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Population growth by legislative district

Some nice work by the Trib here.

Our new interactive map visualizes population changes by district for the total population and residents who are of Hispanic origin. These totals are especially important now given that lawmakers are preparing to redraw these districts based on their growth, demographics and election histories.

The data behind the map reveal some interesting trends. As we’ve seen, suburban areas around Texas’ largest cities saw the robust growth in the Hispanic population — both in raw totals and rate. That means suburban representatives — most of whom are Republicans — are seeing an influx of potential voters from a group that has traditionally favored Democrats.

You can see the map here. As a companion to that, bookmark the Texas Legislative Council’s redistricting page, in particular the ones that show election returns by Senate and House districts.

That serves nicely as a lead in to this Trib story about the challenges the mapmakers will face, and who’s in for a rough couple of months while they’re working it all out.

In any conversation about who is vulnerable in the redistricting process, the four freshmen from West Texas always rise to the top of the list. Sure enough, when the census numbers came out, that part of Texas lagged behind the state’s overall growth; there aren’t enough people there to justify the number of state representatives in the Legislature. Two will have to go. It’s not at all clear this early who’ll be on the list, but two things stand out. State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, is interested in running for the Texas Railroad Commission and won’t be back, so that seat will be easy to delete. And of the four Republican freshmen, Rep. Jim Landtroop of Plainview is the least well-anchored. Rep. Walter “Four” Price is based in Amarillo, and John Frullo and Charles Perry call Lubbock home. Only 22,194 people live in Plainview, and the 16-county district is spread out like a crucifix that reaches from north of Lubbock to south of Midland.

Parties and friendships aside, it’s an easy district to cut up.

Or look at Tarrant County, where Sen. Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat, is completely surrounded by Republicans, two of whom need to add people to their districts. Her seat isn’t a district protected by the federal Voting Rights Act — it voted for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election — and she’s a Democrat in a legislative body in which Republicans would gain solid control by flipping a couple of seats to their side. Like Landtroop, she’s got time to negotiate, and a district that will require her to be good at it.

Or look at U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, a freshman who surprised Democrats and Republicans alike when he beat U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, in the November elections. Texas gets four new U.S. congressional seats in 2012, and Latinos are pushing for at least one in South Texas. Farenthold’s district isn’t stable ground for a Republican and could easily be affected by changes in the lines nearby. And he’s a freshman at a time when it would be more useful to be an incumbent.

I think it’s a little early to state unequivocally that Chisum won’t be back, since we don’t know for sure that there will be an elected Railroad Commission for him to try to join. As for Davis, I’ll just note that you can say basically the same thing about one of her neighbors, State Sen. Chris Harris, whose district in 2008 was actually a tiny bit more Democratic than Davis’ was:

SD Senator McCain Cornyn Williams Wainwright ================================================== 09 Harris 51.9 52.6 50.7 49.6 10 Davis 52.1 52.1 50.4 50.2 16 Carona 51.7 54.6 53.1 50.2

Harris is between Davis and Democratic Sen. Royce West in SD23, with Sen. John Carona’s SD16 just touching his district to the northeast. Davis’ district actually has the most people in it of those four – she has 834,265, which by my count is the 12th-most populous Senate district overall; Harris has 807,907; West 749,622; Carona 641,007; his is the least populated Senate district, and was the only one to decrease in number. I’m not saying she has nothing to fear, just that as always with redistricting, you can’t look at any one district in isolation. What happens to her will affect everyone around her, and just as Travis County could not sustain three Republican House districts after 2002, it’s not at all clear to me that Dallas and Tarrant Counties can sustain having only one Democratic Senate district.

Anyway. Maps! They’ve got ‘em, we like ‘em, go look at ‘em and see what you think. Robert Miller has more.

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2 Comments

  1. asmith says:

    I figure the GOP will go after Davis, but she’s a good politician and may survive in a Presidential year. She already has most of Southlake and Colleyville. They may draw her into SW Ft. Worth or into Denton County. If they try to take her out what do you do about shoring up Chris Harris?

    Carona is a pretty good pol but the demographics will catch up to him as well. I figure he gets all of Garland, Sachse/Rowlett from Deuell. Deuell gives up his small portions of southwest Dallas to West, and West picks up part of south grand prairie.

    They could shore up all of the Republicans if they draw a DFW hispanic seat that includes black areas of SE Ft. Worth.

  2. blank says:

    Both Davis and Harris wanted to be assigned to the Senate Redistricting Committee. I suspect they were interested in trading precints. Davis getting the East Arlington/Grand Prairie part of SD-9, and Harris getting Colleyville and HEB from SD-10. That would put both in very good shape for the decade. Unfortunately, both were left off of the Senate Redistricting Committee, which suggest to me that the Republicans intend to go after SD-10. Nelson’s SD-12 has plenty of real estate. If you forced me to guess, then that is where they will go with SD-10.

    Also, in regards to the comment: Her seat isn’t a district protected by the federal Voting Rights Act — it voted for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election …

    I’m not a lawyer, but I am aware of Thornburg v. Gingles which established the following from the VRA:

    The relevance of the existence of racial bloc voting to a vote dilution claim is twofold: to ascertain whether minority group members constitute a politically cohesive unit and to determine whether whites vote sufficiently as a bloc usually to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate.

    If Davis’s district is cracked and the Republicans create only a single Dem Senate district in DFW, then I am certain someone will make the case the for dilution. The only question is whether SCOTUS buys it.

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