reform with a path toward citizenship for most undocumented immigrants: 24 percent of them “strongly” supported that idea, while 25 percent “somewhat” supported it.

The other half of the respondents were asked about immigration reform allowing legal residence but not citizenship: 20 percent said they “strongly” supported a path to legal status without citizenship, while 27 “somewhat” supported that idea. The margin of error for those questions is about +/- 4.07 and +/- 3.94 percentage points, respectively.

The poll of 1,200 registered voters was performed June 10-20 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Other results from the same survey, released Monday, show GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump leads Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 8 points in Texas. Trump has made banning Muslims and building a wall a centerpiece of his campaign.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Clobbered in the Northeast, Trump Claims “Presumptive Nominee”

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz lost all five states that held primaries Tuesday, an expected string of defeats that nonetheless put frontrunner Donald Trump closer to the nomination.

As soon as polls closed Tuesday night, the billionaire was projected to win three of the states: Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Similar outcomes were soon projected for Delaware and Rhode Island.

With well over half the vote in in all five states, Cruz was solidly in third place in four of them, trailing Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The lone exception was Pennsylvania, where Cruz was placing second with 21 percent, two points ahead of Kasich.

Cruz has already moved on from the Northeast, going all in on the next primary, which is being held May 3 in Indiana. At a rally in the Hoosier State as Tuesday’s results were coming in, Cruz acknowledged Trump was “expected to have a good night” and dismissed what he said would be a rush by the media to crown Trump the nominee.

“The media has told us the candidates in this race, the Republican and the Democrat, they’re both going to be New York liberals, but I’ve got good news for you: Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain,” Cruz told supporters inside Knightstown’s Hoosier Gym, best known for its role in the iconic basketball movie of the same name. “Tonight, this campaign moves back to Indiana and Nebraska and North Dakota and Montana and Washington and California.”

Appearing in New York to claim his sweep, Trump declared the race effectively over, calling himself the presumptive nominee. The billionaire also reiterated his criticism of the deal Cruz and Kasich have struck to split three upcoming primaries, calling it a “very weak signal.” Trump also spoke dismissively of Cruz’s increasingly public search for a running mate, saying the senator is “wasting his time.”

Cruz had entered Tuesday expecting a series of defeats, telling audiences as far back as a week ago that it would likely be another successful election day for Trump. In the run-up to the primaries, he had largely written off three of the five states, instead focusing on Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In Maryland, with 64 percent of the vote in, Cruz was coming in third with 19 percent and on track to collect zero delegates. The results were less clear in Pennsylvania, where Cruz’s campaign was hoping to have a significant amount of supporters among the 54 uncommitted delegates the state will send to the GOP’s national convention in Cleveland.

The one place where Cruz stood a chance of winning committed delegates was Rhode Island. By cracking 10 percent statewide and in one out of two congressional districts, he was on track to score three delegates.

Cruz is scheduled to continue campaigning Wednesday in Indiana, with a retail stop scheduled for the morning and a rally for the evening in Indianapolis. He is expected to spend much of time in the Hoosier State between now and its primary.

Author: Patrick Svitek – 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

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