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Proposed map would put 2 incumbent Republican state reps in same district

By Sonny Long
Nov. 21, 2011 at 5:21 a.m.


PARTY FAVORITES

Current District: 30

Party Affiliation: Republican

Number of Terms Served: 7

Current Term Expires: 2013

Key Committees: Human Services, vice chair; sits on Appropriations committee

Current District: 32

Party Affiliation: Republican

Number of Terms Served: 6

Current Term Expires: 2013

Key Committees: Chairs Election Contest Committee and Calendar Committee; sits on Redistricting, Corrections, Human Services, General Investigating and Ethics committees

Geanie Morrison's toughest challenge in getting re-elected to an eighth term in the Texas Legislature could come from a fellow incumbent Republican after a federal judicial panel's proposed redistricting map placed them both in the same district.

Morrison, in her seventh term, and six-term Rep. Todd Hunter, of Corpus Christi, would both be in the revamped District 32 that would include not only part of Hunter's home county of Nueces, but also Victoria, Calhoun and Aransas counties.

"I'm disappointed that the court disregarded the will of the Legislature, especially as it pertains to our area," Morrison said Monday.

"House District 30 was completely dismantled. I believe that the map could have been redrawn in a manner that better protects communities of interests, without having to pair two senior members in South Texas."

Hunter's current District 32 includes Calhoun, Aransas, San Patricio and part of Nueces counties. Morrison's current District 30 includes Refugio, Victoria, Jackson, DeWitt and Lavaca counties.

"I was very surprised that they would combine two senior Republican members. It is a very awkward situation," Hunter said. "The district is a strong conservative, Republican district. It may end up being the only Republican district in South Texas."

Morrison said she and Hunter have worked well together in the Texas House.

"That's not the issue," she said. "The way the map was drawn is the issue."

Not a done deal

The map, revealed late last week, was one of three proposed by the panel - one map for the Texas Senate and two for the Texas House. The second house plan was proposed by panel member Judge Jerry Smith, who is on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hunter said it was important to remember that the situation continues to be fluid until final federal approval.

"It's not final yet," he said. "As a lawyer, I find it an interesting legal process."

If approved, the maps will remain in place for state House and Senate districts until there is a resolution to lawsuits filed over the Legislature's proposals - likely through the 2012 elections.

Earlier this month, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that the Texas Legislature "used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice" in coming up with its proposed maps. The court ordered an interim map be drawn by the panel of federal judges, according to court documents.

Ironically, Hunter sits on the Texas House committee on redistricting that helped come up with the Legislature's proposed maps.

"This certainly isn't the same plan," he said.

Victoria reaction

Michael Cloud, Victoria County Republican Party chairman, was more vehement in assessing the most recent redistricting development.

"This decision from the federal court to redraw the maps is another example both of the judiciary legislating from the bench and of our federal government's overreach into state matters," Cloud said. "The original maps were drawn by the representatives the citizens of Texas elected to perform the state's business.

"It is disappointing to see unelected federal judges catering to special interests over the represented will of the people of the state of Texas," Cloud said.

Victoria County Democratic Party Chairwoman Kelli Gill called the interim maps proposed by the federal court in San Antonio "a vast improvement from the original gerrymandered maps written by the Republican-led Legislature that would have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Hispanic voters across the state."

"Pairing Republican Reps. Hunter and Morrison against each other will make for an interesting primary within Victoria County," Gill said.

She predicted Morrison would be in trouble against Hunter.

"Given the maps hold, Republican voters will have the option between choosing a more pragmatic legislator versus a legislator who typically tows the party line and introduced some unsatisfactory bills in the last Legislature," she said. "Republican friends and family members who I've spoken with residing in Victoria County are tired of partisan bickering and want our legislators to focus on solutions."

Filing begins Monday for the March Democratic and Republican primaries.

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