Why do these big rulings always happen while I'm on vacation?
A three-judge federal panel on Friday placed Webb County into one congressional district, solidifying Hispanic voting strength in South Texas.
The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the map to the panel to redraw the sprawling 23rd congressional district, which it ruled in June unconstitutionally diluted Hispanic voting strength.
The district, which is now represented by San Antonio Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla, stretches from Laredo to El Paso County and north to San Antonio.
The high court ruled that the district boundaries engineered former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and drawn by Republican state legislators in 2003 diminish Hispanic voting power because a large cluster of Webb County Hispanics were divided into two different congressional districts.
"These changes restore Latino voting strength to District 23 without dividing communities of interest," the judges said.
The judges emphasized that they made the minimal changes possible to fix the violations ordered by the Supreme Court.
Bonilla will have a tougher time seeking re-election. The new 23rd District has 61 percent Hispanic voting-age population, compared to the 51 percent Hispanic voting-age population in the district in which he was elected.
The bulk of his support has come from non-Hispanic Republicans and elections returns have shown he has diminishing support among the largely Democratic Hispanic voters in his district.
The new 23rd District also will be more evenly divided between Democratic and Republican voters.
Under the new plan, all incumbents remain in their current districts.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, will get a slightly more Democratic population in his 25th congressional district because the court moved a largely liberal section of south Austin into his territory. Travis County remains split among three congressional districts, as it was under the redistricting map passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2003.
The new map also makes Doggett's south Austin district more compact. Previously the boundaries snaked down to the Rio Grande Valley in an oddly shaped district that was nicknamed the bacon strip district.
District reconfigurations also slightly changed the 15th congressional district, represented by Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes. His district remains heavily Democratic.
Also as I expected, this was done in time for November. I understand there's a lot of speculation going on about whether or not Ciro Rodriguez will gear up for one more run (presumably not in CD28, which now has all of Webb County in it), and whether anyone else will take a shot at Henry Bonilla, but there's nothing solid yet that I'm aware of.
Anyway. BOR has some pictures of the new districts, plus a diary from John Courage, whose odds against Lamar Smith sadly got a lot longer now that some heavily Republican turf west of Austin got moved back into CD21. That was pretty much expected in just about any permutation of the districts, but it's still unfortunate for him. There will be much more to be said about all of this soon.
UPDATE: And so the speculation begins as to who may jump into a newly opened primary for CD23 version 3:
Julian Castro (former City Councilman and Mayoral candidate), State Rep. David Leibowitz, former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (for sure), SA City Councilman Art Hall (Dem who gave the opening invocation at the state convention in June, and who represents the North/Northwest portion of CD-23 in Bexar County), SA City Councilman Richard Perez, current candidate Rick Bolanos, and attorney Rene Barrientos.
Names are being thrown around like crazy right now. I can tell you for sure that SA City Councilman Roland Gutierrez is out (he's gonna be our next mayor... you heard it here first) and some crazy bastard just told me that Madla is thinking about running. My major question is, where is West Texas and border Rep. Pete Gallegos gonna stand?