3/26/2011 3:38 PM
The chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, Rep. Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton) filed a map for the State Board of Education this week (HB 600). The map is E101 and can be examined on the Texas Legislative Council's DistrictViewer website.
As a general rule, the SBOE map adjusts the current map for population but is roughly a status quo map. Most of the districts in
the map will perform roughly as the current map does in the general election. The Solomons map does make several districts more compact than the current map, however. There are some significant changes that could affect a primary. We examine the Solomons map district by district below. (Note that when we say "current map," we mean the existing SBOE districts. Unless otherwise noted statements about "the map" that are not otherwise qualified are a reference to the Solomons proposal.)
District 1 (incumbent Charlie Garza, R-El Paso): This district contains a lot of territory and was represented by Democrat Rene Nunez prior to the 2010 election. Garza requested a more compact map, and at the margins, the new map gives him slightly less territory. But the district still stretches from El Paso to Laredo, and the committee's options to change the district are severely limited because of Section 5 of the Federal Voting Rights Act (the district is majority Hispanic).
District 2 (incumbent Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi): This district is almost identical to the current district. The cut of Hidalgo county was adjusted slightly.
District 3 (incumbent Michael Soto, D-San Antonio): Again, this district is majority-Hispanic due to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and changes very little in the proposed map.
District 4 (incumbent Lawrence Allen, D-Houston): This is heavily African-American and Hispanic and therefore covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. It changed little in the new map, though there may be an effort to include some of Fort Bend County in the district to ensure Allen's home is in the district.
District 5 (incumbent Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio): This district was overpopulated under the current map. To adjust for that, the new map changes the cut of Travis County. It had previously been divided at the Colorado River. Now District 5 loses some suburban population in Southwest Travis County but picks up Manor. The new map also shifts some Hill County Counties around. The district loses its Hill Country Counties West of Austin and loses Bell County but picks up some rural territory East of Austin (Bastrop, Colorado, Gonzales, etc.)
District 6 (incumbent Terri Leo, R-Houston): This West Houston district remains almost identical to the current map.
District 7 (incumbent David Bradley, R-Beaumont): The district loses its territory in East Harris County (Kingwood, etc.) but picks up Fort Bend County and the rest of Brazoria County (which is split in the current district map). The Solomons map also adds Hardin and Orange Counties to the district. Bradley owns real estate in Hardin County and he offices in Beaumont, so he is well known in the Golden Triangle, so the map is favorable to the incumbent. But the addition of fast-growing Fort Bend County as well as the rest of Brazoria should ensure it remains Republican.
District 8 (incumbent Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands): The Solomons map reorients this district as a Southeast Texas district. Under the current map, the district stretches all the way to Texarkana. Brenham, College Station, and Huntsville get added to this district, while Lufkin and Longview are taken out.
District 9 (incumbent Thomas Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant): For most of the decade the district was represented by Don McLeroy of College Station, but Ratliff beat McLeroy in the 2010 Republican Primary. As a result, the proposed map redraws this district as a Northeast Texas district. It removes College Station and all of Collin County from the district but adds Tyler, Longview, and Texarkana. Ratliff's SBOE district would gain all of the territory his father Bill Ratliff represented in the Texas Senate. At first glance, this new district may be very helpful to the incumbent. After all, it's familiar territory, and his last opponent would be drawn out of the district. That said, it's still likely Ratliff will face a primary opponent in 2012, and that opponent may come from the Tyler-Longview area. In 2010, the Tyler-Longview area exchanged liberal Rep. Tommy Merritt for conservative Rep. David Simpson. Any East Texas district is a socially conservative district, and most of the issues debated on the State Board of Education are social.
District 10 (incumbent Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown): The Solomons map redraws this district as a Central Texas district, and that likely favors the incumbent who is well known in Williamson County. Added to the district are McLennan, Bell, Burnet, and Blanco Counties. Taken out of the district were Fort Bend County and a series of counties between Austin and Houston. The prior incumbent, Cynthia Dunbar, was from Fort Bend County, but she declined to seek re-election in 2010, and the district went back to its initial Central Texas orientation.
District 11 (incumbent George Clayton, R-Dallas): The Solomons map renumbers the North Dallas-based district as District 11 (it's District 12 under the current map). The proposed map removes Collin and Rockwall Counties from this district and replaces them with Northeast Tarrant County. Since the incumbent is from Dallas, he would need to introduce himself to a very conservative portion of Tarrant County. This would have been a great district for prior incumbent Geraldine "Tincy" Miller of Dallas, whose family owns the Henry S. Miller Real Estate company and is well known in business and conservative circles throughout the region. But Clayton -- who won election in 2010 -- is an employee of the Dallas Independent School District, and will have to introduce himself in unfamiliar territory.
District 12 (incumbent Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas): Again, the proposed map renumbered Lowe's district as District 12 (It's District 14 under the current map). This district is substantially redrawn in this map. Instead of a district balanced between Central and North Texas, the proposed map redraws the district as a primarily North Texas district. (The growth in the North Texas suburbs likely required at least some reorienting of an existing district or two toward the region).
Lampasas is at the Southern end of the district and Wichita Falls and Waco are removed. The district now includes all of Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Rockwall, and Collin Counties.
District 13 (incumbent Mavis Knight, D-Dallas): This district is majority-minority and therefore has to be preserved under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. To address its population deficit, the proposed map added the IH-20 corridor in Arlington to the district. Rapid minority growth in Arlington makes this possible without running afoul of the Voting Rights Act. The district still contains Central Dallas and Fort Worth and should remain favorable for the incumbent.
District 14 (incumbent Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth): The proposed map renumbers District 11 in the current map as District 14. The new District 14 should be favorable to the incumbent. Hardy lives in Fort Worth, but she works for the Weatherford Independent School District. The Solomons map removes Ellis, Johnson, and Northeast Tarrant County from the map, but adds Denton, Wise, and a few other counties near the Texas-Oklahoma border. The district also retains the Western half of Tarrant County and Parker County (where Weatherford is located).
District 15 (incumbent Bob Craig, R-Lubbock): Like all of West Texas, the Craig district in the current map is seriously under-populated. Constitutionally, any proposed map has to fix this problem. There are basically three options: add Midland, add the Central Texas Hill Country, or add Wichita Falls. The proposed map follows the later course, and that's good news for the incumbent. The Midland-Odessa area is very socially conservative. The incumbent, however, is not part of the board's socially conservative faction and is viewed by many as a moderate. Most of the Craig's opponents have come from Odessa. But with only Odessa and not Midland in the district, it's difficult for an Odessa-based candidate to get traction. Perhaps what tipped the balance in favor of keeping Midland and Odessa separate was Garza's victory in the general election. Garza needs those Midland voters to keep the district winnable for a Republican, but the Voting Rights Act has been interpreted to require keeping districts like Garza's majority-Hispanic.
Lowe and Ratliff testified before the House Redistricting Committee March 25 and spoke favorably about the new map. Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) sent a press release announcing opposition to the map and calling for an increase in Latino representation in the map. Should the Legislature adopt a map, it would mark the first legislatively-drawn SBOE map since 1992.