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Blake Farenthold

Farenthold replies to the lawsuit against his office

Here we go.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, has formally denied a former employee’s claims that he sexually harassed and discriminated against her. Instead, he fired the staffer for “poor performance and failure to report to work,” his legal team said in federal court filings Thursday.

Lauren Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director, alleges “gender discrimination and creating a hostile work environment” in a wrongful termination suit filed in December against the second-term congressman. Greene worked for Farenthold from February 2013 until she was fired in July 2014.

In his response to Greene’s suit, Farenthold denied that he directed a bevy of sexually charged comments at Greene.

“Defendant denies that Rep. Farenthold was ‘attracted to’ Plaintiff, that he had ‘sexual fantasies’ about Plaintiff, or that he had ‘wet dreams’ about Plaintiff,” the filing said

I’ll bet that’ll make his mama proud. See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of Farenthold’s response. My interest in this lawsuit is entirely prurient. Farenthold is basically furniture, so this lawsuit will easily be the most notable thing about his tenure in Congress, regardless of the outcome. TPM, Juanita, and Texas Politics have more.

The Farenthold files

The Farenthold lawsuit continues to have promise as the underrated scandal of the year.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

In his first interview since the suit was filed in December, [Rep. Blake] Farenthold said he was shocked by the allegations made by Lauren Greene, the former staffer.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I didn’t imagine us having any problems in the office. And the things she alleges are just so far out in left field. I’m just stunned.”

Farenthold suggested that the suit could be reprisal for Greene’s termination.

“Somebody gets fired, you never can tell how they’re going to take it,” he said.

Congressional lawyers, who are handling the case, have asked him not to discuss the grounds for Greene’s dismissal. Farenthold will say only that he “had good reason.”

[…]

Greene’s suit focuses mainly on her alleged mistreatment at the hands of Farenthold’s top staffer, Bob Haueter, with whom she apparently had a difficult relationship. There are no allegations that Farenthold touched or tried to hit on Greene – on the contrary, she said he tried to avoid her, a situation that she found “awkward.”

Instead, in her lawsuit she recounts feeling “awkward” after another staffer, executive assistant Emily Wilkes, allegedly told her that Farenthold had confided in Wilkes and Haueter about his attraction to Greene.

Greene also alleges that the congressman regularly made comments about her appearance or made other remarks that she thought were designed to gauge whether she was interested in a sexual relationship. She also claims that staffers who accompanied Farenthold to Capitol Hill functions joked that they had to be on “redhead patrol” to keep him out of trouble.

Friends and associates say a certain off-the-cuff personality can easily be misinterpreted.

“Sometimes you can make a comment that you think is totally innocent, and it gets misconstrued,” said Mike Pusley, a Republican leader and Nueces County Commissioner. “From the times I’ve been around Blake in mixed company, I’ve never seen anything to indicate that he has any issues in that regard. When I read about those allegations, I just went, ‘Eh, man, I have a very hard time believing that.’ ”

See here for the background. All due respect, but if you want to check on the credibility of Ms. Greene’s allegations, you might do better to talk to someone who isn’t a) a dude; and b) a political ally of Farenthold’s. I mean, as a general matter we dudes aren’t always the most reliable sources for how women may interpret some of the things we say. Hell, entire industries are built on that fact. Might have been a better idea to ask a few women who regularly deal with Rep. Farenthold, off the record as needed, what they think of his demeanor. It wouldn’t anything definitive, but it might at least provide a little perspective. I’m just saying. And may I just add that I encourage Rep. Farenthold to speak as freely as he likes about this ongoing litigation. Forget what the lawyers say, Blake! They’re all just a bunch of killjoys. Speak your mind and let the chips fall where they may!

Lawsuit filed against the office of Rep. Blake Farenthold

Um, wow.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

A woman who worked for U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold filed a federal lawsuit against his congressional office, alleging she experienced gender-based discrimination and that a hostile work environment prompted her termination in July.

Former Communications Director Lauren Greene alleges that Farenthold, the two-term Republican from Corpus Christi, made lewd and inappropriate comments, according to the lawsuit filed Friday, and “regularly drank to excess, and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on ‘red head patrol’ to keep him out of trouble.’”

[…]

Greene worked for U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Oklahoma, from September 2009 to January 2013, according to her Linkedin profile, and worked her way up from an intern to deputy press secretary. She took a job with Farenthold’s office two months later.

In January, another staffer told Greene that Farenthold had privately admitted to having sexual fantasies about her, according to the lawsuit, which adds that Farenthold later told Greene that he was estranged from his wife.

“On one occasion, prior to February 2014, during a staff meeting at which plaintiff was in attendance, Farenthold disclosed that a female lobbyist had propositioned him for a ‘threesome,’” according to the lawsuit.

The comments made Greene uncomfortable, according to the lawsuit, and she seldom had one-on-one meetings with Farenthold.

“Farenthold regularly made comments designed to gauge whether plaintiff was interested in a sexual relationship,” according to the lawsuit, and made inappropriate comments about her clothing.

Greene also had problems with Chief of Staff Bob Haueter.

Haueter excluded her from staff meetings and publicly humiliated her when she did attend, according to the lawsuit.

During a June 2010 meeting, Haueter announced he was sending Greene home to change because her shirt was too revealing, according to the lawsuit, but Farenthold and another staffer disagreed.

In the lawsuit, Greene alleged that she was fired less than a month after complaining about the hostile work environment.

Ew. This is only one side of the story, and I’m sure that the defense will have plenty to say about what happened. But still: Ew. More worrisome for Farenthold is that the filing of this lawsuit has spawned other problems for him.

The unseemly nature of the accusations already has operatives on Capitol Hill mulling the immediate consequences of Farenthold’s place on the Republican food chain.

“I don’t know about locally, but it’s going to continue to push him on the outside of leadership and the folks that influence the Republican Conference,” a GOP Capitol Hill staffer said on condition of anonymity because of close ties to leadership.

Two GOP Capitol Hill staffers predicted the matter would probably go before the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics. Just last week, the House Ethics Committee cleared a Florida Democratic lawmaker of sexual harassment allegations. But in the process, the committee warned lawmakers “to scrupulously avoid even the impression of a workplace tainted by sexism.”

[…]

As Texas Republican operatives digest the reports, some are already speculating on a potential 2016 primary challenger. One potential rival would be Debra Medina, a former Wharton County Republican Party chair who lost a primary bid for comptroller this year.

Getting a little ahead of ourselves there, but still. The next two years are likely to be a bit tumultuous for Farenthold, poor baby. The Chron covered this here, and Politico, Jezebel, BOR, Trail Blazers, TPM, and Juanita have more.

Son Of Ortiz/Farenthold?

Maybe.

Solomon Ortiz, Jr

A grudge match could be brewing in South Texas.

On Tuesday, the Democrats’ top congressional strategist hinted that he’s been trying to recruit someone to challenge two-term Rep. Blake Farenthold, a tea party Republican from Corpus Christi.

Turns out, that person is Solomon Ortiz Jr., a former state representative and son of the longtime congressman, Solomon Ortiz Sr. — ousted by Farenthold in one of the closest and most surprising contests of 2010.

“I don’t know. I haven’t made a decision one way or another,” Ortiz Jr., said Wednesday evening, reached by cell phone.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, went out of his way Tuesday to fuel speculation that his party will make a run at Farenthold. But he was coy about who he’s been encouraging, and aides declined to name names.

Turns out, Ortiz Jr. put the secret in plain sight:

I’ve been clamoring for a challenger to Farenthold, so this is music to my ears. There’s certainly an argument to be made for a fresh face against Farenthold, but there’s a lot to be said for having a familiar name go against him, too. It is a tough challenge, tougher than what the DCCC normally takes on – there just ain’t that many swing seats these days – but the good news is that Farenthold was an underperformer in 2012. A sufficiently financed challenger, with some name ID and a boost from Battleground Texas, could make a race of it. First, we need someone to file. We’ll see if the DCCC was able to sway Ortiz, Jr into the race.

Targeting Farenthold

Yes, please.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

Democrats are trying to exact a political price for Texas Republicans’ votes to restart deportations of so-called “DREAMers” — the children illegally brought into the U.S. by their parents.

The target of the latest ad buy is Corpus Christi Rep. Blake Farenthold, who was one of 23 Texas Republicans to favor the measure by Iowa Rep. Steve King enacted by the House last week. (Republican Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas did not vote on the proposal. All 12 Texas Democrats voted no.)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said today it had bought air time on Spanish language radio stations “across” the district, which stretches from Corpus Christi to the Austin and San Antonio media markets, to demand that Farenthold “stand with our young people and not with most extreme members of his party.”

The district’s population is majority Latino, but voters who go to the polls tend to favor Republicans.

“Instead of giving these young people a chance at the American Dream, Congressman Farenthold showed his true colors: an extreme ideology that would deport young people who have been contributing to this country since they were brought here as children,” said Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The people of Texas want a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system, but Congressman Farenthold just did the opposite — and voted to restart deportations for 800,00 DREAMers.”

The ad includes the words of a young Latino person eligible for the DREAM Act who could be among 800,000 youths facing deportation under the King Amendment because of their parents’ decisions.

“I have lived in the United States since I was a child, and it’s my only home,” the unnamed immigrant says in the ad. “I’m a student, I work, and I’m proud to give back to my community. I’ve always done what was asked of me. The only thing I ask is for the opportunity to do it.”

Farenthold easily won re-election in the redrawn 27th District last year after upsetting veteran Democrat Solomon Ortiz two years earlier in the old 27th, which was much more heavily Latino. But Democrats are hoping to soften him up with negative ads, particularly if the federal courts redraw Texas congressional maps to increase the district’s Mexican-American population.

I’m very glad to see this. Besides just being morally correct and good politics, Farenthold does have a soft underbelly despite being in a nominally safe district. As I noted before, he lost a significant amount of support from the top of the ticket despite running against an opponent with few resources. A district like his, with its heavy concentration of low-turnout Latinos could be prime proving ground for Battleground Texas. I don’t know how much the DCCC is spending here, or how focused that money is, but it’s a good start. This is the kind of issue that can motivate voters. If we can get a good candidate in place, we have a chance to make something interesting happen.

From the “Turning out more Democratic voters will mean more Democratic votes” department

I think that’s a fair way of characterizing this Texas on the Potomac post.

Last November, the Houston Chronicle completed a database analysis of the changing population patterns of the state and the changing voting proclivities of key demographic blocs. Our conclusion: Texas would become competitive by 2020 and a true toss-up state by 2024 if current turnout and partisan voting patterns continued.

But what if Latinos — historically a group that votes with far less frequency than the rest of the population — started voting at the same rate as everyone else, as Battleground Texas is seeking to accomplish? How much would that narrow the Republicans’ advantage in Texas?

To find answers, Texas on the Potomac analyzed 2012’s election results and it found that if Democrats could raise Latino turnout to the same level as non-Hispanic whites, Texas would instantly become a battleground state.

Well, yes. I mean, this is one of the stated goals of Battleground Texas, to increase the participation of Democratic-leaning citizens. Latinos vote predominantly Democratic – we can argue over how predominantly, but no one disputes that they do – so more Latinos voting means more net Democratic votes overall.

Obviously, a lot of assumptions go into an analysis like this. At the end, the article says “unfortunately, no exit polling occurred in Texas in 2012”, so they used national exit poll data as their baseline. As it happens, there was one exit poll done in Texas, specifically for the purpose of divining how Latinos voted. Those numbers are pretty close to the national exit poll numbers, suggesting that Texas Latinos are similar in voting behavior to Latinos elsewhere, so it’s a reasonably good estimate. A better question is whether Latinos in one part of the state – say, the Valley or El Paso – vote the same as Latinos in other parts of the state – say, Houston or Dallas. We can take guesses based on election returns from different legislative districts, but that’s about the best we can do.

The much bigger question is how true any of these results might be going forward. The post flatly states that it “does not intend to predict the future”, for the obvious reason that electorates change over time. It may well be that as immigration reform gets done and divisive social issues like marriage equality fade to the background, Latinos will be more open to hearing from Republican candidates. It may also be that Texas Republicans will fiercely resist the pull of social change despite the changing attitudes of the Texas people and thus become even less attractive to a dynamic and youthful pool of new voters. (Have I mentioned lately that Latinos increasingly support marriage equality? Maybe someone should bring that up the next time there’s a chin-stroking story about GOP Latino outreach efforts.) It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the last obstacles in the Senate to getting meaningful immigration reform done is our own Ted Cruz. (Do you even need to ask how he feels about marriage equality?) All that is even before you take into account the fact that Latinos are among the biggest supporters of the Affordable Care Act and public education, and tend to believe more strongly than other demographic subgroups in the power of government intervention for doing good. Latinos make up a significant portion of Texas’ vast uninsured population; Rick Perry et al don’t want to expand Medicaid. You do the math.

Anyway. The future, or at least the short-term future, is what really interests me. What level of turnout is likely to be needed in 2014 to have an effect on the partisan makeup of the Legislature? That’s a hard question to answer because unlike Presidential years the turnout level of the other side can vary greatly, as even a cursory glance at the 2006 and 2010 results will show. The best we can do as Democrats is work on improving our numbers and let the rest take care of itself. One tidbit to note from this analysis is that as I have noted before, Rep. Blake Farenthold in CD27 is more vulnerable than his topline numbers might suggest. If there’s a reach goal to set for 2014, that should be it. If we can move the needle in a district race, there’s a pretty good chance we can do it statewide as well.

Precinct analysis: Congressional overs and unders

To wrap up my look at 2012 versus 2008 results for all the new districts, here’s how the 36 Congressional districts compared.

Dist McCain Pct Obama08 Pct Romney Pct Obama12 Pct RIdx DIdx ============================================================================== 01 178,520 68.85% 78,918 30.44% 181,833 71.49% 69,857 27.47% 1.04 0.90 02 150,665 61.78% 91,087 37.35% 157,094 62.93% 88,751 35.55% 1.02 0.95 03 165,158 61.46% 100,440 37.37% 175,383 64.16% 93,290 34.13% 1.04 0.91 04 180,772 69.71% 75,910 29.27% 189,455 73.95% 63,521 24.79% 1.06 0.85 05 137,698 61.79% 83,216 37.34% 137,239 64.49% 73,085 34.35% 1.04 0.92 06 148,503 57.03% 109,854 42.19% 146,985 57.87% 103,444 40.72% 1.01 0.97 07 140,692 58.73% 96,866 40.44% 143,631 59.89% 92,499 38.57% 1.02 0.95 08 171,408 73.02% 61,357 26.14% 195,735 76.97% 55,271 21.74% 1.05 0.83 09 44,520 23.42% 144,707 76.12% 39,392 21.15% 145,332 78.01% 0.90 1.02 10 148,867 56.17% 112,866 42.59% 159,714 59.06% 104,839 38.77% 1.05 0.91 11 184,238 75.90% 56,145 23.13% 182,403 79.10% 45,081 19.55% 1.04 0.85 12 161,030 63.61% 89,718 35.44% 166,992 66.77% 79,147 31.65% 1.05 0.89 13 189,600 76.88% 54,855 22.24% 184,090 80.16% 42,518 18.51% 1.04 0.83 14 139,304 57.03% 102,902 42.12% 147,151 59.32% 97,824 39.44% 1.04 0.94 15 61,282 41.84% 83,924 57.3% 62,883 41.48% 86,940 57.35% 0.99 1.00 16 58,764 34.59% 109,387 64.39% 54,315 34.44% 100,993 64.03% 1.00 0.99 17 135,738 57.95% 95,884 40.94% 134,521 60.29% 84,243 37.76% 1.04 0.92 18 45,069 22.89% 150,733 76.57% 44,991 22.81% 150,129 76.11% 1.00 0.99 19 168,553 71.22% 66,122 27.94% 160,060 73.55% 54,451 25.02% 1.03 0.90 20 80,667 40.64% 115,579 58.23% 74,540 39.59% 110,663 58.77% 0.97 1.01 21 178,531 56.42% 133,581 42.21% 188,240 59.76% 119,220 37.85% 1.06 0.90 22 142,073 60.45% 91,137 38.78% 158,452 62.11% 93,582 36.68% 1.03 0.95 23 95,679 49.27% 96,871 49.88% 99,654 50.67% 94,386 47.99% 1.03 0.96 24 152,453 58.41% 105,822 40.54% 150,547 60.42% 94,634 37.98% 1.03 0.94 25 153,998 56.05% 117,402 42.73% 162,278 59.89% 102,433 37.80% 1.07 0.88 26 166,877 64.18% 90,791 34.92% 177,941 67.59% 80,828 30.70% 1.05 0.88 27 133,839 58.95% 91,083 40.12% 131,800 60.46% 83,156 38.15% 1.03 0.95 28 65,066 40.97% 92,557 58.28% 65,372 38.65% 101,843 60.21% 0.94 1.03 29 41,843 37.04% 70,286 62.22% 37,909 32.99% 75,720 65.89% 0.89 1.06 30 47,144 21.07% 175,237 78.33% 43,333 19.64% 175,637 79.61% 0.93 1.02 31 135,601 55.80% 103,359 42.54% 144,634 59.36% 92,842 38.11% 1.06 0.90 32 147,226 55.05% 117,231 43.83% 146,420 56.97% 106,563 41.46% 1.03 0.95 33 40,290 30.64% 90,180 68.57% 32,641 27.09% 86,686 71.93% 0.88 1.05 34 58,707 39.06% 90,178 60.00% 57,303 38.28% 90,885 60.71% 0.98 1.01 35 62,764 35.47% 111,790 63.18% 58,007 34.59% 105,550 62.94% 0.98 1.00 36 165,899 69.45% 70,543 29.53% 175,850 73.05% 61,766 25.66% 1.05 0.87

The main thing that stands out is CD23, which went from plurality Obama in 2008 to a slight majority for Romney in 2012. That means that Rep. Pete Gallego joins State Rep. Craig Eiland and State Sen. Wendy Davis in the exclusive club of candidates who won in a district that their Presidential candidate lost. Not surprisingly, Rep. Gallego is a marked man for 2014. CD23 was one of the more strongly contested districts in the litigation as well as in the election, and it is likely to be modified further no matter what happens to the Voting Rights Act, so Rep. Gallego’s challenge next year may be different than it was this year. He’s clearly up to it, whatever it winds up being. Beyond that, the pattern witnessed elsewhere held here, as blue districts were generally bluer than before, while red districts were redder. Dems can still hope for (eventually) competitive races in CDs 06, 10, and 32, but the task is harder now than it would have been in 2008. As for CD14, you can see that the hurdle was just too high for Nick Lampson. Barring anything improbable, that district is unlikely to repeat as one featuring a race to watch.

One other thing I did in these races was compare the performances of the Congressional candidates with the Presidential candidates in their districts. Here are some of the more interesting results I found:

Dist Romney Pct Obama12 Pct R Cong Pct% D Cong Pct Winner ============================================================================== 02 157,094 62.93% 88,751 35.55% 159,664 64.81% 80,512 32.68% Poe 06 146,985 57.87% 103,444 40.72% 145,019 58.02% 98,053 39.23% Barton 07 143,631 59.89% 92,499 38.57% 142,793 60.80% 85,553 36.43% Culberson 10 159,714 59.06% 104,839 38.77% 159,783 60.51% 95,710 36.25% McCaul 14 147,151 59.32% 97,824 39.44% 131,460 53.47% 109,697 44.62% Weber 20 74,540 39.59% 110,663 58.77% 62,376 33.50% 119,032 63.93% Castro 21 188,240 59.76% 119,220 37.85% 187,015 60.54% 109,326 35.39% L Smith 22 158,452 62.11% 93,582 36.68% 160,668 64.03% 80,203 31.96% Olson 23 99,654 50.67% 94,386 47.99% 87,547 45.55% 96,676 50.30% Gallego 25 162,278 59.89% 102,433 37.80% 154,245 58.44% 98,827 37.44% R Williams 27 131,800 60.46% 83,156 38.15% 120,684 56.75% 83,395 39.21% Farenthold 28 65,372 38.65% 101,843 60.21% 49,309 29.76% 112,456 67.88% Cuellar 31 144,634 59.36% 92,842 38.11% 145,348 61.27% 82,977 34.98% Carter 32 146,420 56.97% 106,563 41.46% 146,653 58.27% 99,288 39.45% Sessions 35 58,007 34.59% 105,550 62.94% 52,894 32.02% 105,626 63.94% Doggett 36 175,850 73.05% 61,766 25.66% 165,405 70.73% 62,143 26.57% Stockman

You can mostly break this down into three groups. The first is the Overacheivers, the Congressional candidates that clearly drew at least some crossover votes. On that list are Reps. Ted Poe, Joaquin Castro, Pete Olson, Pete Gallego, and Henry Cuellar. Olson, one presumes, benefited from being opposed by LaRouchie nutcase Keisha Rogers. We’ll have to wait to see how he’ll do against a normal opponent, which one hopes will be this time around. Castro and Cuellas can point to their numbers as evidence for statewide viability someday, if and when they choose to make such a run. Gallego obviously had to be on this list, or he wouldn’t be Rep. Gallego. I guess the Republicans knew what their were doing when they tried to pull all those shenanigans to protect Quico Canseco, because he really did need the help. As for Ted Poe, I got nothing. He’s not a “moderate”, and he’s not a heavyweight on policy or in bringing home the bacon as far as I know, so I don’t have a ready explanation for his success here. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments.

The second group is what I’d call Tougher Than They Look. Notice how Republican incumbents in the least-red districts suffered no dropoff in support from Romney, while their Democratic opponents did? I’m talking about Reps. Joe Barton, John Culberson, Mike McCaul, Lamar Smith, John Carter, and Pete Sessions; you can also throw Democrat Lloyd Doggett onto the list. Whether by accident or design, these Republicans may be harder to knock off down the line if and when their districts get bluer. Culberson is the oddball in this group, because he greatly underperformed in 2006 and 2008. I suspect he benefited from redistricting, in particular from losing some inner Loop precincts, as well as the general trend away from crossover voting, but we’ll see if this was a one-time thing or not.

Finally, there’s the Underachievers, who lost crossover votes to their opponents. Ex-Rep Quico Canseco is the poster child, but Reps. Randy Weber, Blake Farenthold, and Steve Stockman keep him company. Weber may get a mulligan, since he’s unlikely to face an opponent like Lampson again. Farenthold’s presence is intriguing. He’s a ridiculous person, who won in a fluke year and who needed a lot of help in redistricting, but a look at this result suggests that he just might be vulnerable to the right opponent. If the Battlegound Texas folks want to try some things out on a smaller scale, let me suggest CD27 as a proving ground. Finally, Stockman shows that even in a deep red district, nuttiness has some limits. Too bad it’s not enough to affect a November election, but maybe there’s a chance that a slightly less mortifying Republican could win next March.

Football season is over, but political football season never ends

It never even reaches the two minute warning.

The University Line, whether John Culberson likes it or not

The committee chairman described it as a “food fight,” an after-midnight bout as Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold tried to jimmy legislation to block federal money for Metro to build or extend the University and Uptown light rail lines.

In the end, his effort failed. But the wrangling in the wee hours last week spotlighted the countless little-noticed struggles that take place across Capitol Hill as lawmakers try to steer taxpayers’ dollars toward projects they favor – and away from projects they oppose.

In this case, the stakes were potentially the future of Houston’s light rail system and the unceremonious initiation of Farenthold, a freshman lawmaker with barely 13 months on Capitol Hill.

[…]

Metro chairman Gilbert Garcia said he had been “surprised that a congressman representing the citizens of Corpus Christi would get involved in our local matter.”

Needless to say, Farenthold was lackeying for John Culberson, parroting the usual BS about the 2003 referendum as if he were sitting on Culberson’s lap. Thankfully, Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida intervened on behalf of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, and this particular bit of monkey business was defeated. Culberson and his ilk will never give up on this issue. Those of us who actually respect the outcome of that election can’t take our eye off the ball.

UPDATE: This would be entertaining at least, if there were any substance to it.

The Greater Houston Partnership has taken the unusual step of publicly taking U.S. Rep. John Culberson to task for his unsuccessful attempt late last week to block federal funding for Houston light rail, arguing that it makes the area vulnerable to other attempts of what it terms “reverse earmarking.”

It was so unusual that Partnership CEO Jeff Moseley argued that Culberson’s primary offense was not in opposing proposed light rail lines in his district along Richmond and Post Oak, but that the veteran lawmaker and light rail opponent did not work more quietly against the funding.

“We’re just saying whatever the questions might be on how they (funds) are being used, they’re best to be resolved quietly and not done in the front yard,” Moseley said during a visit to the Houston Chronicle editorial board Monday.

Nice, but as with the Texas Association of Business and immigration, it’s all just talk until someone funds an opponent.

First thoughts on the new Congressional map

OK, down to business. Here’s a map of the new plan, which was unanimously approved by the three judges, the 2008 election data, and here’s 2010 election data. Going by the 2012 data, I break it down as follows:

Strong R


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
01         30.5         36.4
02         34.4         35.6
03         37.4         36.8
04         29.4         37.6
05         36.5         41.2
08         25.6         29.3
11         23.0         28.4
12         34.1         35.5
13         22.2         27.4
17         33.2         38.2
19         28.0         32.4
21         33.0         31.5
24         38.0         37.5
26         35.4         35.5
31         39.8         41.3
34         32.9         37.1
36         31.1         39.8

Likely R


Dist    Obama Pct    Houston Pct
============================
07         42.5         40.8
14         41.9         47.3
22         40.6         41.2
32         43.0         43.1

Lean R


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
06         44.8         47.5
10         46.5         45.5

Strong D


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
09         77.3         77.6
15         61.9         65.8
16         66.6         68.8
18         77.4         77.5
25         68.4         65.2
27         58.3         62.1
28         58.6         63.0
29         62.0         67.6
30         81.5         81.3
33         62.5         63.1

Likely D


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
20         58.5         58.8

Lean D


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
23         51.4         53.1
35         54.4         55.9
 

Barring any surprises, that’s a 23-13 split, which means (contra the Chron and its funny math once again) a four-seat gain from the current 23-9 split. The Dems have more upside than downside, and it’s not crazy to think that over the course of the decade some districts could move into a different classification, such as currently solid R seats 05, 24, and 31. I was just on a conference call with Matt Angle and Gerry Hebert about the new map, and Angle suggested CDs 06 and 14 as ones that will trend Democratic. I asked him about CD10, which has a similar electoral profile right now to those two, and while he agreed it can be competitive, he didn’t think the demographics will change as much as in the others.

Note that CD33 is now a majority-minority seat in Tarrant County – BOR notes that State Rep. Marc Veasey, one of the plaintiffs and strong fighters in these suits, has already indicated his interest in running for it. He’s already got an opponent if so – a press release from Fort Worth City Council member Kathleen Hicks that announced her entry into the CD33 sweepstakes, hit my inbox about ten minutes after the publication of the new map. PoliTex confirms both of these. One way or another, though, it sounds like sayonara to Roger Williams.

CD34 stretches from the Gulf Coast into the Hill Country, taking a chunk out of the southern edge of the old CD10. CD36 is more or less as it was before, in the eastern/southeastern part of Harris County and points east from there. CD35 is no longer in Travis County, so the Doggett/Castro death match is no more – Rep. Lloyd Doggett gets his Travis-anchored CD25 back, and Rep. Joaquin Castro gets a new Bexar-anchored district to run in. I don’t know if freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold can run in CD34 – I suspect he’d face a challenge from some Republican State Reps if he tried. Perhaps State Rep. Geanie Morrison, based in Victoria and now paired with State Rep. Todd Hunter, might take a crack at it, or maybe Hunter will. I presume State Sen. Mike Jackson will continue to pursue CD36. All of the Republican contenders for the Lege-drawn CD25 are also now out of luck, so bye-bye to former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams as well. Not a good day for Williamses who wanted to run for Congress.

Comments and objections are due on Friday, and one presumes it, along with the other two, will be finalized by Monday the 28th, which is the opening of filing season, though I hear that could possibly get pushed back a day. Greg, Stace, the Lone Star Project, Postcards, the Trib, and Trail Blazers have more.

Third quarter Congressional fundraising

The Trib has the highlights from some of the contested Congressional primaries that are shaping up.

Texas congressional incumbents raised more than $4.7 million during the third quarter of the year, but some of them face challengers who also displayed a knack for raising political cash. New fundraising reports show what’s in the war chests of Texans vying for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving definition to some of the state’s most closely watched races.

State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, wowed by bringing in more than $500,000 for his challenge to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. Doggett raised $377,000 by comparison – but he reported millions more in cash on hand, $3.3 million to Castro’s $389,000.

U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, raised almost $290,000 in the third quarter, far outpacing his first serious challenger, Beto O’Rourke. The former El Paso City Council member raised almost $26,000 and ended the quarter with about $12,000 on hand to Reyes’s $276,000.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, reported another of the top challenger fundraising numbers – about $137,500 – in his contest with U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, who raised slightly less. The incumbent reported about $460,000 in cash on hand to Gallego’s nearly $136,000.

You should read that linked story about Beto O’Rourke, which I saw at the time but didn’t get a chance to write about. I don’t have anything in particular against Rep. Silvestre Reyes, but a young, aggressive progressive like O’Rourke is exactly the kind of person I want to see succeed in politics. O’Rourke has no money to speak of yet, but if you look at his campaign finance report, you see that he only filed his initial paperwork on August 26, so there wasn’t much time to raise money for this period. We’ll see how he does in the next quarter.

I should note that State Rep. Pete Gallego, whose report is here, also didn’t file paperwork until late in the quarter. He did pretty well for himself, which is very encouraging, as Rep. Gallego is another person I’d like to see succeed.

That covers three of the four contested Dem primaries that I know of for this cycle. The fourth is in CD30, where Rep. Eddie Berniece Johnson already has one opponent in State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway and may soon have another in businessman Taj Clayton. Rep. Johnson raised $82K for the period and has $223K on hand, not great but probably okay for a longtime incumbent who is well known. Rep. Caraway does not have a report visible through the search facility, but she does have a report. It’s here, and it was done by hand. No, I don’t understand why anyone would do it that way if they didn’t have to, either. In any event, she raised $13K and has $7K on hand, all from the month of September; note that in addition to the old-school handwriting, the form was filed for 2010 and not 2011. Hopefully, she’ll get her act together for the next quarterly filing. Thanks to DavidNYC for pointing this out to me.

I should note that the Trib provides a handy app that summarizes all candidates’ totals. I was a bit confused at first by the differences between their numbers and what you see in the FEC reports, but eventually it dawned on me that the totals the FEC gives for receipts are cumulative for the cycle, and not just the amouint raised in the given period. This is not how the state and city reports are done, which is why I was thrown off. In any event, the Trib’s app lets you know how much was raised over the past three months, which would be hard to do otherwide unless you had saved a query result from July.

Two other numbers of interest to note. Freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold was cited by Politico as an underperformer for this period, having raised a mere $102K. He does have $277K on hand, which isn’t nothing but also isn’t exactly insurmountable. You can see his FEC report here. Farenthold was by no means the low scorer – by my count, ten incumbents raised less, and eleven others have less cash. Fellow freshman Quico Canseco, in what is now a swingier district, raised $112K, but has $460K on hand.

And finally, a number to make you shake your head.

Seeking to gin up enthusiasm about an expanding the 2012 Senate map, national Democrats touted the candidacy of retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez when he entered the Texas Senate race in the spring. But Sanchez has maintained a low profile so far and his latest fundraising numbers aren’t impressive.

In the third quarter, Sanchez brought in just $83,000, spending over $112,000 and finishing the quarter with about $119,000 in the bank.

Yeah, that’s what I call a truly crappy report. I hope it’s because he has not been fully engaged in fundraising yet and not because no one is giving anything. At least there’s no place to go from here but up.

Plans from an alternate universe: The Veasey-West plan

Congressional redistricting, which took so long that it couldn’t be done during the regular session, has zipped through the special session, thanks in no small part to the virtual elimination of public testimony. At this point, the full House needs to pass the map that emerged from the House Redistricting Committee last week, then either the Senate must concur or a conference committee will be formed.

All this you know. What you may not know is that along the way there were some interesting alternative plans put forth by various Democratic legislators. None of them ever had a chance of being adopted, of course, but all of them served the purpose of showing what could have been for the eventual litigation. I’m going to take a look at a few of these.

We’ll start with the Veasey map, Plan C121, which was presented to the Senate by Sen. Royce West. I’ve already shown the pictures, so let’s skip ahead to the electoral numbers.

Safe R Dist Obama Houston ======================= 01 29.95 36.74 02 29.89 31.27 03 36.30 36.00 04 29.77 37.74 05 27.93 36.13 06 29.41 32.64 08 24.93 29.54 10 36.54 38.49 11 25.36 28.90 12 34.14 35.28 13 23.06 28.16 14 33.14 38.04 17 37.01 40.78 19 26.96 31.73 21 34.67 33.30 22 39.04 40.61 24 39.00 38.31 26 33.77 35.10 Likely R Dist Obama Houston ======================= 07 42.60 40.89 31 44.01 42.93 32 43.32 43.36 36 41.32 48.27 Safe D Dist Obama Houston ======================= 09 76.48 76.68 15 60.22 64.01 16 65.18 67.38 18 78.24 78.29 20 63.67 64.10 23 65.31 66.14 25 60.68 56.95 27 56.64 60.72 28 58.91 61.69 29 60.28 65.59 30 72.41 73.05 33 58.86 60.85 34 66.15 67.84 35 64.78 65.20

A spreadsheet with all the 2008 numbers is here. Arguably, CDs 27, 28, and 33 could be Likely Dem instead of Safe Dem, but as no Republican other than McCain topped 40% in any of them, I feel comfortable with this designation. CD25 is an odd duck. Obama did better than every other Democrat by up to almost seven points, but downballot Republicans didn’t best John McCain by similar amounts. It was Libertarian candidates, who got as much as 6.38% of the vote, that sopped up the extra support, while no R reached 41%. Keep Austin weird, y’all. Finally, as I expected CD31 would make for an interesting potential swing district, while CD36’s apparent Dem strength is overstated, as Jefferson and Galveston counties continue to go the wrong way.

Veasey’s plan would likely give 14 seats to the Democrats. It adds three of the four news seats to the D column – two in the Metroplex and one in South Texas – while ensuring that Blake Farenthold and Quico Canseco would be one-termers. It does not create a new Harris County seat, nor is it the most ambitious Democratic plan. We’ll see the former in the next entry.

House Redistricting committee approves modified Congressional map

Even quicker than the Senate committee.

The Texas House Redistricting Committee approved a new version of the Congressional map that makes a few tweaks, mainly in North and South Texas. But the overall goal remains the same: Maintain and expand Republican power in Washington.

The map was approved on an 11-5 party line vote in the committee, sending it to the full House. The map looks very much like the one that sailed out of the Senate Monday. But this new version would slightly reduce Hispanic voting strength in the district represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, who faces a potentially stiff re-match in 2012 from former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat.

The author of the map, Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, said the change was a response to “concerns of the San Antonio Hispanic community” and is meant to shore up Latino voting strength in the district held by Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio. It does that by taking Latinos from surrounding districts, including District 23 held by Canseco and a newly proposed District 35.

State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said the changes were designed to protect Canseco, easily the most vulnerable Republican in the Congressional delegation.

“They switched some Hispanic and Anglo voters around to make the district safer for Canseco, and make it easier for Anglo voters to control the district,” Veasey said.

The House version of the map would also switch around some precincts in Tarrant and Denton Counties, changes that Veasey said would help shore up the re-election prospects of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.

Postcards has more. I guess I was expecting them to hold a public hearing with testimony or something before they actually voted. Silly me. The new plan is C149. Here’s what the partisan numbers look like now, with comparisons to the original plan and the one that the Senate approved:

C125 C130 C149 C125 C130 C149 Dist Obama Obama Obama Houston Houston Houston ==================================================== 01 30.40 30.47 30.47 37.01 36.39 36.39 02 35.39 35.86 35.86 38.14 36.65 36.65 03 37.37 37.37 37.37 36.79 36.79 36.79 04 29.28 29.28 29.28 37.55 37.55 37.55 05 37.31 37.28 37.21 42.07 42.05 42.01 07 39.32 39.08 39.08 38.10 37.83 37.83 08 25.43 26.08 26.14 28.59 29.40 29.44 11 23.42 23.13 23.13 28.44 28.29 28.29 13 22.24 22.24 22.24 27.48 27.48 27.48 14 34.30 41.96 41.96 39.69 47.31 47.31 19 27.94 27.94 27.94 32.32 32.32 32.32 22 35.80 37.65 37.65 36.92 38.32 38.32 26 39.44 39.33 39.33 39.64 39.64 39.55 06 41.67 41.67 42.51 44.29 44.28 45.44 10 43.81 42.77 42.59 44.14 43.41 43.23 12 42.50 42.50 43.53 43.10 43.10 44.13 17 40.71 40.94 40.94 43.98 44.08 44.08 21 42.51 42.67 42.25 40.48 40.61 40.26 24 40.55 40.54 40.54 39.91 39.91 39.91 25 42.40 42.83 42.73 43.63 43.95 43.54 27 40.78 40.31 40.12 46.28 45.85 45.75 31 42.61 42.61 42.54 42.47 42.47 42.40 32 43.79 43.79 43.80 43.63 43.63 43.67 33 42.64 42.64 41.74 43.90 43.90 42.96 36 41.02 29.58 29.58 47.46 39.30 39.30 23 47.19 47.19 47.14 49.27 49.27 49.18 15 59.15 58.43 56.36 61.90 61.19 58.91 20 58.40 58.47 58.40 58.15 58.34 58.71 34 59.11 60.29 60.52 62.85 63.87 64.10 09 76.42 76.49 76.49 76.77 76.85 76.85 16 66.44 66.44 66.44 68.68 68.68 68.68 18 79.48 79.24 79.57 78.71 78.47 78.73 28 60.40 60.91 62.09 63.33 63.82 65.12 29 65.18 65.40 64.63 70.09 70.29 69.70 30 81.87 81.89 81.89 82.08 82.10 82.10 35 60.70 60.61 61.59 61.16 60.98 61.47

Doesn’t look like Granger got much help to me. Joe Barton’s district also got a little bluer, while Blake Farenthold and Ruben Hinojosa’s got a touch redder. Quico Canseco’s CD23 got just a pinch redder – now only Linda Yanez achieved a majority there for the Dems; Susan Strawn fell short by a handful of votes – but it remains the case that every downballot Dem other than Jim Jordan got at least a plurality. CD23’s SSVR dropped a bit, from 53.65% to 53.40%, while CD20’s Charlie Gonzalez saw his go up from 50.8% to 53.64%. You can see all of the district data here, and of course Greg liveblogged the committee hearing, with salient analysis about how it all ties into the forthcoming litigation. On to the full House from here.

WaPo on Texas redistricting

The Fix makes a few curious statements about the proposed Congressional redistricting map for Texas.

Despite the Lonestar State voting 55 percent for Republicans in the 2008 presidential race, the GOP-controlled legislature’s proposed map features 26 districts that went for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) out of a total of 36 districts, according to a Fix analysis based on data from the Texas Legislative Council. That’s 72 percent of districts that favor Republicans on paper.

The big changes are the four new districts the state gained in the decennial reapportionment process thanks to its rapid population growth. Of the four, three lean Republican while one is solidly Democratic. The other big change is the shifting of Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Texas) district from a strongly Democratic district to a strongly Republican one.

The new Republican-leaning districts went 53 percent, 57 percent and 58 percent for McCain, while the Democratic district went 38 percent for McCain. Doggett’s district would go from 40 percent McCain to 56 percent.

In effect, Republicans appear to be trying to give themselves a good chance to gain three of the four new seats, leaving Democrats to gain just one.

If The Fix’s math here were correct, that would be a net gain of four Republican seats – three new ones, plus the eradication of Lloyd Doggett. As we know, however, two of the four “new” seats are Democratic – CDs 34 and 35 – so two new R seats plus Doggett’s is what takes them from 23 to 26.

The result is a map in which there are 10 very safe Democratic seats — McCain didn’t take more than 40 percent in any of them — and 26 districts that went at least 52 percent for McCain. The fact that there is no district that went between 40 percent and 52 percent for McCain suggests a carefully crafted gerrymander.

Of those 26 McCain districts, the GOP presidential nominee took less than 60 percent of the vote in 13 of them, which suggests they could be competitive under the right set of cirumstances. But 2008 was a very bad year for the GOP, and McCain’s numbers were on the low end of what a Republican presidential — or congressional — candidate will likely get in any given election cycle.

First, it’s not clear what he’s basing that statement about where McCain’s numbers might fall on the spectrum, other than perhaps a reflexive “Texas is a red state” intuition. Second, there’s a surprising amount of variation between the number of votes the Presidential candidate for a given party gets in a particular district and the amount of votes a downballot candidate gets. I’ll explore this in some depth in a future post, but trust me on this. There can be a large difference, amounting to several percentage points. Finally, as we saw in 2008, nearly all of the growth in the Texas voter pool from 2004 came from Democratic voters. That likely won’t be as big and may not be as pronounced this time, but it’s not Republican voters that have caused Texas’ population surge this decade. My belief is that Obama starts out at the level he got in 2008, and is more likely to go up than down in 2012, and that’s before we consider the possibility that he might actually campaign here.

About the closest thing to a swing district would be freshman Rep. Quico Canseco’s (R-Texas) big and rural 23rd district, running from San Antonio to El Paso. McCain’s vote share would increase from 48 percent currently to 52 percent under the new plan, though, so Canseco would have an easier time in what’s looking like a rematch with former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D).

Again, you can’t just look at the Presidential numbers. In some districts, Obama ran ahead of other Democrats. In others, including the old and the reconfigured CD23, he ran behind other Democrats. As I said before, every downballot statewide Democrat other than Jim Jordan got at least a plurality in CD23, with Susan Strawn and Linda Yanez getting majorities. This district is friendlier to Canseco than the old CD23, and I call it a Lean Republican district, but it’s far from a slamdunk for him.

Freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) may not have an easy time, either. But his South Texas 27th district would undergo significant changes and would grow seven points more Republican.

(Most of Farenthold’s current district is in what would be the new 34th district, but since most of that “new” district is from Farenthold’s current district — and the new 27th is a patchwork of other districts — we and others consider the 27th to be the new district, along with the 33rd, 35th and 36th.)

Ah, here’s the math error. If you are counting CD27 as the fourth “new” district, then you must also count Farenthold’s “old” district, which is now CD34, as one that would flip from the GOP to the Democrats, much as you counted Lloyd Doggett’s old CD25 as an R pickup. Otherwise, as we saw, you credit the GOP with a four seat gain instead of three. Which is technically a two-seat net gain – they go from a 14-seat advantage (23-9) to a 16-seat advantage (26-10), assuming they can hold onto Canseco.

Among other Republicans, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions gets a two-point bump to a 55 percent McCain district in his Dallas-based 32nd; Rep. Mike McCaul (R) keeps a 55 percent McCain district in the 10th; and GOP Reps. John Carter, Lamar Smith, Kay Granger and Joe Barton all see their districts get less Republican.

Freshman Rep. Bill Flores (R) would take the biggest hit, with his 17th district dropping from one where McCain got 67 percent to one where he would have gotten 58 percent. Flores would be taking one for the team, in order to add Republicans to nearby districts. But besides he and Granger (6 percent drop), no other Republican would see his or her district drop more than 2 percent, according to the 2008 presidential numbers.

And clearly this was either written before the Senate modified the original into Plan C136, or it was written in ignorance of that, as Plan C136 makes Ron Paul’s CD14 a lot less red, at least on the surface. (Plan C141, which made no further changes to CD14, is what was eventually passed by the full Senate.) Stuff does happen over the weekend, fellas, especially when the GOP considers it to be in its interest to get things done before the public figures out what’s going on.

More on the Seliger-Solomons plan

Rick Dunham has a nice analysis of the proposed Congressional map that’s worth your time to read. I disagree with him on two related points.

Republicans successfully shored up three districts they captured from Democrats in the past two election cycles — those held by Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi and Francisco “Quico” Canseco of San Antonio.

[…]

Rep. Joe Barton is the only Republican to be put in jeopardy by the GOP line-drawers. His Dallas-area district becomes more Hispanic and is probably a political toss-up. Barton decided to take the high road when I sought his reaction: “I think this map is a great starting point,” he said. “And it is positive that the House and Senate redistricting chairmen joined together and put forth a public map. Now open debate can begin.”

To see where I disagree, let’s look at a breakdown of the districts by 2008 electoral results. I’m using the Obama and Sam Houston numbers to divide these districts into different groups. First, the Safe Republicans:


Dist Obama Houston ======================= 01 30.40 37.01 02 35.39 38.14 03 37.37 36.79 04 29.28 37.55 05 37.31 42.07 07 39.32 38.10 08 25.43 28.59 11 23.42 28.44 13 22.24 27.48 14 34.30 39.69 19 27.94 32.32 22 35.80 36.92 26 39.44 39.64

Some of these are likely to move into the next category over time. Keep an eye on districts 7, 22, and 26, as I think they’re the best bets to be affected by demographic change over the next decade. All this is assuming this is the map we get, of course, which is no sure bet, but we do have to start the conversation somewhere. Next is what I’d call the Likely Republicans:

Dist Obama Houston ======================= 06 41.67 44.29 10 43.81 44.14 12 42.50 43.10 17 40.71 43.98 21 42.51 40.48 24 40.55 39.91 25 42.40 43.63 27 40.78 46.28 31 42.61 42.47 32 43.79 43.63 33 42.64 43.90 36 41.02 47.46

Some of these are likelier than others. Despite the high Sam Houston numbers, I don’t really think that either CDs 27 or 36 are going to be seriously in play. They just have too much rural turf. Same for CDs 17 and 33. The ones I’d keep my eye on are CDs 32, 31, 21, 12, and yes, 06. But while Smokey Joe may have a slightly more purple district in this map, he’s not the GOPer on the most shaky ground. That goes to the one Lean Republican district:

Dist Obama Houston ======================= 23 47.19 49.27

I should note that both Linda Yanez and Susan Strawn won a majority in CD23, while all downballot Dems other than Jim Jordan had pluralities. It’s redder than it was before, but it sure as heck isn’t safe.

On the Democratic side, there’s not much to see:

Dist Obama Houston ======================= 15 59.15 61.90 20 58.40 58.15 34 59.11 62.85 09 76.42 76.77 16 66.44 68.68 18 79.48 78.71 28 60.40 63.33 29 65.18 70.09 30 81.87 82.08 35 60.70 61.16

For the sake of consistency, I’d call the first three Likely Dem and the latter seven Safe Dem. I don’t really think Congressmen Hinojosa or Gonzalez has much to fear, and whether it’s a Lucio or someone else I figure the Democratic nominee in CD34 would win easily.

So as drawn, this map would elect 10 or 11 Democrats, depending on how things broke in CD23, and 25 or 26 Republicans, though I would expect several Republican held districts to become more competitive over time. Again, all of this assumes that the final map is more or less the same as this one. Even without lawsuits and a Justice Department review, surely some aspects of this map will change. For those of you in Austin or who can get there today or tomorrow, the House Redistricting Committee will have a hearing this morning at 10:45, and the Senate will have a hearing Friday at 9. Be there if you can. A statement about the proposed map from the Texas Democratic Congressional delegation is beneath the fold, and an analysis of the plan plus a statement from the Lone Star Project is here.

(more…)

The Seliger-Solomons Congressional map is out

And it’s a joke. Seriously, I can’t describe it any other way. Look at the following districts – go to http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/ and look up Plan C125 – and tell me how they can possibly satisfy any rational legal argument for compactness or communities of interest. Let’s start with CD36, which forms a giant Gateway-style arch from Super Neighborhood 22 up into East Texas and down around to Orange County.

CD36

Let’s continue with CD35, which basically snakes along I-35 from the northern reaches of Travis County to the southern end of Bexar County.

CD35

Speaking of I-35, if you drive it through Travis County, you change Congressional districts no fewer than seven times.

Here’s CD21, which spreads tentacles into both Travis and Bexar from the west.

CD21

You really have to zoom in on the Bexar County portions of CD21 to fully appreciate its ridiculousness. The word “fractal” comes to mind in some places. As for Travis County, it gets split into five districts under this plan. When I said that the Republicans would put a piece of Travis into every single district if they could, I wasn’t kidding.

Here’s the GOP’s attempt to save Blake Farenthold by turning his district into one that’s more Hill Country and less Gulf Coast.

CD27

There’s some similar juju with HD34, which I guess is supposed to be the Aaron Pena Special.

CD34

For what it’s worth, CD27 becomes a fairly strong Republican district, according to 2008 election data. Here’s how it stacks up against some current GOP districts:

District Incumbent Obama % Houston % ========================================== 06 Barton 41.67 44.29 10 Mc Caul 43.81 44.14 12 Granger 42.50 43.10 21 Smith 42.51 40.48 23 Canseco 47.19 49.27 25* Doggett 42.40 43.63 27 Farenthold 40.78 46.28 31 Carter 42.61 42.47 32 Sessions 43.79 43.63 33 Open 42.64 43.90 34 Open 59.11 62.85 35* Open 60.70 61.16 36 Open 41.02 47.46

Greg makes the case that CD27 is really a “new” district, much as CD25 is – it may contain Lloyd Doggett’s house, but it’s not his district in any meaningful sense – and that Farenthold is actually in CD34, with Doggett likely to aim for CD35, where he may or may not get knocked off by a San Antonio hopeful. I’ll defer to him on that, I’m just going by the existing district numbers. Some of these Republican districts are more purple than I’d have expected, and much as is the case with State House districts, it may be that in a cycle or two a few of these guys could be imperiled. It’s harder for me to say with such bigger districts, but the possibility certainly exists. Honestly, it’s a bit hard to believe this map represents a genuine consensus among Republicans, as there’s plenty more they could have done to make most incumbents safer while warding off the more obvious VRA-related complaints. But we’ll see.

Anyway, it goes on and on, with no new minority opportunity district for the D/FW area in sight, and some examples of what seems to be clearcut retrogression – CD27 goes from a district with a 59.4 SSVR percentage to one with 37.2%. I suppose you can claim that CD34 makes up for that, but still. One hopes that means this map would be a non-starter with the Justice Department. In fact, Rep. Marc Veasey, whose alternate map I showed yesterday, issued the following statement about this map:

Last week, Rep. Veasey offered the Fair Texas Plan, a congressional map that provides electoral opportunity for the Texans who earned our state four additional congressional districts and meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Today, Chairman Seliger and Chairman Solomons presented Texans with their proposed congressional map.

“This map is the very definition of an unfair and illegal congressional plan, one that was constructed behind closed doors with reckless disregard for the testimony of Texans who asked for a plan that adheres to the Voting Rights Act and preserves communities of interest,” Rep. Veasey explained. “The Seliger-Solomons Plan is a slap in the face of minority voters responsible for 90% of Texas growth in the last decade.”

An initial review of the proposed plan clearly indicates that it is retrogressive and creates only 10 effective minority opportunity districts out of 36 compared to the 11 effective districts in the current 32 member plan.

“In fact, preserving only 11 effective minority opportunity districts when the state now has four additional seats due to minority population growth would still be retrogressive, and I have no doubt that a plan that has only 10 effective minority opportunity districts runs afoul of the Voting Rights Act,” Rep. Veasey said.

Across the state, this discriminatory plan splits and packs minority communities. Nowhere is that illegal scheme more apparent than Tarrant and Dallas Counties. Veasey pointed out that once again, the Southeast Ft. Worth community he represents is separated from other areas of African American growth in Tarrant County and placed in a district that would be controlled by suburban Anglo voters. This time, the North Side Hispanic community is exiled to a Denton County district and Latino voters in Dallas-Ft. Worth are split into at least seven different districts.

“A plan that splits and packs the 2.1 million African Americans and Latinos in Dallas and Tarrant Counties to provide us only one effective voice in Congress is not just illegal, it’s wrong,” concluded Rep. Veasey.

MALDEF has a similar reaction.

A coalition of Latino groups which submitted partial state maps for congressional districts blasted the Republican plan. “The Solomons-Seliger map does not increase the number of Latino opportunity congressional districts despite the fact that 65% of the State’s growth over the past decade was comprised of Latinos,” said MALDEF’s Nina Perales. “Instead, the map gerrymanders more than nine million Latinos in Texas to make sure that we have no more electoral opportunity than we did in 1991.”

And as of Tuesday evening, the issue is now on the call with a hearing scheduled for Friday. In the meantime, another lawsuit has been filed.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed congressional redistricting because he said it neglects Hispanic population growth in Harris County and elsewhere in Texas.

“Personally, the map is fine with me,” said Green, whose district remains largely the same. “But the reason I’m not totally happy with the plan is because I don’t think it fairly treats Harris County — and particularly the Hispanic community in Harris County. I don’t think it recognizes the huge increase in the Hispanic population.”

Green said that he and three Democratic House members from Texas who represent large Hispanic populations – Reps. Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio, Silvestre Reyes of El Paso and Lloyd Doggett of Austin, have filed suit in federal and state courts in Austin seeking court-ordered creation of two Hispanic congressional districts in Harris County with more than 60 percent Hispanic population.

Just something to consider here: After the 1991 redistricting, subsequent litigation led to the redrawing of several districts, for which special elections had to be held in 1996. After the 2001 redistricting and 2003 re-redistricting, subsequent litigation also led to the redrawing of several districts, for which special elections had to be held in 2006. Point being, whatever map we have in 2012 is unlikely to be the map we still have in 2020.

Anyway, take a look at this map and react as appropriate. I have 2010 electoral data here, and Greg has further analysis here and here. PoliTex, Trail Blazers, and the Trib have more.

Let the candidate speculation season begin!

We don’t have Congressional districts yet but we do have potential Congressional candidates.

Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos is considering seeking higher office.

Villalobos told Action 4 News he is considering running for congress and has officially formed an exploratory committee.

The Cameron County District Attorney created an event on his personal Facebook page announcing a reception for his new exploratory committee.

That event is scheduled for tonight at 7, in case anyone reading this is in the vicinity. Villalobos is at least the third possible Democratic candidate for a district to be named later. There’s a Some Dude sending out press releases for CD07, and there’s former Fort Bend County Treasurer candidate KP George looking at CD22, and likely others of which I am not currently aware. Whether Villalobos might wind up in a newly created district, in the same district as freshman Blake Farenthold, or in a bizarre fajita-strip district with an incumbent Democrat remains to be seen. I don’t know anything about him, but he does seem like the kind of person who could have the juice to make a real campaign; one wonders how much considerations like that will affect the eventual map. Anyone know anything more about Mr. Villalobos?

What Planned Parenthood actually does

Since the only thing apparently holding up a deal to prevent a government shutdown is the GOP’s mulish insistence on de-funding Planned Parenthood, perhaps it’s time we all understood what Planned Parenthood actually does. Ezra Klein gives the explanation, with a chart.

[A]bortion services account for about 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities. That’s less than cancer screening and prevention (16 percent), STD testing for both men and women (35 percent), and contraception (also 35 percent). About 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s users are over age 20, and 75 percent have incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line. Planned Parenthood itself estimates it prevents more than 620,000 unintended pregnancies each year, and 220,000 abortions. It’s also worth noting that federal law already forbids Planned Parenthood from using the funds it receives from the government for abortions.

So though the fight over Planned Parenthood might be about abortion, Planned Parenthood itself isn’t about abortion. It’s primarily about contraception and reproductive health. And if Planned Parenthood loses funding, what will mainly happen is that cancer screenings and contraception and STD testing will become less available to poorer people. Folks with more money, of course, have many other ways to receive all these services, and tend to get them elsewhere already.

The fight also isn’t about cutting spending. The services Planned Parenthood provides save the federal government a lot of money. It’s somewhat cold to put it in these terms, but taxpayers end up bearing a lot of the expense for unintended pregnancies among people without the means to care for their children. The same goes for preventable cancers and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

That saves the state of Texas money, too. Not that any of the misogynists who are making these demands yet call themselves “fiscally conservative” care about that, of course. Over this wingnut wish list item they are willing to shut down the government – which, by the way, will also cost a ton of money. Among them are freshman CD27 Congressman Blake Farenthold. Makes you proud, doesn’t it? For more on what Planned Parenthood does, read this. A statement from Peter J. Durkin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, on the subject of the shutdown is beneath the fold. Steve Benen, Matt Yglesias, RH Reality Check, and Feministing have more.

(more…)

Ortiz concedes

No surprise.

U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz on Monday conceded the loss of his 27th District seat that he held for nearly three decades.
A recount netted him more than 100 votes in Cameron County but left him still hundreds of votes behind Republican Blake Farenthold.

Ortiz called Farenthold at 8:04 p.m. to congratulate him and offer assistance on the transition.

“Although I gained votes during the manual recount, I did not surpass my opponent’s lead,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Therefore, with great respect and admiration in the democratic process, I congratulate my opponent, Mr. R. Blake Farenthold, in his election to the 27th Congressional District of Texas.”

The exact margin remained unclear. Ortiz spokesman Jose Borjon said Ortiz picked up about 200 votes overall, and Farenthold, about 50. He said the margin was “somewhere in the 600s.”

About what I expected. It was just too many votes to reasonably hope to overcome.

The interesting question is what comes after redistricting. As Greg notes, CD27 will be much more Democratic in a Presidential year like 2012, so it will require some surgery to protect its new Congressman from electoral peril, and even then that may not be possible. It may wind up that CD27, or whatever it is ultimately called, will be like Baron Hill‘s once and former district in Indiana, prone to flipping every cycle, with Dems having the advantage in Presidential years and Republicans coming back in the off years. Whatever the case, expect Rep-elect Farenthold to be a top target. Is there a Juan Garcia bandwagon for me to climb on board yet?