87th LegislatureElections 2022State SenateProposed Texas Senate Map Would Shore Up Support for Most Incumbents

The proposed map would create one new Republican district while eliminating most competitive seats based on recent voting patterns.
September 20, 2021
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The special legislative session for redistricting in Texas is here and the chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), has released a new map of proposed boundaries for the upper chamber.

Huffman’s plan, proposed under Senate Bill (SB) 4, makes some drastic changes to the existing map to account for the population changes over the past decade and in the process shores up support for most incumbent senators.

Looking at election data provided by reports from the Texas Legislative Council, the new plan would cut out most partisan competition and give Republicans control of 19 districts while leaving Democrats with the other 12 seats.

The calculation used in The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index (TPI) — based on the median votes between Republicans and Democrats in statewide races during the 2018 and 2020 general elections — shows that the GOP would only be likely to gain one new seat in the next election: Senate District (SD) 10 in Tarrant County.

Held by Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Burleson), the current boundaries of SD 10 has a TPI of D-51% (i.e. Democrats on the ballot won in 2018-2020 with about 51 percent of the vote). The proposed map would shift that to a safe Republican seat with a TPI of R-59%.

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In 2011, Republican senators attempted to redistrict SD 10 in their favor, but their efforts were halted by the courts on the basis that it violated the Voting Rights Act by shifting its demographics to be an Anglo-majority district instead of a minority-majority district.

The shift in demographics this time is not as drastic, leaving the population of non-Anglos at 50.7 percent, though based on the voting age population, Anglos would have a majority of 53.5 percent.

Powell has called the proposal a “direct assault on the voting rights of minority citizens” in the district and says she “will do everything” in her power “to stop this direct, discriminatory, and illegal attack on their voting rights.”

Though there is still plenty of time for Huffman’s bill to be amended and a new plan proposed, the major changes to SD 10 suggest that the fight over its boundaries may very well end up in the courts once again.

While the proposed map could lead to Republicans gaining the most competitive Democrat-held seat, the other two competitive Democratic districts — Sen. Nathan Johnson’s (D-Dallas) SD 16 and Sen. Roland Gutierrez’s (D-San Antonio) SD 19 — would gain more Democratic voters.

SD 16 would shift from a TPI of D-52% to D-62%, and SD 19 would shift from D-55% to D-57%.

Those changes would make Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr.’s (D-Brownsville) SD 27 the most competitive Senate district in Texas. While the TPI in the current map is D-63%, it would become a D-57% district slightly below Gutierrez’s seat under the proposed map.

That shift could benefit Lucio, though, since he is widely perceived as one of the most moderate Democrats in the Senate and has faced contentious primary elections from more progressive candidates in the recent past.

For Republicans, the new map also does a lot to shore up support in districts that have become more moderate throughout the past 10 years.

Huffman herself has the most moderate Republican seat in SD 17 with a current TPI of R-51%, but her new map would bolster that to an R-62% district.

Similarly, Sens. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) and Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) would have their R-53% seats of SD 8 and SD 9 shifted to R-60% and R-59%, respectively.

To help account for the boost, some of the stronger Republican districts have become weaker.

Most notably is SD 30, held by Sen. Drew Springer (R-Muenster), which would have a TPI shift of R-75% to R-63%.

Though Springer’s district currently stretches into the outer portion of Collin County, the proposed map would give that section to Paxton and make up for the population by picking up the city of Frisco that’s closer to the center of the DFW metroplex.

To a lesser extent, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s (R-Brenham) SD 18 would shift from R-64% to R-61%, with many of the counties in her district to be handed over to Huffman’s seat.

Some other districts saw notable geographic changes without necessarily a partisan shift.

For instance, the two main districts in West Texas — SD 31 and SD 28 — traded some counties in the panhandle and Hill Country regions.

Only two senators would be paired under the proposal, but one, Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway), has already launched a campaign to be the state’s land commissioner.

Buckingham’s SD 24 will no longer include portions of Travis County where she lives, but will now dip into Williamson County and stretch around to Atascosa County south of San Antonio.

Coincidentally or not, that portion of Atascosa includes where a former Republican state senator for SD 19, Pete Flores, lives. With the release of the new maps, Flores has launched a campaign for SD 24 and was already endorsed by Buckingham.

Senators will have the next month to amend and approve the new maps for state Senate, state House, State Board of Education (SBOE), and congressional maps.

So far, only Huffman’s Senate proposal as well as a proposal from her for the SBOE districts have been released.

Plans will need to be approved by the appropriate House and Senate committees before going before each chamber for additional votes. The Senate redistricting committee will consider Huffman’s maps on the Senate and SBOE during hearings scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

A spreadsheet comparison of the TPI for the current map and proposed Senate one can be found here.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.