87th LegislatureFederalState HouseState SenateTexas Legislature to Consider Congressional Redistricting Proposal That Adds Seats to Austin, Houston

A new congressional map has been proposed for Texas, which would largely build up defenses for Republicans in competitive seats.
September 27, 2021
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Following a week of discussion on newly proposed maps for the state Senate and the State Board of Education, Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) filed Senate Bill (SB) 6 proposing new lines for the congressional districts in Texas.

The Lone Star State boomed enough in population relative to other states to gain two additional districts, TX-37 and TX-38, which Huffman’s plan proposes to place in the Austin and Houston areas, respectively.

Proposed congressional map Plan C2101. Image from the Texas Legislative Council.

While the current makeup of the delegation from Texas includes 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats, the proposed map would increase the number of Republicans to at least 24 or possibly 25, depending on the outcome of the next election.

Democrats would be expected to gain the new congressional seat placed in Austin, but the proposal could put the South Texas district belonging to Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15) in jeopardy for the party.

Votes in many of the border counties saw drafted shifts toward Republicans when Trump was on the ballot in 2020, continuing a trend that was seen even in 2018 when many other places in the state drifted toward Democrats.

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In that 2020 election, Gonzalez walked away with only 50.5 percent of the vote, and his Republican opponent, Monica De La Cruz Hernandez, has already launched her campaign bid for the seat.

While Biden carried the current TX-15 district in 2020 with nearly the same percentage as Gonzalez’s victory, Trump would have carried the proposed district with 50.8 percent.

If the lines are adopted as proposed — though amendments on the legislation will likely be tacked on as the plan works its way through the process — the district would be set to be the most competitive congressional district in Texas.

But even with the shift toward Republicans, it could still stay in Democrats’ hands if the tides turn again, as Beto O’Rourke would have carried the proposed district in his 2018 senate campaign with 55.6 percent of the vote.

Aside from Gonzalez’s district, Huffman’s proposal would achieve generally the same thing that her other maps would do: shore up support for incumbents in competitive seats.

Some number-crunching shows that The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index (TPI) for the proposed map would leave only two districts in the competitive territory where Republicans or Democrats typically won between 2018 and 2020 with less than 55 percent of the vote: Gonzalez’s TX-15 with a TPI of D-53% and Rep. Tony Gonzales’ (R-TX-23) similarly competitive border district with a TPI of R-54%.

Eight other Republican-held seats that are currently in that territory and two other Democrat-held seats would swing seven to 13 points toward the party of the incumbent.

To achieve that shift, some of the ultra-Republican rural districts have dipped further into the suburbs while suburban districts tend to gain some more rural counties.

For instance, TX-13 is one of the most Republican districts in the country and sweeps across the Texas panhandle, but the proposed map would give it an arm that reaches into the heart of the more densely populated Denton County.

Similarly, the more competitive district of TX-22 that is centralized in Fort Bend County would lose many of its Democratic voters in Fort Bend and Harris counties. While the bulk of the population would remain in Rep. Troy Nehls’ (R-TX-22) home of Fort Bend, it would pull in more Republican voters from the less populated counties of Wharton and Matagorda.

In neighboring Harris County, the addition of a new congressional seat and the shuffling of the existing ones would leave two sets of lawmakers living in the same district.

Though not as consequential as the pairing of incumbents into the same state legislative maps since there is not the same requirement for congressional candidates to live in their district, living outside of the boundaries is often frowned upon by some voters.

According to a report from the Texas Legislative Council, Reps. Al Green (D-TX-09) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) would both be within TX-09, while Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02) would be in Rep. Sylvia Garcia’s (D-TX-29) district.

In a similar situation, state Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton) launched a campaign for TX-24 earlier this year. But under Huffman’s proposal, the entire portion of Denton County where Beckley lives would no longer be in that district.

However, the maps are not official yet and could be changed by lawmakers or even enjoined by the courts.

And the proposed demographic shift in TX-24 — with an Anglo population changing from 42.5 percent to 61.6 percent — means that it could be another focal point for litigation like state Senate District 10 in Tarrant County has been.

Both of the new congressional districts would be Anglo-majority, though two safe Republican seats would shift Anglos to the minority.

TX-11 in West Texas would shift from an Anglo population of 53.4 percent to 43.7 percent, while TX-08 north of Harris County would shift from an Anglo population of 58.2 percent to 44.8 percent. The two districts would continue to favor Republicans with TPIs of R-71% and R-65%, respectively.

A spreadsheet comparison of the TPI ratings for the current and proposed maps 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.