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White Ds and non-white Rs

A few points to make about this.

White Democrats are an increasingly vanishing species in the Texas Legislature, where there will be only 10 when the new legislative session starts in early January.

The face of the Legislature has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past 25 years, and the state’s rapidly changing demographics are expected to guarantee even more profound changes over the next quarter century.

Twenty years ago, the Legislature included 83 white Democrats. Today, the white Democratic lawmaker is a rarity in the 181-member Legislature.

Vanishing rural, white Democrats account for most of the changes. There were 56 rural, white Democrats sitting in the 1987-88 Texas Legislature. Today, Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville, (Zavala County) is the only rural white Democrat remaining. He did not return phone calls for comment.

The Chron needs to check its math. By my count, there will 11 Anglo Dems sworn in to the Lege in 2013:

Rep. Craig Eiland – HD23
Rep. Donna Howard – HD48
Rep. Elliott Naishtat – HD49
Rep. Mark Strama – HD50
Rep. Joe Pickett – HD79
Rep. Tracy King – HD80
Rep. Lon Burnam – HD90
Rep. Chris Turner – HD101

Sen. Wendy Davis – SD10
Sen. Kirk Watson – SD14
Sen. John Whitmire – SD15

I suspect Rep. Chris Turner, who was elected in 2008 then wiped out in 2010 before coming back in a newly-drawn district this year, is the one they overlooked. Note that in the three biggest counties (Harris, Dallas, Bexar), there are no Anglo Dems in the House and only one in the Senate. After the 2008 election, Harris had Reps. Scott Hochberg, Ellen Cohen, and Kristi Thibaut; Dallas had Reps. Robert Miklos, Carol Kent, Kirk England, and Allen Vaught; and Bexar had Rep. David Leibowitz. All except Hochberg were defeated in the 2010 massacre, and Hochberg retired after the 2011 session.

You really can’t overstate the effect of the 2010 election. As I said before, the loss of all those rural Dems means that the road back to parity for Democrats is that much steeper. It also significantly de-honkified the existing party. The rural Dems were for the most part dead men walking whether they realized it or not, but losing them all at once rather than over the course of several cycles radically changed things. The Dems have a number of possible pickup opportunities for 2014, some of which may elect Anglo Dems, but even in a wildly optimistic scenario, you’re looking at a tough slog to get to 60, and that’s a long way from parity, even farther away than they were after the 2002 election. Beyond that, you’re either waiting for demographic change in some of the suburban districts, or hoping for some kind of external game-changer. It’s not a pretty picture, at least in the short term.

The long term is a different story, even if the writing on the wall is in a six-point font:

For years, Republicans made a high priority of targeting white Democrats for defeat, via election when they could win, or redistricting when they couldn’t, contended former Texas Democratic Party executive director Harold Cook.

“The irony is that in their efforts to limit Democrats to minority real estate through redistricting, they also separated themselves from the fastest growing demography. In 20 years they may well see that they wrote their own political obituary,” Cook said.

Twenty years is an awfully long time, and I think we can all agree that way too many things can affect current trajectories to have any confidence in them. That said, while there are 11 Anglo Dems out of 67 total Dems in the Lege (16 percent of the total), there are all of six non-Anglo Republicans out of 114 total, which is five percent. (The six are, by my count, Reps. JM Lozano, Larry Gonzales, Jason Villalba, James White, Stefani Carter, and Angie Chen Button.) That’s down from eight last session – nine if you count Dee Margo – as Reps. Aliseda, Garza, Pena, and Torres departed but only Villalba and the turncoat Lozano arrived. To Cook’s point, Aliseda, Pena, and Torres were all adversely affected by redistricting – Aliseda and Pena (another turncoat) declined to run because they didn’t have a winnable district, and Torres ran for Senate after being paired with Connie Scott, who wound up losing by 15 points. Only Garza had a shot at re-election, and his district was a major point of contention in the redistricting litigation. Barring a 2010-style election in 2014, the Rs don’t have many obvious targets in Latino-heavy districts. You can’t assume the current trajectory will continue, but as long as it does this is the way it’s going.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, I also overlooked an incoming freshman, Rep. Scott Turner in the new HD33, who is a non-white Republican, thus upping that total to seven. My apologies for the oversight.

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4 Comments

  1. Justin R. Jordan says:

    Scott Turner is also a non white Republican who won his election in the newly created 33rd District.

  2. MPJ says:

    Great points.

    One minor comment.
    As I read the figure, the math looks right, he has the ten Urban Anglo Democrats and then a single Rural Anglo Democrat, for a total of 11 Anglo Democrats. The problem I think is that the labels for the bar graphs are rather confusing and make the figure open to multiple interpretations.

    My interpretation (which could very well be mistaken) is that for all categories but Women, the rows are mutually exclusive. The entries should thus read Urban White Democrats, Rural White Democrats, Hispanic Democrats, African American Democrats, Republicans, Dem + Rep Women (or something like that). If I add up the first four categories, I get 66 Democrats. The numbers for Democratic Anglos and Hispanics (assuming Gallegos is included among the 37) look correct, but by my count there will only be 17 African American Democrats. That leaves two Democrats “missing”, who would fall under the Asian American Democrat category (which was not included in the figure).

    http://blog.chron.com/bakerblog/2012/11/which-party-best-mirrors-texas-in-austin/

  3. MPJ – You may be right, but I interpreted the chart as “all white Ds” and “rural white Ds”, i.e., a subset. The story does specifically say “there will be only 10 when the new legislative session starts”, which is why I objected to the math.

    I also think “African-Americans”, “Hispanics”, and “Women” may refer to both parties, in which case they undercounted African-Americans as well – I find 16 A-A Dems and three A-A Rs. I haven’t tried to tot up the others. Who knows?

  4. MPJ says:

    I missed that in the text on the ten.

    It could be that one person created the figure and one wrote the article, with the latter reading the figure as you did and the creator of the figure intending it as I read it (with the problems with the labels the underlying source of the confusion).

    If African Americans and Hispanics refer to all legislators, then they also under counted Hispanics (40 total), 30 D-Reps, 7-D-Sens (including Gallegos) and 3 R-Reps.

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