Proposed congressional district map would mean changes for Crossroads

Sonny Long

Nov. 23, 2011 at 5:23 a.m.
Updated Nov. 24, 2011 at 5:24 a.m.

A proposed map drawing new lines for Texas congressional districts would put Victoria County in a newly created District 34 that includes Lavaca, Calhoun and Jackson counties.

Victoria County was in District 14 that included Galveston. The new district includes part of Nueces County, including Corpus Christi.

"We're basically replacing one large coastal city with another large coastal city," George Matthews, Victoria County election administrator, said Wednesday. "Because of our population, Victoria County will have some influence, but Corpus Christi will have the most."

For a number of years, Matthews said, Victoria was the most heavily populated county in its congressional district, but redistricting efforts that began more than 20 years ago have eroded that influence.

"Then we were shifted up closer to the Fort Bend County and Galveston areas," he said. "This new map looks like it might also include part of the western Harris County, and that could be heavily populated, too."

District 34 will also include Matagorda, Aransas, Gonzales, Wharton, Austin, Colorado and part of Bastrop counties.

Kelli Gill, Victoria County Democratic Party chairwoman, said at initial glance the map looks favorable from a Democratic point of view.

"They are giving back some of the minority districts that were gerrymandered out," Gill said.

"The Republican primary could be hotly contested, and Democrats will need to find a strong candidate to make this a winnable district," Gill said.

The proposed map also takes Lavaca County out of the district that included part of Travis County in the last election.

The 25th Congressional District included Lavaca County and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, won re-election with 53 percent of the vote over Republican challenger Donna Campbell.

DeWitt County would be in District 28 that winds all the way down to the border in Starr County.

Goliad and Refugio counties join Bee and San Patricio counties in District 15 that also goes to the border, to Hidalgo County.

The new maps, proposed by the U.S. Western District Court in San Antonio, would serve as interim maps until court battles over maps put forth by the Texas Legislature are settled.

Minority groups have sued the state claiming the political maps drawn by Republican lawmakers do not reflect the growth in the state's Hispanic and black population, according to the Associated Press.

In a separate case in Washington, D.C., a federal court refused to approve maps without a trial, agreeing with the Department of Justice that there was sufficient evidence to question whether it hurt minority representation, according to the AP.

Lawmakers redraw districts every 10 years to reflect changes in census data. Texas is adding four additional congressional seats in 2012, a reflection of the state's rapid population growth.

Experts say three of those new seats would have gone to Republicans under the legislative map. Republican leaders said those districts were drawn to benefit their party, not hurt minority voters.

When drawing the interim map, the court gave priority to ensuring that minority voting strength was protected in the 2012 election. Minority voters make up the majority in 13 of the districts in the court-drawn map, while minority voters make up the majority in only 10 of the current districts, according to the AP.

That gives Democrats a greater chance of winning three of the new congressional seats. It also helps Democrats' national efforts to gain 25 seats and win back the House.

More than 87 percent of the population growth in Texas since 2000 has been among minorities. In 2010, whites in Texas dropped to less than 50 percent of the population, but they still make up the vast majority of elected officials, according to the AP.

The court is seeking comments about the map from the parties by noon Friday.



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