Saturday, February 26, 2011

Redistricting endangers state representatives

One of them is Houston's Scott Hochberg.

Last week's census figures showed that Harris County grew dramatically during the past decade but not fast enough to warrant adding a new state legislative district. The county, in fact, likely will lose one.

As Texas lawmakers turn their attention to the complex and contentious task of redrawing their own districts, that loss will set in motion a game of musical chairs to determine who has a place among the 150 House seats. That number does not change despite a 20 percent increase in population statewide, which means the kaleidoscope of voters each lawmaker represents will shift. Harris County is expected to go from 25 to 24 state House seats.

Legislative districts, redrawn every 10 years in the wake of federal census results, must be roughly the same size, somewhere near 167,637 people per district.


In the House, Democrat Rep. Carol Alvarado's 145th District, with 132,730 people, is down 20.8 percent, as are districts represented by her inner-city cohorts, including state Rep. Scott Hochberg, a Democrat, whose District 137 fell to a population of 137,876, which is 17.8 percent below the mean. District 143, an inner-city district represented by Ana Hernandez, a Democrat, has a population of only 127,381, about 24 percent below the mean. ...

Legislative districts west of downtown gained population dramatically. State Rep. William Callegari, a Republican, represents 264,426 people in District 132, nearly 58 percent above the mean. With a population of 212,484, District 150, represented by Debbie Riddle, a Republican, is 26.8 percent above the mean. Incumbents will have "to start pushing and pulling in different directions" — to use Republican consultant Allen Blakemore's phrase - to equal out the districts.

"Scott Hochberg's gone," Blakemore said. "He's under, and he's a white Democrat."

That sentiment could be premature, said political scientist Mark Jones of Rice University.

"Hochberg is gone if you change the district by too much," he said. "He's well-known in the area he represents, but if he has to pick up population in an area where he's not all that well-known, he could be in trouble. He'll be fine if he keeps, maybe, 65 percent of his current district. He's more endangered if you create a district that's more Hispanic." ...

Jones suggested that Sarah Davis, a rookie Republican representing a central Houston district, could be in trouble. Davis' district is 12.2 percent below the mean.

"She's squeezed," Jones said, "because she's close to Democratic districts. Plus, her district is likely to swing back in 2012."

Hochberg, one of the best and brightest serving in the Texas House, has always managed to walk enough blocks and knock on enough doors in his district to get it done. But the GOP will target him and him alone in Harris County, because they don't want to make things any more difficult for their own people than they already are, and because the VRA makes targeting a Latina -- Alvarado or Hernandez Luna -- virtually off-limits.

Spread Sarah "Ding Dong" Davis with butter and jam no matter what the lines are in HD-134, because she is toast. We're taking that district back in '12.

In west Texas, Paul Burka identifies Jim Landtroop of Plainview as "most vulnerable player".

1. He’s a freshman.

2. He supported Paxton for speaker.

3. He cast one of the fifteen votes against Straus for speaker

4. He represents a part of the state that is hemorrhaging population.

5. He has nowhere to go to pick up extra people.

6. He’s a hard-right conservative

7. He has already been marginalized by his committee assignments (Agriculture & Livestock, Defense & Veterans’ Affairs), although Ag is important in his district.

Landtroop has one of the most oddly shaped districts. It is essentially a cross (.pdf), seven counties from north to south, five from east to west, with appendages on the east side. He is landlocked by savvy veteran members who play important roles in the House: Chisum on the north; Hardcastle, Darby, and Keffer on the east; Hilderbran on the south; and Craddick and Charles Perry on the west. Perry is a Landtroop clone: tea-party type, hard-right conservative, poor committee assignments, supported Paxton for speaker, voted against Straus. You could flip a coin and let the winner have the seat without affecting the House at all.

The factors that squeezed out Speaker Pete Laney six years ago hits Hale and surrounding Panhandle counties again. And read the comments there for some nostalgic give-and-take from the 2006 Democratic primary. The entreaties for Laney to run for lieutenant governor are almost poignant.

Note however that Warren Chisum, having announced his intention to run for the Texas Railroad Commission, may make Burka's speculation moot if the mapmakers absorb his district into a new one that meets the population threshold. Burka thinks that the district moves south toward Lubbock, but I'm inclined to believe that the new lines go north toward Amarillo.

The commenters at Burkablog's link point out that Donna Howard and Craig Eiland are also endangered Democrats, that a variety of GOP incumbents in Travis and Dallas Counties could get unseated in the musical chairs shuffle, and that east Texas will be down a seat, likely a Republican one. More on that from the Franklin County GOP, namely turncoat Chuck Hopson, who seems to have trouble constructing his sentences:

“Wayne Christian is over in House District 9, which is Nacogdoches, Shelby, St. Augustine, Sabine, Jasper — immediately to the right of Cherokee County — that district is 22,000 short. The district, Bryan Hughes, immediately above me, District 5, is 9,000 short. Lavender, which is up in Texarkana, is 21,000 short. Cain immediately next to him is 21,000 short. Phillips next to him is 13,000 short,” Hopson said. “Leo Berman in Tyler is the only person (whose district is above the qualifier), he has an excess of 2,500 people in Tyler because Tyler’s had a really good growth. But from Texarkana all the way down to Galveston, all those districts are short.”

Then again maybe it was the transcriber. Somebody really needs to learn English or just get of the country, don't you think?

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