In the end, not so much.
Originally hailed by Latino leaders as a way to boost opportunities for their community, the newly redrawn Texas congressional map has led to a pair of white Democrats claiming the nominations in districts that were crafted with Latino majorities. The result could be that five of the state’s 36 congressional districts will be represented by Latinos when the 113th Congress convenes in January — exactly the number in the current 32-member delegation. The best-case scenario would have them claiming one-sixth of the state’s House seats.
Latino leaders are split on the developments. Some are dismayed that while Latinos account for 38 percent of Texas’s population, and were key to the expansion of the state’s House delegation, that may not be reflected in a larger Latino presence in the delegation.
“There’s the strong possibility we may get zero,” said Sylvia Romo, the tax collector for Bexar County, who lost her bid for the congressional nomination in a new district stretching from San Antonio to Austin. “We got four [new seats], and we Latinos could end up with zero.”
Others suggest that it is up to candidates and campaigns to take advantage of the new demographic reality. Nine of the 36 Texas seats next year will be from Latino-majority districts.
“The purpose of increasing Hispanic political opportunities is not about sending more Hispanics to Congress. I don’t know why people think that way,” said Nina Perales, a lawyer at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). “It’s about increasing the voice of Latino voters. They can elect whoever they want.”
One of the newly-redrawn seats that was won by an Anglo last week was CD16, in which Beto O’Rourke knocked out 8-term incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes. I’m pretty sure none of the people involved in redistricting, including the litigants, foresaw such a possibility though at least one blogger did. But Rep. Reyes didn’t lose because the new map made CD16 more hostile to Latinos and more amenable to Anglos. Rep. Reyes had some baggage, O’Rourke ran a strong campaign, and he had some help from a third party. These things happen. Perhaps from here O’Rourke does a good job and becomes an entrenched incumbent, or he sees his star rise and takes a crack at statewide office in a few years, or he himself gets challenged by an ambitious pol in 2014, presumably a Latino, and loses. Point being, Latino voters made the choice here, and they will continue to be able to do so.
As for CD35, the current configuration of which MALDEF supported, here’s a chart:
County Latino % Doggett %
Bexar 68.6% 53.75%
Caldwell 54.1% 88.48%
Comal 46.8% 74.92%
Guadalupe 25.6% 70.24%
Hays 51.5% 88.66%
Travis 65.3% 93.21%
It’s true that Doggett completely dominated his home turf, but he won on Romo’s court as well. There were more total votes cast in Bexar than any other county; nearly half of all votes came from there. Doggett’s total in Bexar was more than Romo’s total in all six counties, and almost enough for a majority by itself. Point being, Doggett did pretty well in all parts of the district.
You may be looking at that “Latino %” for Travis County in that first chart and saying to yourself “Huh, I thought Travis was a lot whiter than that”. It is, actually, but remember that Travis County is split into five different Congressional districts. Guess which one the Latinos were clumped into?
Dist Total Pop Latino Pop Latino %
CD10 244,317 70,680 28.9%
CD17 133,554 36,409 27.3%
CD21 189,294 52,672 27.8%
CD25 241,475 42,120 17.4%
CD35 215,626 140,885 65.3%
Total 1,024,626 342,766 33.5%
One of these things is not like the others. Now, all these figures are for straight up population, and before Greg Wythe‘s head explodes, I do understand the difference between “population” and “citizen voting age population (CVAP)”, which often is considerably lower for Latinos. That’s as granular as the TLC data is, so it’s the best I can do. It’s certainly possible that the Latino CVAP for CD35 is under 50%, and it’s certainly possible that the actual turnout for this election was even whiter than that, or that Doggett ran up the score in the white areas and treaded water elsewhere. Someone with access to all the relevant precinct data and the knowledge of each one’s demography will have to tackle that question, as it’s beyond my scope. But the point again is that Latino voters had the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. It’s hardly irrational or surprising that they went with the guy with seniority and a long record of supporting things they favor.