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Messing with Doggett

I’m sure the Republicans would love to draw Lloyd Doggett out of existence if they can. The question is whether they can do it without causing other problems elsewhere.

Republicans have tried to oust Doggett before by drawing a district with a large Hispanic constituency hundreds of miles from Doggett’s hometown. They failed, and key Republicans in the Legislature might not want to spend much of their time trying to beat him again.

Also complicating matters is the fact that any effort to defeat Doggett by putting more Republicans in his district could weaken the GOP vote in Travis County’s other congressional districts, which are represented by Republican Reps. Lamar Smith and Michael McCaul, whose seats are relatively safe.

“The ultimate decider is the numbers themselves,” said Steve Bickerstaff, a redistricting expert at the University of Texas School of Law who wrote a book about Texas’ last redistricting. “There’s only so much you can do.”

State Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo , said he has seen a congressional map that targets Doggett for defeat.

“I have heard from some people that that’s a goal,” Seliger said. “I have not personally drawn a map that does that.”

Asked whether the congressional map that the Senate will eventually work on will make it difficult for Doggett to win re-election, Seliger said, “That’s not clear yet.”

Doggett’s district is not VRA protected, so the Republicans have a fair amount of latitude, but not necessarily a lot of good options. Doggett has a ton of money and easily won a primary in 2004 against a South Texas Latina, so drawing him into a heavily Hispanic district is no guarantee of success. Making his district red enough to knock him off in November means shifting a lot of Republicans in and Democrats out, which may well have an effect on Lamar Smith or Mike McCaul, both of whom got less than 60% in 2008. Carving Travis County into smaller pieces, all of which are distributed to Republican districts (possibly including the new Central Texas one) could work, but that’s an awful lot of Democrats to spread around, and Travis’ neighbors Hays and Williamson have also been trending blue. With redistricting most things are possible, but some may not be worth the effort. According to Texas on the Potomac, the GOP Congressional delegation submitted its preferred map to the House on Thursday. We’ll know soon enough what they try to do. The Trib has more.

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