Scott Stroud suggests there’s a new ploy by Republicans in the works to get rid of Rep. Lloyd Doggett.
Congressman Lamar Smith, the Republican charged with redrawing Texas’ congressional districts, has floated a map that would transform Doggett’s district into one that barrels from Austin down Interstate 35, 18-wheeler style, through San Antonio’s East Side, then veers west across the mostly Latino South Side.
Under Smith’s proposed map, to be taken up Thursday by the Senate redistricting committee in what is always a fluid process, the district would become majority Latino and — more important to the GOP — its center of gravity would shift to San Antonio. Its brilliance lies in the long odds that voters here would accept being represented by anyone from Austin, Democrat or Republican.
What makes Smith’s ploy slick is that it draws the home of state Rep. Mike Villarreal into Doggett’s district. It would surprise no one if Villarreal, one of the few Democrats with a hand in the process, allowed his own congressional ambitions to trump any impulse to wage an uphill fight to see that his party gains a seat.
Villarreal said he supports adding a majority-Hispanic district for its own sake, regardless of who lives where. He said he sees Hispanics being underrepresented “in a real way every day, in a Texas House that currently is not a reflection of the state’s values and people.”
That hearing was postponed as Republicans were unable to agree among themselves what map to lay out. It’s still possible that Smith’s map won’t see the light of day, though with Friday’s hearing also being canceled and a special session apparently looming, there may be plenty of time for it to re-emerge. We’ll just have to see.
As for the latest scheme, losing Doggett’s seniority would be a blow to Texas, especially if the Democrats can ride the GOP’s attack on Medicare back to the majority. You can certainly argue that it would be bad for Texas Democrats if Doggett doesn’t get a district he can win, and in the grand scheme of things I’d rather have Villarreal knock off Quico Canseco and serve alongside Doggett than have him run a primary against him. Two are better than one.
That said, it’s also bad for Texas Democrats if ambitious, talented, and younger politicos like Villarreal are blocked from advancing. People who feel they have no place to go where they are will find someplace else to go, and it would definitely be a shame to lose Villarreal’s skills to the private sector, or worse a lobbyist shop. Outside of maybe Henry Cuellar, there’s no one in the Democratic Congressional caucus that has any desire to run statewide. We’re never going to build a bench for that hoped-for Democratic future if there’s nobody above the State House that has their eye on bigger things and the capability to fundraise for them. It would be a shame if we were to lose Doggett, but with all due respect, nobody is irreplaceable, and nobody is entitled to a seat. Whatever happens, we’ll get over it and figure it out.