Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

redistricting

House re-passes its redistricting map

Done and done.

The Texas House on Wednesday reapproved the map of districts for its 150 seats, which was redrawn in 2021 and fortified the Republican majority while diluting the voting strength of Hispanic and Black voters.

The House made no changes to the map that was used for the first time in last year’s elections. Instead, its 85-65 vote on House Bill 1000 was meant to ensure lawmakers met constitutional requirements calling for legislative districts to be redrawn in the first regular legislative session after the results of the decennial census are published.

Pandemic-related delays pushed the release of the 2020 census results past the end of the last regularly scheduled session in May 2021.

[…]

Like the Senate map, the House map drew the ire of Democrats, civil rights groups and Texans from across the state who criticized Republicans for not adequately reflecting the crucial role people of color played in fueling the state’s population gains. Of the nearly 4 million people added to the population count in the 2020 census, 95% were people of color. Nearly 2 million were Hispanic.

Both maps are the subjects of a collection of federal lawsuits challenging the Legislature’s redistricting work as discriminatory against Texans of color. In that litigation, the broad set of plaintiffs suing the state argue the Republican-controlled Legislature used the once-a-decade redistricting process to draw maps solidifying the GOP’s political dominance while weakening the influence of voters of color.

They are joined by the U.S. Department of Justice in their legal challenge, which also includes the Legislature’s redraw of the state’s congressional map that largely protected incumbents in Congress while reducing the number of districts in which Black and Hispanic residents make up the majority of eligible voters.

In court, the state has largely argued plaintiffs do not have enough evidence to show the Legislature discriminated against Texans of color in its mapmaking and that, if anything, the Legislature made decisions based on partisan considerations.

The three-judge panel in charge of the case has yet to reschedule a trial over the new political maps after delaying a September 2022 trial because of disputes over discovery that left both the state and the various plaintiff groups questioning whether they’d have enough time to prepare to make their cases in a federal court in El Paso.

See here for the previous update. Both chambers still have to approve the other’s map, which I expect will be entirely perfunctory. I expect the state lawsuit is now moot (and the plaintiffs were right but never got anything for it), so whatever may happen from here will occur in the federal courts. I’m sure you can guess how optimistic I am about that.

Precinct analysis: State Senate and SBOE 2022

PREVIOUSLY:
State House 2022
A comparison with 2012
Congress 2022

As with Congress there won’t be much to see here. The fewer the districts, the more precise the redistricting can be. Here’s the State Senate:


Dist  Abbott   Abb%     Beto  Beto%
===================================
19    96,050  43.8%  119,728  54.6%
20    78,929  44.9%   94,682  53.8% 
21    88,609  40.5%  126,105  57.7%
27    87,773  49.0%   88,970  49.6%

02   168,600  59.2%  112,075  39.4%
07   172,986  60.0%  111,308  38.6%
08   195,298  58.3%  134,859  40.3%
09   161,729  57.4%  115,562  41.0%
11   164,256  58.7%  111,345  39.8%
12   205,220  58.4%  141,603  40.3%
25   237,836  60.0%  152,508  38.5%

SD27 is the former Eddie Lucio district, and Dems just barely hung on to it last year. Freshman Sen. Morgan LaMantia will be on the ballot again next year, and obviously I hope that being the incumbent plus it being a Presidential year will help her out. I’m sure Republicans will put a lot of money into it anyway. The other Dem districts don’t particularly worry me, but we will of course look for any trends.

Not much to say about the Republican-held districts. Angela Paxton, out there opposing any exceptions to Texas’ forced birth laws, and she’ll be on the 2024 ballot as well. It sure would be nice to put a lot of money into making that a campaign issue, if only to see what if any traction there is to be had with it. Her SD08 and all of the others are in that pile of “districts that moved at least somewhat in a blue direction last decade”, and if there are to be any potential flips on this part of the ledger we’ll need that to continue.

Onto the SBOE:


Dist  Abbott   Abb%     Beto  Beto%
===================================
01   205,022  44.6%  246,944  53.7%
03   218,370  44.7%  263,062  53.8%

02   206,855  51.6%  188,418  47.0%
06   351,539  57.1%  254,937  41.4%
07   348,281  59.8%  225,552  38.8%
08   284,992  59.2%   89,318  39.3%
12   402,314  59.9%  260,723  38.8%

SBOE2, which had been on a knife’s edge last decade, is now Republican-held, meaning the Dems are back to having five seats. It seems that the new map made the now-Dem SBOE5 a lot bluer at least partly at SBOE3’s expense, as it had been a 65%-plus district before. Again, I’m not worried about either of those two, but as above we’ll keep an eye on them. I don’t know when we’ll get a crack at SBOE2 again – unlike in the Senate, the process to determine who gets the two-year term and who gets the four-year term in the SBOE doesn’t draw much coverage. Given the size of these districts, unless the state itself turns blue I don’t see any other competitive races on the horizon. I’d love to be proven wrong, but these districts have a lot of slack in them. For all that SBOE6 shifted last decade, it stayed red in the end. It’s now been reset to 2012 levels, and at this point the best case scenario looks like a repeat of that cycle. Again, I’ll be happy to be too pessimistic about that.

Even more Board of Managers applicants

Maybe now they have enough.

When the Texas Education Agency in June appoints a new superintendent and nine managers to govern the Houston Independent School District, longtime educator and mother Anita Wadhwa hopes there will be someone like her sitting on the new board.

“Sometimes on boards, they don’t have people who are on the ground doing the work,” she said. “I just want to make sure that voice is represented — whether it’s with me or someone else, it doesn’t matter.”

Wadhwa is among 462 people, many of them educators, HISD parents or other professionals, who applied to the board of managers through the final deadline on Thursday night, according to the TEA. The extended deadline netted an additional 88 applications. Still, the Hispanic population remains vastly underrepresented with just 52 applicants. Latinos make up roughly 62% of the student body but 11% of the candidate pool.

“The reason for this low response has been a poor recruitment process that does not allow community input, a lack of transparency on qualifications, and a very short window of time,” said Sergio Lira, president of the Greater Houston LULAC Council, in a statement. “We feel that this is a calculated process that is meant to keep Latino numbers down.”

Forty people were disqualified from the process because they live outside district boundaries. A third of the applicants are white, nearly 40% are Black and 4.5% are Asian, according to the TEA. Nearly 70% hold a master’s or doctorate degree, including 38 people with a doctorate in education. There are many HISD teachers and employees in the mix, according a partial list of applicants, but the TEA has said those people must resign from their job if they are selected.

The partial list of names released last week by the TEA includes professionals from all spheres: attorneys, doctors, nurses, coaches, professors and educators. While many applicants have little name recognition, some have put been in the public sphere through civic leadership, prior elections and advocacy work. For example, among the applicants are Catherine Mincberg, who served as an HISD trustee more than a decade ago, and Lawrence Allen Jr., a former member of the state board of education and brother of a current HISD trustee.

When we last looked at the BoM applicants, we noted that the deadline to apply had been extended for two weeks, for unspecified reasons. I looked through the list of names in this story and didn’t see any that I hadn’t recognized from before, so either the Chron’s list wasn’t updated or nobody of sufficient renown to be spotted by the likes of me applied during that extended period. I did see Cathy Mincberg‘s name in there before, and according to her LinkedIn bio, she was a Trustee from 1983 through 1995; that “more than a decade ago” is doing quite a bit of work there. I should note, this is not at all intended as snark about Mincberg, who is also the ex-wife of former HCDP Chair and 2008 Dem candidate for County Judge David Mincberg. It was just that my reaction to the “more than a decade” descriptor was “I’m pretty sure I know the names of every HISD trustee since 2003, and she wasn’t one of them, so how much more than a decade are we talking here”. Well, now you know. Also, she was a previous applicant to the BoM.

Anyway, the same issues as before apply. Not nearly enough Latinos among the applicants. No accountability except via decree from Mike Morath. No clue, at least by me, how they’re going to be able to reach the super high metrics Morath has set. Redistricting of trustee districts still needs to be done, and there hasn’t been a bond issue since 2012; sadly, we’re no longer in a zero-interest economy, so it’s going to cost more to replenish the capital stock. Just remember, the state of Texas is now responsible for all this and more. Every single problem from now till they hand it all back, and then some, is on them.

HCC approves its redistricting map

In the end, what was expected.

The Houston Community College Board of Trustees approved on Wednesday a redrawn voter map that made small changes to all nine single-member districts but failed to reunify a previously split Third Ward.

The trustees approved the drawing, 8-1, with only District 4 Trustee Reagan Flowers voting against. She sought to regain the north part of the historic Third Ward ten years after her district ceded it to District 3, a predominately Hispanic area in east and southeast Houston that had lost population in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Alternate maps that Flowers favored never gained traction. Latino communities came out in force to support the plan that was voted on and approved. and election lawyers said it also contained the most equitable changes across the districts and had the least potential of diluting voter strength.

“(The map) actually rebalances you as a system,” said Lisa McBride, a partner at Thompson & Horton LLP. “It’s a little bit of impact to every single member district but it’s not so much that it actually would change any election outcome.”

The redistricting effort occurred as HCC’s District 3 once again counted population losses in the 2020 U.S. Census. Districts have to be redrawn when the population of the most populous district — now District 6, in west Houston — exceeds the population of the least populous district by more than 10 percent at the time of major Census updates.

The population estimates led the HCC board to spend the last 14 months considering various redrawn maps – all with the intent of finding places for District 6 to shed population and District 3 to expand. The trustees needed to approve a new map by the summer, in time to plan for the November election.

In approving “map 1A,” District 3 Trustee Adriana Tamez said, the board succeeded in its goals of preserving existing boundaries when possible and preserving constituent relations.

“There were challenges, including population growth in the west side of the System,” she said. “Map 1A adheres to our agreed upon criteria, with as little disruption as possible, not only for district 3, but for all districts across the system.”

See here for some background. There was definitely some opposition from Trustee Flowers and residents of the Third Ward, but the challenge of keeping that part of town all in the same district when the adjoining District 3 needed to add population required bigger overall changes, and in the end that was not the consensus choice.

On a completely tangential note, HISD still has its redistricting to do. The most recent update I have on that is from January, and with the forthcoming takeover I have no idea what will happen. If they had had an easy update to make, they’d have done it by now, but these things are rarely easy. As we know, there are still HISD Trustee elections this November, and the districts right now are not in compliance with the law. Something will have to happen sooner or later.

“Fort Worth is the new Austin”

Hadn’t thought of it that way.

Who speaks for Fort Worth in the nation’s capital?

For more than 25 years the go-to member of the Texas delegation for Tarrant County has been U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.

From securing funds for the Panther Island project to ensuring Pentagon funding for the F-35 fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin to saving the USS Fort Worth (she is the ship’s sponsor) from Navy cost-cutters, Granger has made her mark.

But will that still be the case?

There are now seven members of Congress who represent portions of Tarrant County after the most recent once-a-decade redistricting that realigned congressional and legislative districts in the 2022 elections.

There are two ways that the new lines divide Tarrant, and the most apparent is that the county is cut up so that there isn’t a singular voice for the region.

“Fort Worth is the new Austin,” said David Wasserman, the U.S. House expert for the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan analytical outlet. “It’s now been sliced up into a pinwheel.”

Austin, the 11th-largest city in the U.S., had been cut into six districts for nearly 20 years until the 2021 map created a concentrated “anchor” district that packed together Democrats and made Republican districts safer.

Tarrant County’s divisions carve up the county in such a way that Fort Worth, the 13th-largest city in the country, is also now the largest without an anchor congressional district.

In the second way the district divisions divide the region, there’s a twist highlighted by U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who says the lines are drawn in such a way that four of the seven lawmakers who represent Tarrant County also represent Dallas County.

“That’s significant. There’s always been that rivalry between Fort Worth and Dallas,” said Veasey, whose district is almost evenly split between the two counties.

He and U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, have represented both areas but as of the latest redistricting, there are two more: U.S. Reps. Jake Ellzey, R-Midlothian, and newly elected Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas.

It makes for a complex political landscape.

“The districts in Dallas-Fort Worth are more sawed apart than most districts in the country,” said Michael Li, a Texan who is a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

Ginger noted this story in the April 14 Dispatches from Dallas. The re-creation of a single anchor district for Austin and Travis County was something I noticed during the 2021 redistricting process. It was clearly done in part because a whole lot of Republican Congressmen found themselves in far-too-competitive races thanks to the blueing of the I-35 corridor. I also suspect that after 20 years the Republicans were finally willing to concede that they could not kill off Rep. Lloyd Doggett and so they may as well quit trying. If you can’t crack ’em, may as well pack ’em.

I did not notice how Fort Worth and Tarrant County had been slotted to fill that role of being sliced into many pieces to disperse Democratic voters. It makes total sense, I’m a little miffed that I hadn’t picked up on it before. It should be noted that in the 2020 election, under the old map, all of the Republican districts that include a piece of Tarrant County except for CD12 were at least modestly competitive, and CD12 had trended Dem over the decade just like all the others had. The new map is far less competitive, though perhaps things may get a bit tighter in the Presidential year 2024. I still believe CD24 will be on the national radar sooner or later; beyond that we’ll have to see.

Honestly, the main difference between Tarrant County with this map and Travis County with the previous two maps is that all of the Congressfolk who now represent Tarrant and Fort Worth seem to be happy to do so, and the local leadership is happy with them. That was very much not the case with Austin and Travis County, which were treated like dog poop on the shoes of most of the delegation. Which is to say, the Republican members of the delegation. Perhaps if Fort Worth and Tarrant County start electing Democrats to those local positions, this will change. Enjoy it while you can, y’all.

CD15 is the target for 2024

We’ll see if it remains the only one.

Democrats want South Texas back.

The U.S. House Democratic campaign arm plans to dump funds into Texas’ 15th congressional district this election cycle in a bid to reclaim the most competitive seat in the state, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will announce Monday. The seat had long been a Democratic stronghold until U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz, R-Edinburg, won the district in last year’s midterm election. The race saw a Republican spending frenzy and was a critical win for the party, which has been eager to make inroads with the district’s majority Latino population.

The strategy is a shift from last year, when national party groups essentially abandoned the district to the fury of local and state Democrats. Groups like the DCCC asserted they needed to prioritize limited resources to defend incumbents also in competitive races, including Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, who switched districts out of the 15th to the neighboring 34th last year.

The district snakes from the eastern exurbs of San Antonio down to McAllen on the Mexican border.

The loss of the 15th district was a bitter pill for Democrats to swallow. It was the first time in the district’s history a Republican won the seat and lent ballast to Republican claims that their message resonated with the culturally conservative Hispanic voters of the region.

Democrats were still able to hold off Republicans from netting any new seats in South Texas, and Democrats asserted they only lost the 15th district because its boundaries were redrawn in the 2021 redistricting to include more conservative areas north of its population core in McAllen. But Republicans managed to close margins in the traditionally Democratic areas of Hidalgo County, indicating the days of Democrats sitting pretty in the region might be over.

The optimistic take on how Republicans did in that part of the state last year is that it was an overall mediocre-at-best turnout year for Dems, which despite the overperformance of Dems in some critical races was the case nationwide as well. The test for that hypothesis will be the next election. We know that there are very few real opportunities for flips in this map, at least at this time. It’s still weird to not see CD23 on such a list. Could always be added later, if Republicans take out their incumbent in a nasty primary. For now, at least we haven’t been written off altogether. NBC News has more.

Senate re-passes its redistricting map

Mostly political theater, as there’s little reason to believe they actually need to cover their butts at this point.

Sen. Joan Huffman

A year and half after it was first approved, the Texas Senate on Monday voted to rubber-stamp a map setting the chamber’s political districts, which increased the Senate’s Republican majority and undercut the political power of voters of color.

The boundaries of the state’s political maps were redrawn in 2021, but the 23-7 vote was a procedural step to meet legal requirements. The state constitution requires legislative districts be redrawn in the first regular session after the results of the decennial census are published. But the delays of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the release of the 2020 census results past the end of the last regularly scheduled session in May 2021.

Lawmakers redrew the state’s political maps to incorporate a decade’s worth of explosive population growth later in the year during a specially called legislative session. The districts were then used during the 2022 elections.

State Sen. Joan Huffman, the Houston Republican who led the chamber’s redistricting process in 2021, described the vote on Senate Bill 375 as a “culmination” of the chamber’s redistricting work, including meeting constitutional obligations.

No members of the Senate submitted proposed amendments to the map. Several changes proposed by members of the public were rejected, Huffman said, because they did not align with her stated redistricting objectives, including “partisan considerations,” equalizing population across the districts and preserving communities of interest.

The Senate map is one target of broad federal litigation challenging how the Republican-controlled Legislature used the once-a-decade redistricting process to draw maps solidifying the GOP’s political dominance while weakening the influence of voters of color.

[…]

The federal three-judge panel overseeing the redistricting case previously denied a request by Tarrant County residents to block the reconfiguration of SD-10 from being used in last year’s elections while they pursued their legal challenge.

The state has argued that the reconfiguration was motivated by partisanship, not race, and that the plaintiffs were unable to prove that race was the predominant factor motivating the Legislature’s action. The changes to the district offered Republicans an easier path to pick up the seat in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Huffman, the chamber’s chief map-drawer, said throughout the 2021 redistricting process that the maps were drawn “race-blind” and were presented to legal counsel who cleared them as compliant with federal law meant to protect voters of color from discrimination.

She has repeatedly declined to disclose how they reached that conclusion, though. In a deposition for the SD-10 challenge, Huffman invoked legislative privilege to shield herself from answering questions about her considerations while redrawing the district.

The Senate reapproved its map while the challenge to the Legislature’s redistricting work remains in legal limbo. The three-judge panel in charge of the case has yet to reschedule a trial over the new political maps after delaying a September 2022 trial because of disputes over discovery that left both the state and the various plaintiff groups questioning whether they’d have enough time to prepare to make their cases in a federal court in El Paso.

The Senate map now heads for reapproval in the House, where its redistricting committee is just beginning its work to reapprove the map it adopted in 2021 for the House’s 150 districts.

See here, here, and here for some background. As noted before, I think this is solid evidence for the assertion made by Sens. Roland Gutierrez and Sarah Eckhardt that the legislative (non-Congressional) redistricting done in 2021 was unconstitutional. Not that there’s a damn thing to be done about it now, since the Supreme Court declined to do anything about it then. I expect the state lawsuits will eventually be tossed on the grounds that they’re now moot, and then we’ll play the usual multi-year game of What Excuse Will The Federal Courts Find This Time To Let Republicans Do What They Want. Situation normal, in other words.

Precinct analysis: Congress 2022

PREVIOUSLY:
State House 2022
A comparison with 2012

This will be short and bland, as there ain’t many competitive Congressional districts by any metric.


Dist  Abbott   Abb%    Beto   Beto%
===================================
28    79,478  46.4%   88,550  51.7%
34    57,793  42.7%   75,741  55.9%

15    81,095  52.4%   71,649  46.3%
23   116,353  54.4%   94,259  44.1%

03   163,075  59.1%  108,840  39.5%
12   143,586  59.9%   92,478  38.6%
22   144,862  59.5%   95,274  39.1% 
24   172,837  57.5%  123,159  41.0%

I could do a similar comparison to 2012, but that won’t tell us much. We already know that the swing seat list at that time was the then-Dem held CD23, and that was about it. CD23 flipped red in 2014 and managed to stay there, while CDs 07 and 32 went blue in 2018 and are now a much darker blue, to help make their formerly swingy neighbors more reliably red. This is what redistricting is all about.

Not a whole lot to say here. Republican interest in CD34 is already starting to wane, and I suspect we’re all going to be stuck with Henry Cuellar for the foreseeable future. Whatever one may say about Jessica Cisneros and any future efforts to oust Cuellar in a primary, the narrative that his district is “dark blue”, which wasn’t the case in 2020 or 2022, will hopefully die. I do think a better Dem than Cuellar can hold that district, but anyone who claims that basically any Dem could do so is at best kidding themselves. Let’s please put some more thought into this if we try again next year, that’s all I’m saying.

The best Dem pickup chance, at least on paper, is the seat that redistricting helped take away in CD15. Maybe CD23 becomes interesting again if the Republicans fully indulge in their fury against Rep. Tony Gonzales, or maybe like Cuellar and CD28 there exists room for someone more orthodox to hold the seat. On the one hand, Republican primary voters are not known for making rational, calculated choices. On the other hand, that is still a ten-point margin. You pay your money and you take your chances.

I continue to believe that the best target will end up being CD24 again, but that will likely take a couple of cycles. Maybe CDs 03 and 22 can join it, if we pray hard enough to the Demography Gods. I dunno. I will of course keep an eye on this, and I am somehow still a cockeyed optimist in these matters, but for now my forecast is that the Congressional landscape is boring. I hope to be wrong about that sooner rather than later.

Precinct analysis: Looking back at the 2012 landscape

PREVIOUSLY: State House 2022

We’ve had our first look at the way the new State House districts performed, and while we can expect the 2024 election to be a little different, it’s clear at this time that there aren’t many swing seats out there, even with a fairly expansive definition of “swing”. That’s by design, of course, and it’s clear Republicans have gotten pretty good at doing what they do. But I think we all recall feeling similar emotions following the 2012 election, and while it took awhile, we did see some massive changes in how districts were perceived over time. So let’s wind the clock back a decade and see what the landscape looked like at first. We’ll start with the Republican seats as of this time in 2013, using the same “under 55%” and “55-60%” standards as before.


Dist  Romney   Rom%    Obama Obama%
===================================
023   31,282  54.6%   25,365  44.2%
043   25,017  52.0%   22,554  46.9%
052   30,763  54.7%   23,849  42.4%
054   25,343  52.9%   21,909  45.7%
102   29,198  53.0%   24,958  45.3%
105   23,228  52.1%   20,710  46.5%
107   27,185  51.8%   24,593  46.9%
113   27,095  52.5%   23,891  46.3%

Dist  Romney   Rom%    Obama Obama%
===================================
032   28,992  56.9%   21,104  41.4%
045   35,298  55.2%   26,757  41.8%
047   50,843  58.0%   34,440  39.3%
065   31,456  57.5%   22,334  40.8%
096   36,190  58.6%   24,838  40.2%
097   39,614  59.6%   25,881  38.9%
108   40,564  59.0%   27,031  39.3%
112   28,221  55.0%   22,308  43.5%
114   35,795  55.2%   28,182  43.5%
115   30,275  55.4%   23,556  43.1%
132   31,432  58.9%   21,214  39.8%
134   46,926  56.4%   34,731  41.7%
135   32,078  58.8%   21,732  39.8%
136   35,296  55.1%   26,423  41.2%
138   27,489  59.2%   18,256  39.3%

Ironically, the first two districts listed here are ones that quickly disappeared from the “competitive” rankings. Both HDs 23 and 43 trended red over the decade, and neither has had a serious Democratic challenge since 2014. (HD23 was won, for the last time, by Democrat Craig Eiland in 2012; HD43 became Republican after the 2010 election when its incumbent switched parties.) Most of the other districts in both tables above are now Democratic, with HD132 being Dem for one cycle after being flipped in 2018 and flipped back in 2020. HD107 was the first Dem takeover, in 2016, while HD134 turned blue in 2020. All the rest came over in 2018.

It should be noted that as of the 2012 election, there were only 55 Democrat-held districts. Three went red in the 2014 debacle, with two of those (HDs 117 and 144) plus HD107 flipping back in 2016. Dems have 64 seats now, and could with a bit of optimism get to the 67 that they had after the 2018 wave. After that, you’re relying on either a steady march of favorable demographic progress, or another shakeup in the national landscape that makes formerly unfriendly turf more amenable. Which is indeed what happened last decade – in the previous decade, it was more the march of demography – but past performance does not guarantee future results. The Republicans have made some gains in formerly dark blue turf, too, as they had in 2010 when they managed to finally win in historically Democratic rural areas. You can’t say from here which way or how far the wheel will spin.

In the end, there were 22 “competitive” seats by our metric as of 2013. Fourteen of them were won after then at least once by a Democrat, with thirteen of them net for Team Blue. I have 34 such seats in 2023. I’d say that’s a combination of Texas being modestly bluer overall – remember that Mitt Romney took 57% in 2012 while Donald Trump took 52% in 2020; Greg Abbott got 59% in 2014 and 54% in 2022 – with Republicans having to spread themselves a little thinner in order to hold as many of these seats as a result. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all ends up.

On the other side of the ledger, the “swing” Dem-held seats of a decade’s hence:


Dist  Romney   Rom%    Obama Obama%
===================================
034   19,974  44.2%   24,668  54.6%
078   19,013  44.0%   23,432  54.3%
117   20,036  46.7%   22,234  51.8%
144   11,606  47.9%   12,308  50.8% 

Dist  Romney   Rom%    Obama Obama%
===================================
041   14,906  42.3%   19,935  56.5%
048   32,025  39.5%   46,031  56.8%
050   22,906  38.8%   34,110  57.8%
074   16,738  41.5%   22,955  56.9%
118   17,824  43.3%   22,719  55.2%
125   19,004  39.5%   28,374  59.0%
148   16,296  41.1%   22,449  56.6% 
149   18,183  41.8%   24,839  57.1% 

Not nearly as many as there are now, and basically none of them became more competitive over the course of the 2010s. HDs 117 and 144 did flip in 2014 but returned to the fold the following election. A couple of these districts, specifically HDs 34 and 74, are legitimately competitive now, at least by the statewide numbers, and of course HD118 was drawn to be considerably redder and is now Republican-held but tenuously so. While it’s on the Dem target list now, I expect it will be on the Republicans’ target list in two years.

I have a total of 19 competitive-by-this-metric seats as of now, but as noted I only expect a couple of them to truly behave that way. Dems will have more “real” targets, up until such time as they begin winning them. But maybe some of those South Texas seats will begin to drift away and we’ll be having a very different conversation in, say, 2026. Again, we’ll just have to see how it plays out. For now, it’s clear that there are more “competitive” seats in 2023 than there were in 2013. We’ll check back later to see how or if that changes.

Precinct analysis: State House 2022

We have data.

Texas Democrats and Republicans are beginning to gear up for a presidential election cycle in which opportunities to flip seats for Congress and the Legislature appear limited.

It’s a natural outcome after Republicans redrew legislative and congressional district boundaries in 2021 to shore up their majorities for the next decade, stamping out most districts that had turned competitive by the end of the last decade. Most of the remaining competitive territory was in South Texas, which is predominantly Hispanic, and where the GOP poured almost all their resources in 2022 — to mixed results.

On paper, there are few obvious pickup opportunities based on an analysis of the governor’s race results in each district. Among U.S. House seats, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke did not carry any districts that are currently held by a representative from the other party. The same was true in the Texas Senate. And among state House districts, Abbott and O’Rourke each won only one that is currently controlled by the opposing party.

The statewide election results often provide a helpful guide of how a district is trending given that they often represent the highest-turnout contest in a district.

The size of the battlefield in 2024 could depend on the top of the ticket, which will be the presidential race. President Joe Biden is expected to run for reelection, and the Republican frontrunner to challenge him is former President Donald Trump, whose 2016 and 2020 runs yielded some of the closest presidential races in Texas in recent history. His closest competitor for the nomination is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not launched a campaign yet but is widely expected to jump in.

There are other factors for the down-ballot contests that remain to be seen.

Even though Abbott signed off on redistricting in 2021, the lines could still change for the 2024 election. Various groups are suing over the maps, alleging things like intentional discrimination and efforts to dilute voters of color, and they are currently awaiting a trial in federal court in El Paso. On the line in the case are boundaries for seats such as a San Antonio state House seat currently held by GOP Rep. John Lujan; that seat is a top battleground in the Texas House.

My initial view of the new map, which looked at the past elections of the decade, is here, and an index of my look at the results from the 2020 election under the old maps is here. I’ll look at the other types of results in future posts, but today we focus on the State House. The 2022 data for the new map is here.

The gist of this story is that the Republican redistricting was very effective and that there aren’t many competitive districts, which means we’re headed for some boring elections, much as we had in the first couple of cycles last decade. That’s slightly less true for the State House than it is for the other entities, and I think the 2024 environment will at least differ enough from last year to produce some variance.

I’m presenting the districts of interest in two groups. One is the competitive Dem-held districts, the other is the same for Republicans. I’ve sorted them further into districts where Abbott or Beto took less than 55%, and districts where they won between 55 and 60 percent. With all that said, here we go. First up are the closer districts currently held by Dems.


Dist  Abbott   Abb%    Beto   Beto%
===================================
022   17,170  44.5%   20,822  54.0%
034   18,285  47.0%   20,128  51.7%
070   27,581  45.9%   31,749  52.8%
074   18,915  48.7%   19,218  49.5%
080   20,611  51.9%   18,249  46.0%

035    9,867  39.9%   14,517  58.7%
036   10,835  39.0%   16,525  59.4%
039   12,056  40.0%   17,686  58.7%
041   17,364  43.5%   22,125  55.5%
045   26,119  38.9%   39,783  59.2%
076   20,148  39.8%   29,705  58.6%
078   21,133  41.4%   29,140  57.0%
092   14,217  40.2%   20,680  58.4%
105   13,086  42.1%   17,515  56.4% 
113   17,848  41.2%   24,854  57.4%
115   22,605  42.1%   30,334  56.5%
135   16,443  40.0%   24,121  58.6%
144   11,566  43.3%   14,683  55.0%
148   15,451  41.2%   21,460  57.2%

As the story notes, the Republicans somehow failed to field a challenger to Rep. Tracy King in HD80, an oversight I expect they’ll fix in 2024. They made the same mistake in 2010 with then-Rep. Allan Ritter in HD21, but Ritter, an old school conservative rural Dem, rectified their error by switching parties. King, whose district is considerably bluer than Ritter’s was, seems unlikely to follow suit; among other things, he’s been pushing to raise the age to buy automatic weapons from 18 to 21, which puts him at odds with Republican orthodoxy. Never say never, and if the district continues a trend towards the red King could be amenable to such overtures, but for now I don’t see that happening.

For the others, HD70 is a newly-drawn Dem district, and I’d expect it to get bluer over time. HD74, which Rep. Eddie Morales won by 11 despite its closeness at the statewide level, was modestly blue based on 2020 results and should be more so in 2024, though if that isn’t true then expect a bigger fight later on. HD34 was purple-ish before redistricting, and as with HD74 I think it will be bluer next year, but again keep an eye on it. The one district that I think will become more vulnerable over time is HD22, in Jefferson County, which has a declining population and much like Galveston County in the 2000s and 2010s a reddish trend over the past decade. I’d like to see some effort made to shore it up, but I don’t know enough about the local conditions to know how feasible that is. Feel free to chime in if you do.

None of the other districts concern me. The Latino districts, I’d like to see what they look like in 2024. They’re all actually pretty spot on to the 2020 numbers, which given the overall lackluster Dem showing in many areas is moderately encouraging. The rest of them are in overall strong Dem areas, and I don’t expect any reversion of past trends.

Now for the Republican-held seats that Dems might like to target:


Dist  Abbott   Abb%    Beto   Beto%
===================================
037   20,551  51.1%   19,202  47.7%
052   41,813  52.5%   36,500  45.8%
063   35,831  54.8%   28,630  43.8%
094   34,479  54.7%   27,557  43.8%
108   46,796  52.6%   41,022  46.1%
112   35,245  50.6%   33,467  48.0%
118   25,172  48.5%   25,952  50.0%
121   40,300  51.1%   37,368  47.4%
122   47,856  54.7%   38,491  44.0%
133   33,195  54.4%   26,971  44.2%
138   31,077  54.1%   25,464  44.3%

014   27,936  56.9%   20,207  41.1%
020   48,367  56.5%   35,743  41.8%
025   31,545  59.3%   20,785  39.1%
026   36,266  57.7%   25,683  40.8%
028   38,940  58.1%   27,061  40.4%
029   33,393  58.8%   22,579  39.7%
054   23,763  59.7%   15,463  38.8%
055   28,125  58.4%   19,322  40.1%
057   37,715  58.1%   26,311  40.5%
061   39,753  56.1%   30,211  42.7%
065   41,487  56.9%   30,451  41.7%
066   41,464  56.9%   30,421  41.8%
067   38,127  56.3%   28,647  42.3%
089   38,701  57.5%   27,643  41.1%
093   34,136  57.6%   24,310  41.0%
096   35,260  55.2%   27,877  43.6%
097   36,059  55.2%   28,336  43.4%
099   31,869  58.6%   21,719  39.9%
106   41,639  58.3%   28,875  40.5%
126   35,835  59.4%   23,627  39.1%
127   39,102  58.5%   26,791  40.1%
129   37,118  56.8%   27,144  41.5%
132   35,079  57.0%   25,603  41.6%
150   33,857  58.3%   23,303  40.1%

I think it’s fair to say that the failure to win back HD118 was a big disappointment last year. I’ll use a stronger word if we get the same result in 2024. HD37 remains the subject of litigation – if there’s anything on the agenda to address it in this legislative session, I am not aware of it at this time. It had a slight Democratic tilt in 2020 and will clearly be a top target next year. As will HDs 112 and 121, with 108 and 52 a notch below them, though 108 is starting to feel a bit like a white whale to me. All things being equal, Dems should be in position to make a small gain in the House next year, with some potential to do better than that, and given everything we’ve seen since the dawn of time, the potential to do a bit worse as well.

The farther-out districts are mostly those we had identified as targets following the 2018 election, with a few adjustments for the new map. They’re all in counties and regions that had been trending Democratic. For the most part, I expect that to continue, but that doesn’t have to be monotonic, nor does it have to be at a fast enough pace to make any of these places actually primed to flip. I’ve said before that the way Tarrant County was sliced up it gives me “Dallas County 2012” vibes, but whether than means that a bunch of districts eventually flip or they all hold on if by increasingly tight margins remains to be seen. We’ll know more after 2024.

In theory, there won’t be many truly competitive districts in 2024, like there weren’t last year. The national environment, plus the higher turnout context, plus whatever yet-unknown factors may be in play will surely affect that, by some amount. I’d like to see an optimistic view for next year and get as many strong candidates in as many of these districts as possible, but that’s far easier said than done. This is not that different than how things looked after the 2012 elections, and we know how things went from there. Doesn’t mean anything will go any particular way or on any timetable, it’s just a reminder that there’s only so much we can know right now. I’ll have some thoughts about the other district types going forward. Let me know what you think.

HCC public hearing on redistricting today

From the inbox, sorry for the short notice.

HCC Final Redistricting Public Hearing

Your voice is still needed regarding HCC proposed redistricting maps for District IV which includes Third Ward and other surrounding communities.

Join us, February 15th, in person (3100 Main Street, Board Room) or virtually (https://www.hccs.edu/about-hcc/board-of-trustees/board-meetings/):

  • 2:00 PM  – Special Meeting (Public Hearing on Redistricting) – (Public Comments – must register 24 hours ahead of the meeting)
  • 4:00 PM – Regular Meeting – (Public Comments – must register 24 hours ahead of the meeting)

See here, here, and here for the background. The email is from Trustee Reagan Flowers, who has been pushing a map to reunite the Third Ward in District 4. Which can be done, but would require moving more population around from other districts and thus has not attracted support from her colleagues on the Board. She’s got a cool 1913 ward map – if you ever wondered what the actual boundaries of the First through Sixth Wards are, or at least were, in Houston, click over to check it out – as well as links to other coverage on this. The deadline to submit a public comment is February 28 – see the Redistricting Info page for details – and the Board vote on the new map is in April.

Chron story on HCC redistricting

This focuses on one district, which seems to be the main and possibly only point of contention in the process. I’d like to know more than what was in this story.

Reagan Flowers

Houston Community College trustee Reagan Flowers had to receive special permission to hold a forum last week at Emancipation Park because it’s not in her district, but she and many other Third Ward community members think it should be.

Ten years after HCC last redistricted and divided Third Ward between two tracts, Flowers is trying to put the historic, majority-Black neighborhood squarely back into District 4. She faces an uphill battle, as other trustees would see changes to their own districts if Third Ward is pieced back together.

HCC’s District 4 currently represents the Medical Center, Museum District, Sunnyside and Third Ward’s south part. The northernmost part was absorbed into its eastern neighbor, District 3, in the last redistricting, Flowers said.

“It’s caused this divide where we can’t speak with one voice when it comes to Houston Community College,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily support the culture, the history of Third Ward.”

District 3, which encompasses parts of east and southeast Houston, counted the lowest population among HCC districts in 2010 and 2020. Districts have to be redrawn when the population of the most populous district — now District 4, in west Houston — exceeds the population of the least populous district by more than 10 percent, based on the most recent major Census updates.

HCC’s first proposal for redistricting, based on the 2020 U.S. Census, mostly left District 4 alone. Still, community members hoping to regain the northern part of Third Ward face resistance because a change would cause them to shed another part of their district — and District 3 is already looking for more space to expand in order to balance the district populations.

[…]

Third Ward residents have long lamented a pattern of division in their neighborhood. The Museum District, Midtown and what is now East Downtown were formerly considered Third Ward.

HCC appears to be the only governing body that splits Third Ward — and in doing so excludes some of their most well-known spots, including Jack Yates High School, Emancipation Park, Cuney Homes and Project Row Houses.

While HISD, City Hall and Houston Super Neighborhoods currently keep Third Ward intact, some worry HCC’s current and proposed maps could set a precedent for others to follow their lead.

“It’s dangerous ground,” said Flowers, whose term expires at the end of the year. “What’s happening with HCC and District 3 is very disrespectful to the Black community and the Third Ward, and it doesn’t have to be.”

See here and here for the background. I wish the story had included comments from other Trustees as well, especially District 3 Trustee Adriana Tamez, since moving the Third Ward back into District 4 would have a big effect on her. If you look at all of the maps that have been proposed (downloadable PDF), any significant changes to Districts 3 and 4 would also affect District 9, and so it would have been nice for the story to have a comment from its Trustee, Pretta VanDible Stallworth, as well.

I had the chance to talk to Trustee Flowers about this. She told me that Plan 2C, which you can find on page 31 of that PDF, accomplishes what she is advocating, but she does not currently have the support to get it passed. Map 1, which is in that presentation and also viewable here, is the one that is set to pass. But there’s still time, and if this is something you care about, you can contact your Trustee and let them know it. The public hearing on the redistricting proposal will be February 15, as noted before.

As I said about HISD redistricting, I don’t think anyone is trying to screw the Third Ward here. The fact is that Harris County’s population is shifting westward you can see the demographic data in that PDF download – and District 3 is in need of more population. Moving the Third Ward out of 3 increases that need, and that has to come from somewhere, which affects more people. Redistricting is always nuanced and multi-dimensional, and in the end it’s zero-sum. All you can do is make your case and do your best to minimize the negative effects on everyone involved.

HCC redistricting update

I got this email from HCC Trustee Reagan Flowers, which has prompted me to remind you that HCC redistricting is also happening, and per the Redistricting Info page, there are community events going on right now to help you understand what is being proposed and how you can give feedback. These events are also being livestreamed, and you can submit comments or propose your own map here. Trustee Flowers prefers the current map option 2, which she says will keep the Third Ward in the same district.

I previously mentioned the HCC redistricting process here, in an earlier post about HISD redistricting. The next regular public Trustee meeting on February 15 will be the public hearing on redistricting, and the deadline to submit comments and proposed maps is February 28. The final map will be voted on at the April 19 meeting. Make your voice heard!

It’s re-redistricting time

More amusing than alarming, with a bit of annoying as well.

The Texas Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to again take up the decennial process of redrawing the boundaries of the state’s political districts a year and a half after the Legislature completed the process and yielded new districts. Those newly drawn districts increased the Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House and reduced the voting strength of voters of color.

The redistricting process this year is mostly procedural and is not expected to produce very different results.

Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said she was taking the step “out of an abundance of caution” to ensure that Legislature had met its constitutional requirement to apportion districts in the first regular session after the federal census, which is done every 10 years. Because of the pandemic, census numbers were not released until after the end of the last regularly scheduled legislative session on May 31, 2021. Redistricted maps were passed in a subsequent special session that year.

Two Democratic lawmakers, Sens. Roland Gutierrez of Antonio and Sarah Eckhardt of Austin sued, saying that violated the Texas Constitution because the census numbers weren’t received until Aug. 12, 2021. That would make the current legislative session, which kicked off on Tuesday, the first regular session since the release of those numbers.

Eckhardt said the Senate’s decision to take up the issue again proves she and Gutierrez were right on the law, but she said she didn’t expect much change in the maps drawn by the state in 2021.

“I think this will be a check-the-box exercise,” she said. “I would have liked to have seen in the first go-around a substantive discussion and taking the input of constituencies into account.”

[…]

Huffman, who led the redistricting committee in the 2021 legislative session and will again lead its efforts this year, said the procedure would follow similar rules to those applied last session and would create an opportunity for “regional hearings” to be held in the Capitol that will be streamed on the internet for the public across the state. The public will also have an avenue to testify in those hearings virtually. Those hearings will be held between Jan. 25 and 28.

See here, here, and here for some background. While this resolution is only for the Senate, the same exercise will need to occur for the House and the SBOE as well; Congressional redistricting is exempt because the constitutional provision only applied to state offices. I think Sen. Eckhardt is correct in her assessment, and it’s a shame that the State Supreme Court did not see it the same way, but here we are. I presume the federal litigation over Texas’ maps and processes will be unaffected by this – the legal issue in question was one of state law. As noted I don’t expect much to change, but anytime there is redistricting there is the potential for shenanigans, so stay alert. Reform Austin.

The Lege does its housekeeping

In the Senate, they drew their lots to see who would have to run again in 2024.

Sen. John Whitmire

It was the luck of the draw for Texas senators on Wednesday as they drew lots to decide which half of them would get two-year terms and which would get four-year terms.

The practice is outlined in Article 3, Section 3, of the Texas Constitution, which calls for “Senators elected after each apportionment [redistricting]” to be divided into two classes: one that will serve a four-year term and the other to serve a two-year term. That keeps Senate district elections staggered every two years. After that, senators serve four-year terms for the rest of the decade.

On Wednesday, each of the chamber’s 31 lawmakers walked to the front of the chamber and drew lots by picking an envelope that held a pill-shaped capsule. Inside the capsules were numbers: Even numbers meant two-year terms, and odd were for four-year terms.

“I’m sure each and every one of you are happy with what you drew, right?” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick joked.

Sixteen senators had Lady Fortune on their side and drew four-year terms, and fifteen unlucky souls will have to run for reelection in two years.

[…]

All eyes were on Sen. John Whitmire, a longtime Democrat who has announced plans to leave the chamber to run for Houston mayor after the session, and Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat who is second in seniority to Whitmire.

Whitmire drew a two-year term, and Zaffirni drew a four-year term.

Three freshmen senators drew two-year terms, including Democrat Morgan LaMantia of South Padre Island, who was in the tightest race in the Senate last year. The two other freshmen, Republicans Kevin Sparks of Midland and Mayes Middleton of Galveston, both drew four-year terms.

After the 2012 election, the main question was whether then-Sen. Wendy Davis, who won a tough race in a district carried by Mitt Romney, would have to run again in 2014. She drew a short straw, and I think that contributed to her decision to run for Governor. Of course, we were in a time and of a political makeup in which Dems were getting creamed in non-Presidential years. That changed quite dramatically in 2018, when Dems won back Davis’ old seat and picked up another Senate seat as well. Sen. LaMantia had a tough race in 2022, and at this time I have no idea if it’s better for her to run in 2024 or not. We’ll just have to see.

As for Whitmire, what this means is that if he’s elected Mayor this year, things will be messy in SD15 the next year. There would be both a primary and a special election to replace and succeed him, much as there was in HD147 this past year. You could have the primary winner, who would get to serve a four-year term after winning in November of 2024, and the special election winner, who would serve out the remainder of 2024, be two different people. One person could face five elections total in 2024, if the primary and the special both go to runoffs; this would happen for someone who wins the primary in a runoff and makes it to the runoff (win or lose) in the special. Did I mention that the primary runoff and the special election would take both place in May, but on different dates, again as it was in HD147? Speaking as a resident of SD15, I’m already exhausted by this possibility, which may not even happen. May God have mercy on our souls.

Anyway. The Houston-area Senators who will be on the ballot in 2024 are Carol Alvarado (SD06), Paul Bettencourt (SD07), John Whitmire (SD15), and Joan Huffman (SD17). The ones who get to wait until 2026 are Brandon Creighton (SD04), Mayes Middleton (SD11), Borris Miles (SD13), and Lois Kolkhorst (SD18).

Meanwhile, over in the House

Texas House leadership on Wednesday shut down a long-building push to ban Democratic committee chairs, deploying procedural legislative maneuvers to defeat multiple proposals on the issue.

The chamber also approved new punishments for members who break quorum, like most House Democrats did two years ago in protest of GOP-backed voting restrictions. Those members left for Washington, D.C., for weeks to stop the House from being able to do business in an effort to prevent passage of the bill. Under the new rules, quorum-breakers can now be subject to daily fines and even expulsion from the chamber.

The chamber passed the overall rules package by a vote of 123-19, with Democrats making up most of the opposition.

Going into the rules debate, most attention was on the subject of committee chairs, who have the power to advance legislation or block it from being taken up by the full House. For months, a small but vocal minority of House Republicans have been calling for the end of the chamber’s longtime tradition of having committee chairs from both parties. But Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, and his allies moved successfully Wednesday to prevent the matter from even getting to a vote on the floor.

They did it by passing a “housekeeping resolution” earlier in the day that included a new section codifying a constitutional ban on using House resources for political purposes. That resolution passed overwhelmingly with little debate or fanfare. Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, then cited the new provision to call points of order — procedural challenges — on two amendments proposed by Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, to restrict Democratic committee chairs. Phelan ruled in favor of Geren both times.

“The amendment would require the speaker to use public resources, including staff time and government facilities, on behalf of one political instrumentality,” Phelan said the first time. “This obviously would require the speaker to violate the Housekeeping Resolution.”

It was a relatively anticlimactic end to the fight over Democratic committee chairs, which were a major issue in House primaries earlier this year, a rallying cry for conservative activists and a recurring theme in speeches as the legislative session kicked off Tuesday. After the House reelected Phelan by a nearly unanimous vote, he cautioned freshmen to “please do not confuse this body with the one in Washington, D.C.”

“After watching Congress attempt to function last week, I cannot imagine why some want Texas to be like D.C,” Phelan said.

Committee appointments are expected to be made in the next couple of weeks. Phelan has said he will appoint roughly the same proportion of Democratic chairs as last session, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll be appointed to lead any powerful or coveted committees.

The amendment about sanctions for quorum-busting drew more No votes, almost entirely from Dems. Honestly, I have no problem with what was passed. It’s perfectly appropriate for the chamber to have sanctions for that kind of action, and it’s not that different, at least to my mind, than what was passed after the 2003 walkout. New rules get adopted each session, this can always be revisited in the future. TPR has more.

A walk through four districts, part 3: Try this at home!

In Part One I described my weird idea to take a stroll into four Congressional districts, something I decided I could do after taking a close look at the new map in Houston. In Part 2, I took you on that walk with me. Now I’m going to show how this could be done elsewhere and with different types of districts.

We do redistricting every ten years, so you might wonder why I picked Congressional districts as the object of this little obsession. Congressional redistricting had national implications, of course. As this recent DMN story points out, Texas Republicans squeezed out four more districts than the overall electoral numbers suggest they were entitled to, giving them nearly all of the seats needed to achieve a majority in the House. I wasn’t thinking of that a year ago, of course, but I definitely spent more time thinking about the Congressional map than about the others. It was that new Congressional map that I had zoomed in on, to see what things looked like in my immediate area, that gave me the inspiration.

But what about those other maps? How about in the State House, where the districts are smaller and there are 24 of them in Harris County? (There ought to be 25, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.) In the previous map, my neighborhood was sliced in half for no particular reason, which meant that I’d travel between HDs 145 and 148 every day walking my dog. Our neighborhood has been reunited under the new map, so I would need to travel a little farther to cross State House boundaries. That made me think, which State House districts did I pass through as I did Wednesday’s walk? Let’s take a look!

I started in HD145, entered HD147 when I turned south on Heights after walking along the boundary once I passed Studewood, and then reached the boundary with HD134 at Washington. I was fully in HD134 once I was west of Shepherd.

But look closer! With a slight modification, I could have started in HD142, on Jensen south of Lorraine, walked north to Quitman, then followed the same route to eventually get to HD134, with a terminus at the HEB just south of Washington. I didn’t fool around with Google Maps for this, but that looks like a roughly equivalent distance. I’m not surprised that this was doable in such close proximity, but I would not have guessed that these would be the four districts involved. This is why it’s fun to play with maps, kids.

That wasn’t where I had picked for what may be the shortest walk needed to be in four State House districts. Take a look at this:

Just start on Yorktown and walk till you’re past Fayette. Google Maps shows this as 1.6 miles because it won’t let you cross San Felipe or Westheimer at Yorktown – it insists on making you hike all the way to Sage, then doubling back on Westheimer to return to Yorktown – so as the crow flies it’s probably not much more than a mile. Someone who knows that area better than I do will have to tell me why you can’t just walk all the way down Yorktown. Be that as it may, even with the detours, it’s a pretty short walk.

By the way, why is that tiny rectangle south of Westheimer and east of Chimney Rock in HD137 and not HD134? I have no idea. Either it’s a super-optimization of whatever evil redistricting software the Republicans used, or someone asked for that specific change for some reason. I’ll throw the question out to you if you think you know the answer.

There are a couple of other possibilities in Harris County. Zooming out a bit, south of I-10 and east of US59 you could get from HD142 to HD147 via HDs 142 and 145, and north of 610 you could get from HD141 to HD145 via HDs 140 and 142, though you’d have to cross US59 to do it, which might be dicey on foot.

Looking elsewhere in the state, I see possibilities in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, where I even see a possible five-district walk:

Start in that weird southern finger of HD108 and head south-ish to wind up in HD104, passing through HDs 114, 100, and 103 along the way. You have to cross the junction of I-30 and I-35, which sounds like a nightmare, but maybe it’s doable. Point is, these districts are all right up against each other.

You might think that State Senate districts would be too large for this, as there are eight fewer of them than there are Congressional districts. Challenge accepted:

Start on Piney Point Road near San Felipe and head south as it becomes Fondren, and go a few blocks south of Richmond, to have visited SDs 07, 17, 15, and 13. There may be other possibilities elsewhere, but I was happy enough with that to quit looking.

Going back to Congress for a minute, I see opportunities again in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas as before. That DMN story highlights a couple of places where the distance between one district and another, with a third in between, is ridiculously thin, like less than a quarter mile in the Dallas case. But just to finish this post, let me show you what my original walk route looked like under the old map:

Starting a bit farther east on Quitman in CD29, I could have headed on Quitman to White Oak to either Studewood or Yale, then gone south to Allen Parkway and east to Shepherd to visit CDs 18, 02, and 07 along the way. That might even have been a slightly shorter walk. Just a reminder that this was a thing before I ever decided to try it out, and will likely continue to be a thing ten years from now when we do this all again. Now go play with those maps and plan your own walk.

PS: I should have noted sooner that John Nova Lomax did a great series of articles some years ago when he wrote for the Houston Press in which he walked the entire length of a well-known Houston thoroughfare – Richmond and Shepherd are the two I remember from the series – and wrote about the experience. Some of the walks he took were in excess of ten miles and took him all day; he had planned meal and bathroom stops along the way, out of necessity. I don’t have that on my itinerary any time soon, but I was thinking about it as I did this walk.

HISD asked to hold off on redistricting

There are still concerns about the proposed map.

Community members and advocates are asking the Houston ISD board to redraw its redistricting plans to keep communities in southwest Houston together so that the votes of Latinos and immigrants are not diluted.

The Gulfton, Mid-West, Westwood, Braeburn and Sharpstown neighborhoods are split among three different districts in the proposals being made to rebalance the district’s nine trustee districts to account for 2020 census figures.

“We believe southwest Houston is compact enough to keep it in one district,” said Juan Cardoza-Oquendo, director of public policy for Houston in Action. “It’s not big enough where these immigrant communities would have power in multiple districts.”

[…]

Maria Benzon, a parent who works at Sugar Grove Academy, a middle school in Sharpstown, urged the board to not vote until these concerns are addressed.

“I’m here today to ask that you delay any votes on the district plan, and consider a more equitable version than (the proposed plans),” Benzon said. “I know these areas. Historically, these communities have had voting power diluted by three districts — 5, 6 and 7, and they have not been represented by people with similar backgrounds and experiences.”

This is the first time advocates have asked the board to delay. In December, the sent a letter to the board to hold off on voting claiming informational meetings were not well publicized and were at inconvenient times.

“As you can see by the majority of speakers, there is still some concern about redistricting,” Trustee Patricia Allen, who represents District IV said. “I think we need to take time to listen to the community in case we need to adjust.”

See here and here for the background, and here for the HISD redistricting page, which includes the two proposed maps. I don’t know enough about the area to comment on the feedback, but I favor HISD taking the time to iron out as many points of conflict that they can. The realistic deadline for getting this done, to allow time for the elections office to update all of its files and give potential candidates the opportunity to consider their options before the late August filing deadline, is in February. I’m hopeful we can get it done.

A walk through four districts, part 1

As you know, I draft stuff before I publish it. Sometimes, things I draft that aren’t particularly time-sensitive can get lost in the shuffle when there’s a lot of news of interest. Those things may get taken from the pile during slower times, like the holidays. Sometimes I start something then don’t finish it. Once in awhile, a newer story comes along that directly relates to such a post and I go back to it. Sometimes, I finally get around to finishing what I started.

This is one of those times. After the Lege finally finished off redistricting in late 2021, I was taking a close look at the Congressional map – specifically, I had zoomed in on Houston near where I lived, and I realized that I could probably take a walk that would have me passing through four different districts. This Chron story was the inspiration for that.

The Texas Legislature on Monday put the finishing touches on a redistricting proposal that has major implications for millions of people who live in and around Houston. Here is a summary of how Harris County’s nine Congressional districts are changing for 2022.

You can go back and read the story, I’m not that interested in the details at this point. What I was interested in was seeing how easy it is to pass from one district to another, which all of us are likely doing any day we get out of the house, without realizing it. Let me start by showing the area I had zoomed in on:

From there, I used Google maps to sketch out a route for my walk:

According to Google maps, I’d get from the beginning in CD29 to the end in CD38 in one hour and 34 minutes, which would be a bit more than four miles. I walk about seven miles a day on average, and thus the idea took shape.

The thing about doing something like this, though, is that you can’t do it alone. I knew I could walk from point A to point B easily enough, but I had to get to point A and then get home from point B. Doing that all by myself would mean a heck of a lot more walking, and a lot more time. My plan was to get my elder daughter to drop me off at point A, basically at the Leonel Castillo Community Center, and then pick me up later near the traffic circle on Washington at Westcott. We would have done this over Christmas break last year. But for one reason or another it didn’t happen, and once school and work started up there was never a good time for it. So the idea, and the post that I began that included that Chron link and those pictures, got put on the shelf.

And then this Christmas rolled around, and I saw the old entry in my drafts, and I said hey, what about this year? Elder daughter was game, the weather was great for walking, and the plan came together. Wednesday, January 4 was a gloriously sunny day with morning temperatures in the 60s. I reviewed my route, coordinated the dropoff and pickup, told my ever-patient wife about the shenanigans I was about to get up to, and set out. I took some pictures along the way. I will tell you all about it and show you the pics of interest tomorrow.

Precinct analysis: Hidalgo versus Mealer

PREVIOUSLY
Beto versus Abbott
Beto versus the spread

We’ve looked at the Governor’s race, in which Beto was the top Democratic performer. Now we’ll look at the next highest profile race, in which the result was a surprise to some people who didn’t connect Democratic performance at the top of the ticket with the other local races. Here’s the data for the County Judge race, in which Judge Lina Hidalgo won re-election by a close margin, though on a percentage basis it was slightly wider than her initial win in 2018. As with the first Beto post, I’m just going to dump all the data and will add my comments at the end.


Dist   Mealer  Hidalgo    W-I
=============================
CD02   77,665   46,669     21
CD07   53,108   77,625     29
CD08   46,156   45,668     17
CD09   23,451   71,374     29
CD18   46,492  107,792     46
CD22   13,292    8,076      2
CD29   33,392   66,220     27
CD36   70,392   41,817     24
CD38  170,772   87,662     46

CD02   62.45%   37.53%  0.02%
CD07   40.61%   59.36%  0.02%
CD08   50.26%   49.73%  0.02%
CD09   24.72%   75.25%  0.03%
CD18   30.13%   69.85%  0.03%
CD22   62.20%   37.79%  0.01%
CD29   33.51%   66.46%  0.03%
CD36   62.72%   37.26%  0.02%
CD38   66.07%   33.91%  0.02%

Dist   Mealer  Hidalgo    W-I
=============================
SD04   58,925   34,135     14
SD06   45,259   81,877     39
SD07  163,993   97,075     50
SD11   60,351   32,991     17
SD13   25,998   96,440     45
SD15   97,303  146,861     50
SD17   64,692   46,518     22
SD18   18,199   17,006      4

SD04   63.31%   36.68%  0.02%
SD06   35.59%   64.38%  0.03%
SD07   62.80%   37.18%  0.02%
SD11   64.64%   35.34%  0.02%
SD13   21.23%   78.74%  0.04%
SD15   39.84%   60.14%  0.02%
SD17   58.16%   41.82%  0.02%
SD18   51.69%   48.30%  0.01%

Dist   Mealer  Hidalgo    W-I
=============================
HD126  38,281   21,401     17
HD127  41,603   24,533      5
HD128  33,175   12,968     12
HD129  39,519   24,982     11
HD130  47,660   18,606     13
HD131   6,519   24,611     13
HD132  37,180   23,721      7
HD133  36,909   23,379     11
HD134  35,653   45,142     16
HD135  17,620   22,982      7
HD137   8,600   12,670      9
HD138  33,875   22,977      9
HD139  13,492   30,143     11
HD140   6,238   12,885      5
HD141   5,209   20,104     17
HD142   9,939   24,454      7
HD143   9,087   15,412      6
HD144  12,242   14,069      9
HD145  15,445   30,141     11
HD146   9,975   31,981     11
HD147  10,964   35,240     12
HD148  16,934   20,004      8
HD149  12,496   19,196      4
HD150  36,105   21,302     10

HD126  64.12%   35.85%  0.03%
HD127  62.90%   37.09%  0.01%
HD128  71.88%   28.10%  0.03%
HD129  61.26%   38.72%  0.02%
HD130  71.91%   28.07%  0.02%
HD131  20.93%   79.03%  0.04%
HD132  61.04%   38.95%  0.01%
HD133  61.21%   38.77%  0.02%
HD134  44.12%   55.86%  0.02%
HD135  43.39%   56.59%  0.02%
HD137  40.42%   59.54%  0.04%
HD138  59.58%   40.41%  0.02%
HD139  30.91%   69.06%  0.03%
HD140  32.61%   67.36%  0.03%
HD141  20.56%   79.37%  0.07%
HD142  28.89%   71.09%  0.02%
HD143  37.08%   62.89%  0.02%
HD144  46.51%   53.45%  0.03%
HD145  33.87%   66.10%  0.02%
HD146  23.77%   76.21%  0.03%
HD147  23.72%   76.25%  0.03%
HD148  45.83%   54.14%  0.02%
HD149  39.42%   60.56%  0.01%
HD150  62.88%   37.10%  0.02%

Dist   Mealer  Hidalgo    W-I
=============================
CC1    80,014  194,272     79
CC2   101,745  103,117     48
CC3   233,567  133,554     63
CC4   119,394  121,960     51

CC1    29.16%   70.81%  0.03%
CC2    49.65%   50.32%  0.02%
CC3    63.61%   36.37%  0.02%
CC4    49.46%   50.52%  0.02%

Dist   Mealer  Hidalgo    W-I
=============================
JP1    71,793  116,463     40
JP2    23,249   29,149     10
JP3    37,340   40,840     31
JP4   180,017  119,979     60
JP5   152,130  137,293     52
JP6     5,840   17,018      5
JP7    13,972   64,220     27
JP8    50,379   27,941     16

JP1    38.13%   61.85%  0.02%
JP2    44.36%   55.62%  0.02%
JP3    47.74%   52.22%  0.04%
JP4    59.99%   39.99%  0.02%
JP5    52.55%   47.43%  0.02%
JP6    25.54%   74.43%  0.02%
JP7    17.86%   82.10%  0.03%
JP8    64.31%   35.67%  0.02%

Hidalgo got 50.78% of the vote, which is 3.25 points less than Beto. She got 553K votes, which is 42K less than Beto. Mealer got 534K votes, 44K more than Abbott. Third party candidates accounted for over 16K votes in the Governor’s race, while the write-in candidate for County Judge got 241 total votes. I do not and never will understand anyone who thinks that writing in a candidate for County Judge could possibly be productive, but that’s not important right now.

For the most part, Hidalgo’s performance in each district is about what you’d expect in comparison to Beto. Generally speaking, she did a couple of points worse. The two glaring exceptions to this are HDs 133 and 134, both wealthy, well-educated, predominantly white districts that, in keeping with recent trends, are a lot more Democratic than they used to be. Hidalgo trailed Beto by six points in HD133 and seven in HD134. If I were the New York Times, I’d spend the next six months visiting brunch counters in those districts to talk to more-in-sadness-than-in-anger Mealer voters, who will turn out to have been almost uniformly Ed Emmett voters in 2018 but who will insist that they really wanted to support Hidalgo, they largely agreed with her on how she handled the pandemic and all, but for reasons they can’t quite articulate they just couldn’t. I’m sure it would be compelling reading, but I don’t have the staff or the budget for that. Plus, the idea of it makes me gag, so it’s just as well.

Anyway. The other notable thing is that with the lone exception of JP/Constable Precinct 5, Hidalgo still carried every district Beto carried. (I’m not concerning myself with fractional districts like CD08.) I was worried that if Hidalgo lost, there was a real chance Dems could lose not one but both of the Commissioners Court races as well. Looking at the numbers, it’s not an irrational fear. I’ll have more to say about those Commissioners Court precincts later, so let’s put a pin in that for now.

We have to talk about the many millions of dollars spent by various wealthy wingnuts against Judge Hidalgo and Democratic criminal court judges. We can’t say for certain how much all that spending affected the final outcomes, but it’s impossible to think it had no effect. What I wonder about is whether there will be much appetite for that kind of spending in future races. For sure, it’s hard to imagine much money spent on Republicans locally in 2024. Democrats haven’t lost a judicial race in a Presidential year since 2012, and haven’t lost a majority of judicial races in a Presidential year since 2004. In 2020, eleven Democratic judicial candidates were unopposed. I won’t be surprised if that number is matched or exceeded in 2024. I won’t speculate about 2026 – at the very least, Republicans will have four incumbents to try to defend, so they’ll want to do something – but I don’t see them having a $25 million budget. Maybe Judge Hidalgo will have an easier time of it as well.

I’ll have more to say about judicial races later. In the meantime, let me know what you think.

Precinct analysis: Beto versus the spread

PREVIOUSLY
Beto versus Abbott

So last time we saw the numbers for the 2022 Governor’s race. But what numbers need in order to be meaningful is context, and that means other numbers to compare them to. We’re going to do that in a few different ways, and we’ll start with the numbers from the Texas Redistricting Council for these new districts. Specifically, the numbers from 2018 and 2020.


Dist    Abbott    Beto     Cruz    Beto
=======================================
HD126   35,835  23,627   38,851  26,028
HD127   39,102  26,791   40,573  28,326
HD128   31,983  13,915   32,586  15,892
HD129   37,118  27,144   38,281  29,112
HD130   44,983  20,891   42,747  20,968
HD131    5,963  25,387    5,628  33,440
HD132   35,079  25,603   32,220  23,431
HD133   33,195  26,971   34,930  30,329
HD134   29,592  51,010   32,114  54,514
HD135   16,443  24,121   16,162  27,762
HD137    7,860  13,421    8,713  19,309
HD138   31,077  25,464   32,754  28,778
HD139   11,643  32,115   11,599  38,842
HD140    5,717  13,400    5,393  19,532
HD141    4,549  20,922    4,459  28,096
HD142    8,666  25,793    8,265  29,705
HD143    8,420  16,047    8,751  23,602
HD144   11,566  14,683   12,511  21,278
HD145   12,631  32,765   12,101  37,672
HD146    8,511  33,610    9,227  40,111
HD147    8,952  37,366    9,575  45,020
HD148   15,451  21,460   16,281  26,815
HD149   12,068  19,844   12,097  27,142
HD150   33,857  23,303   33,084  23,466


Dist   Abbott%   Beto%    Cruz%   Beto%
=======================================
HD126   59.37%  39.14%   59.40%  39.80%
HD127   58.50%  40.08%   59.30%  40.00%
HD128   68.66%  29.87%   66.80%  32.60%
HD129   56.80%  41.53%   56.30%  42.80%
HD130   67.29%  31.25%   66.60%  32.70%
HD131   18.78%  79.96%   14.30%  85.20%
HD132   57.06%  41.64%   57.50%  41.80%
HD133   54.41%  44.21%   53.10%  46.10%
HD134   36.16%  62.34%   36.80%  62.40%
HD135   39.97%  58.63%   35.00%  64.40%
HD137   36.32%  62.01%   30.90%  68.40%
HD138   54.09%  44.32%   52.80%  46.40%
HD139   26.25%  72.41%   22.90%  76.50%
HD140   29.36%  68.82%   21.50%  78.00%
HD141   17.61%  80.98%   13.60%  85.80%
HD142   24.79%  73.80%   21.60%  77.80%
HD143   33.86%  64.53%   26.90%  72.50%
HD144   43.34%  55.02%   36.80%  62.50%
HD145   27.31%  70.85%   24.10%  75.00%
HD146   19.95%  78.80%   18.60%  80.70%
HD147   19.04%  79.49%   17.40%  81.90%
HD148   41.18%  57.19%   37.50%  61.70%
HD149   37.31%  61.36%   30.60%  68.70%
HD150   58.34%  40.15%   58.10%  41.20%

Greg Abbott got 490K votes in 2022, whereas Ted Cruz got 498K in 2018. It’s therefore not a surprise that Abbott generally matched Cruz’s vote totals in the districts, with a bit of variation here and there. Beto, meanwhile, got 595K votes in 2022 after getting 700K in 2018, a significant drop. You can clearly see that in the district data. What’s interesting to me is that Beto was pretty close to his 2018 performance for the most part in Republican districts. His dropoff was almost entirely in strong Democratic districts, which accounts for the decrease in vote percentage he got. This is consistent with reports that Republicans had the turnout advantage nationally, due in part to weaker Democratic turnout among Black voters.

You can shrug your shoulders about this or freak out for What It All Means for 2024 as you see fit. I tend to lean towards the former, but I will readily acknowledge that the job of working to get turnout back to where we want it for 2024 starts today. I’ll have more to say about this in future posts as well, but let me open the bidding by saying that the target for Democratic turnout in Harris County in 2024, if we want to make a serious run at winning the state for the Democratic Presidential nominee, is one million Democratic votes; it may actually need to be a little higher than that, but that’s the minimum. It’s doable – Biden got 918K in 2020, after all. Ed Gonzalez got 903K in his re-election for Sheriff. Really, we may need to aim for 1.1 million, in order to win the county by at least 300K votes, which is what I think will be needed to close the statewide gap. Whether we can do that or not I don’t know, but it’s where we need to aim.

I also want to emphasize the “Abbott got more or less the same number of votes in each district as Cruz did” item to push back as needed on any claims about Abbott’s performance among Latino voters. His improvement in percentage is entirely due to Beto getting fewer votes, not him getting more. That’s cold comfort from a big picture perspective for Democrats, and as we saw in 2020 a greater-than-expected share of the lower-propensity Latino voters picked Trump, so we’re hardly in the clear for 2024. All I’m saying is that claims about Abbott improving his standing with Latino voters need to be examined skeptically. Remember that if we compared Abbott to Abbott instead of Beto to Beto, he got 559K votes in 2018, so he dropped off quite a bit as well. He got fewer votes in each of the Latino districts in 2022 than he did in 2018:

HD140 – Abbott 6,466 in 2018, 5,717 in 2022
HD143 – Abbott 10,180 in 2018, 8,420 in 2022
HD144 – Abbott 13,996 in 2018, 11,566 in 2022
HD145 – Abbott 15,227 in 2018, 12,631 in 2022
HD148 – Abbott 18,438 in 2018, 15,541 in 2022

So yeah, perspective. I suppose I could have done the Governor-to-Governor comparison instead, but I was more interested in Beto’s performance, so that’s the route I took. Beto would look better from a percentage viewpoint if I had done it that way. There’s always more than one way to do it.

One last thing on turnout: In 2014, Wendy Davis led the Democratic ticket with 320K votes in Harris County. Beto was at over 401K even before Election Day. His total is almost twice what Davis got. We can certainly talk about 2022 being “low turnout”, but we’re in a completely different context now.


Dist    Abbott    Beto    Trump   Biden
=======================================
HD126   35,835  23,627   50,023  35,306
HD127   39,102  26,791   53,148  38,332
HD128   31,983  13,915   46,237  21,742
HD129   37,118  27,144   51,219  38,399
HD130   44,983  20,891   58,867  29,693
HD131    5,963  25,387   10,413  42,460
HD132   35,079  25,603   46,484  35,876
HD133   33,195  26,971   42,076  40,475
HD134   29,592  51,010   38,704  66,968
HD135   16,443  24,121   26,190  40,587
HD137    7,860  13,421   12,652  24,885
HD138   31,077  25,464   42,002  37,617
HD139   11,643  32,115   17,014  49,888
HD140    5,717  13,400   10,760  24,045
HD141    4,549  20,922    8,070  38,440
HD142    8,666  25,793   13,837  41,332
HD143    8,420  16,047   15,472  28,364
HD144   11,566  14,683   20,141  25,928
HD145   12,631  32,765   18,390  45,610
HD146    8,511  33,610   12,408  51,984
HD147    8,952  37,366   14,971  55,602
HD148   15,451  21,460   24,087  34,605
HD149   12,068  19,844   21,676  35,904
HD150   33,857  23,303   45,789  34,151

Dist   Abbott%   Beto%   Trump%  Biden%
=======================================
HD126   59.37%  39.14%   57.80%  40.80%
HD127   58.50%  40.08%   57.30%  41.30%
HD128   68.66%  29.87%   67.10%  31.60%
HD129   56.80%  41.53%   56.20%  42.20%
HD130   67.29%  31.25%   65.50%  33.00%
HD131   18.78%  79.96%   19.50%  79.60%
HD132   57.06%  41.64%   55.60%  42.90%
HD133   54.41%  44.21%   50.30%  48.40%
HD134   36.16%  62.34%   36.10%  62.50%
HD135   39.97%  58.63%   38.70%  59.90%
HD137   36.32%  62.01%   33.20%  65.40%
HD138   54.09%  44.32%   52.00%  46.60%
HD139   26.25%  72.41%   25.10%  73.70%
HD140   29.36%  68.82%   30.60%  68.30%
HD141   17.61%  80.98%   17.20%  81.80%
HD142   24.79%  73.80%   24.80%  74.10%
HD143   33.86%  64.53%   34.90%  64.00%
HD144   43.34%  55.02%   43.20%  55.60%
HD145   27.31%  70.85%   28.30%  70.10%
HD146   19.95%  78.80%   19.00%  79.80%
HD147   19.04%  79.49%   20.90%  77.60%
HD148   41.18%  57.19%   40.50%  58.10%
HD149   37.31%  61.36%   37.20%  61.70%
HD150   58.34%  40.15%   56.50%  42.10%

Obviously, the vote totals don’t compare – over 1.6 million people voted in 2020, a half million more than this year. But for the most part, Beto was within about a point of Biden’s percentage, and even did better in a couple of districts. Abbott did best in the Republican districts compared to Trump. As we’ll see when we look at the other statewide races, Abbott (and Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton) was one of the lower performers overall among Republicans, as was the case for Trump in 2020, but maybe there were slightly fewer Republican defectors this year.

It will take an improvement on the 2020 Biden and 2018 Beto numbers for Dems to put any State Rep districts into play, with HD138 being the first in line; remember that HD133 was a bit of an outlier, with a lot of Republican crossovers for Biden. Incumbency has its advantages, and as we have seen Dem performance can be a lot more variable downballot than at the top, especially when the top has the most divisive Republicans, so it will take more than just (say) Biden getting 50.1% in HD138 for Rep. Lacy Hull to really be in danger. It’s more that this will be another incentive to really work on boosting overall turnout. Having a good candidate in place, which I think Stephanie Morales was this year, and making sure that person has the financial and logistical support they need (which she didn’t have) will be key.

I’ll have more to say as we go along. Please let me know what you think and ask any questions you may have.

More information about HISD redistricting, please

A reasonable ask.

Several local nonprofit and advocacy groups penned a letter asking Houston ISD to postpone its decision on how to redraw trustee district boundaries.

Initially, the board was set to vote on the plan Thursday, according to a meeting agenda. Local advocates decried the move, stating the community was not given enough notice, and demanded it be moved to Feb 2.

Judith Cruz, president of the board, said the original posting was incorrect, and the item was only meant to be discussed, not voted on. It was possible that they could have voted Thursday if they felt they had sufficient community feedback, but that wasn’t the intent.

Typically, these items are voted on at regular board meetings, and the next one will be on Jan. 12. Cruz said they will only take a vote once they feel they have an adequate amount of community feedback.

The district is required to adjust those boundaries when the census reflects a significant population shift. Houston ISD hosted several town halls where officials presented two fairly similar plans, and hoped to decide by mid-December. Both aim to return each district to within 10 percent of a predetermined ideal size of about 164,000 people.

Houston in Action, a network of over 50 organizations promoting community leadership and reducing barriers to civic participation, wrote the letter, alongside other Community Voices for Public Education, Emgage, Latinos for Education, Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy, Institute for Civic Education, and Texas Federation of the People.

“Like you, we believe that all communities in HISD, and especially those who have historically been excluded, deserve a quality education and the ability to elect a representative who will be responsive to them,” Juan Cardoza-Oquendo, director of public policy for Houston in Action, said. “Therefore, we request that you allow the public more time to assess the draft plans. While you held town halls in your districts, few people attended them.”

[…]

“The Board published its redistricting plans online, to the best of our knowledge, less than a week ago,” Cardoza-Oquendo said. “The public needs more time to acquaint themselves with the redistricting plans and provide input.”

See here for some background. I noted at the time that I couldn’t find anything about the proposed redistricting plans on HISD’s website. I did find this page when I went looking again when I drafted this post. I didn’t see it when I first looked but it’s there as the bottom item in the dropdown menu for “Board”. They don’t have a link to it on the Board of Trustees page or the 2023 Election page, which were the first places I looked before I noticed it in the dropdown. Could definitely be better, but at least it’s there now. Perhaps ironically, I couldn’t find the cited letter on Houston in Action’s website or its Twitter page.

Anyway. All of the public meetings have been held, but apparently there was very little attendance at them. As far as I can tell, there was no mention of them in the regular emails that HISD sends out. I found one mention in an email I got from the Heights HS PTO, whose dist list I’m still on. How about another round of public meetings, with more publicity for them before they happen? That sounds like a good way to get the desired feedback needed to have the vote on the plan. What do you say, HISD?

Precinct analysis: Beto versus Abbott

All right, I have the full landscape data for Harris County and the November 2022 election, and I’ll be doing my usual thing with it. There’s a lot of data and a lot of ways to explore it, some of which I don’t realize until I’m in the process of looking at something else. I’m going to start here with the top of the ticket. Let’s roll out the numbers, and at the other side I’ll have all the words.


Dist   Abbott     Beto     Lib     Grn
======================================
CD02   73,159   50,757   1,333     445
CD07   45,780   84,973   1,545     452
CD08   43,294   48,380     860     371
CD09   20,661   74,545     788     504
CD18   39,628  115,106   1,562     703
CD22   12,585    8,669     264      83
CD29   30,228   69,265     920     778
CD36   66,728   44,969   1,410     439
CD38  158,198   98,989   3,130     751

CD02   58.20%   40.38%   1.06%   0.35%
CD07   34.49%   64.01%   1.16%   0.34%
CD08   46.60%   52.07%   0.93%   0.40%
CD09   21.41%   77.25%   0.82%   0.52%
CD18   25.24%   73.32%   0.99%   0.45%
CD22   58.26%   40.13%   1.22%   0.38%
CD29   29.87%   68.45%   0.91%   0.77%
CD36   58.77%   39.60%   1.24%   0.39%
CD38   60.60%   37.92%   1.20%   0.29%

Dist   Abbott     Beto     Lib     Grn
======================================
SD04   55,846   36,950   1,005     312
SD06   41,043   85,936   1,225     927
SD07  153,513  106,557   2,933     853
SD11   57,156   35,725   1,214     339
SD13   22,813  100,559     958     680
SD15   83,653  160,077   2,850     932
SD17   59,143   51,734   1,307     363
SD18   17,094   18,115     320     120

SD04   59.34%   39.26%   1.07%   0.33%
SD06   31.78%   66.55%   0.95%   0.72%
SD07   58.18%   40.38%   1.11%   0.32%
SD11   60.52%   37.83%   1.29%   0.36%
SD13   18.25%   80.44%   0.77%   0.54%
SD15   33.80%   64.67%   1.15%   0.38%
SD17   52.55%   45.97%   1.16%   0.32%
SD18   47.95%   50.81%   0.90%   0.34%

Dist   Abbott     Beto     Lib     Grn
======================================
HD126  35,835   23,627     711     185
HD127  39,102   26,791     722     221
HD128  31,983   13,915     513     171
HD129  37,118   27,144     864     227
HD130  44,983   20,891     775     198
HD131   5,963   25,387     231     169
HD132  35,079   25,603     627     173
HD133  33,195   26,971     684     156
HD134  29,592   51,010   1,044     181
HD135  16,443   24,121     369     208
HD137   7,860   13,421     245     116
HD138  31,077   25,464     708     209
HD139  11,643   32,115     394     199
HD140   5,717   13,400     166     187
HD141   4,549   20,922     210     156
HD142   8,666   25,793     289     204
HD143   8,420   16,047     208     192
HD144  11,566   14,683     260     178
HD145  12,631   32,765     623     228
HD146   8,511   33,610     333     200
HD147   8,952   37,366     476     216
HD148  15,451   21,460     435     175
HD149  12,068   19,844     256     173
HD150  33,857   23,303     669     204

HD126  59.37%   39.14%   1.18%   0.31%
HD127  58.50%   40.08%   1.08%   0.33%
HD128  68.66%   29.87%   1.10%   0.37%
HD129  56.80%   41.53%   1.32%   0.35%
HD130  67.29%   31.25%   1.16%   0.30%
HD131  18.78%   79.96%   0.73%   0.53%
HD132  57.06%   41.64%   1.02%   0.28%
HD133  54.41%   44.21%   1.12%   0.26%
HD134  36.16%   62.34%   1.28%   0.22%
HD135  39.97%   58.63%   0.90%   0.51%
HD137  36.32%   62.01%   1.13%   0.54%
HD138  54.09%   44.32%   1.23%   0.36%
HD139  26.25%   72.41%   0.89%   0.45%
HD140  29.36%   68.82%   0.85%   0.96%
HD141  17.61%   80.98%   0.81%   0.60%
HD142  24.79%   73.80%   0.83%   0.58%
HD143  33.86%   64.53%   0.84%   0.77%
HD144  43.34%   55.02%   0.97%   0.67%
HD145  27.31%   70.85%   1.35%   0.49%
HD146  19.95%   78.80%   0.78%   0.47%
HD147  19.04%   79.49%   1.01%   0.46%
HD148  41.18%   57.19%   1.16%   0.47%
HD149  37.31%   61.36%   0.79%   0.53%
HD150  58.34%   40.15%   1.15%   0.35%

Dist   Abbott     Beto     Lib     Grn
======================================
CC1    67,070  207,830   2,747   1,167
CC2    95,270  108,943   2,266   1,188
CC3   218,228  147,384   4,148   1,218
CC4   109,693  131,496   2,651     953

CC1    24.06%   74.54%   0.99%   0.42%
CC2    45.88%   52.46%   1.09%   0.57%
CC3    58.83%   39.73%   1.12%   0.33%
CC4    44.81%   53.72%   1.08%   0.39%

Dist   Abbott     Beto     Lib     Grn
======================================
JP1    60,159  127,746   2,343     728
JP2    21,749   30,575     520     300
JP3    35,283   42,924     715     405
JP4   168,373  130,575   3,308   1,100
JP5   140,459  148,609   3,076   1,101
JP6     4,970   17,898     228     168
JP7    11,615   67,072     582     414
JP8    47,653   30,254   1,040     310

JP1    31.50%   66.89%   1.23%   0.38%
JP2    40.92%   57.53%   0.98%   0.56%
JP3    44.48%   54.11%   0.90%   0.51%
JP4    55.50%   43.04%   1.09%   0.36%
JP5    47.90%   50.68%   1.05%   0.38%
JP6    21.36%   76.93%   0.98%   0.72%
JP7    14.58%   84.17%   0.73%   0.52%
JP8    60.12%   38.17%   1.31%   0.39%

My notes:

– Going forward, for the most part, I’m going to skip the Congressional and State Senate districts. Most of them are not wholly contained within Harris County – only CDs 18, 29, and 38, and SDs 06 and 15 are fully represented here – so I don’t find there’s sufficient value for the added work. When we get the Texas Legislative Council dataset for the 2022 election, then I’ll return to these districts plus the SBOE districts (none of which are entirely within Harris County now that SBOE6 extends into Montgomery). Also note that CD10 no longer includes any of Harris County.

– I will have a separate post on this, but if you’re wondering how Beto did compared to expectations on the new maps, see here and here for a first look. There will be more, I promise.

– Beto was the top performer for Dems in Harris County, getting 54.03% of the vote. That makes his performance in the precincts the best case scenario (usually), at least for this election. He would be a top performer but not the top performer in 2020 or 2018, so this is hardly an upper bound. For districts that Dems would ideally like to target, like HDs 133 and 138, this shows where we’re starting out in an okay but not great year.

– Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot to say here. I think the more interesting stuff will come when I look at the comparisons to past years and when I look at some of the other races. Even without looking at past data, there wasn’t much of a surprise in anything here. All of the districts performed more or less as you’d expect. The one item of interest may be Beto carrying (barely) JP/Constable precinct 5, given our previous discussion of those precincts. I’m sure we could draw six, maybe even seven Democratic precincts, though whether we could do that while equalizing population and not violating the Voting Rights Act is another question. For sure, we could make five solid Dem precincts.

– So I’ll end here, with a note that I will also look at how the vote went in the city of Houston, the split in the statewide races, the easy passage of the Harris County bonds, and a very deep dive into judicial races. All this and more, coming up soon. Let me know if you have any questions.

LULAC files that lawsuit to end Houston City Council At Large districts

We’ve been waiting for this.

The League of United Latin American Citizens on Monday filed its long-anticipated lawsuit against the city of Houston, seeking to get rid of at-large City Council seats that it says leave Hispanic residents with insufficient representation at City Hall.

The group, one of the largest Hispanic civil rights organizations in the country, first announced plans to take legal action against the city in January.

While 45 percent of Houston residents are Hispanic, Robert Gallegos of District I is the only Hispanic person holding a seat on the 16-member body, even though the city previously created two other Hispanic-opportunity districts, H and J.

The federal lawsuit aims to replace the city’s five at-large seats, which represent voters citywide, with single-member seats dedicated to certain geographic areas. Houston’s current election system has created barriers to Hispanic representation and deprived hundreds of thousands of minority Houstonians of their voting rights guaranteed by law, the complaint says.

“The Latino voters of Houston have waited for fair redistricting plans. They have waited for years for the city of Houston to end its long relationship with ‘at-large’ districts that dilute the electoral strength of Hispanics,” the lawsuit says. “The time has come to replace this old election system that functions solely to dilute the power of Houston’s Latino voters.”

Houston City Council was comprised of all at-large positions until 1980, when it switched to a mix of district seats and five at-large seats. The change led to more diverse council bodies and better representation of minority voters, according to the complaint. Still, only four with Spanish surnames have been elected to one of the five at-large districts since then because Latino-preferred candidates rarely do well in citywide races, it says.

While many local Latino candidates also face other challenges, such as a lack of resources, the council structure remains a major hurdle for them, according to Jeronimo Cortina, an associate professor in political science at University of Houston.

“When you look into political science literature, you’ll find that at-large seats tend to decrease the likelihood for minority candidates to win an election,” he said.

It is, however, not sufficient to simply look at the absence of Latino city council members, Cortina said. To substantiate LULAC’s claim that Houston is in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the organization would have to prove that Latino Houstonians have been acting as a cohesive voting bloc but unable to elect a candidate of their choice.

“It would take a lot of time and a lot of data,” Cortina said. “But the fact is that Latinos have been running and Latinos are not winning these elections.”

See here, here, and here for the background, and here for a copy of the lawsuit. I’ve said all I have to say in that first link. Whatever happens with this lawsuit happens, and I’ll be fine with it. Courts have ordered cities like Pasadena and Farmers Branch to incorporate City Council districts in recent years, but those places began with all-At Large systems, and they were much more clearly discriminatory in my opinion. They were also decided in a time before SCOTUS went all in on destroying the Voting Rights Act. This could go either way, and I’ll be surprised if there is a temporary restraining order in place to block the use of the current Council map for the 2023 election. After that, we’ll see. The Trib has more.

A few words from Judge Hidalgo

Plus a few words that she could have said but didn’t, which I will fill in.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who narrowly won re-election last week over a strong push from GOP candidates and donors, outlined plans for her next four years in office, including continuing anti-crime efforts and doubling down on early childhood education.

“In some ways, it’s a continuation of the past four years — the work we’ve done to tackle violent crime, for example. We’ve already been able to bring down that violent crime rate by at least 10 percent. These are August numbers. We need to do more. We’re going to continue doing that,” Hidalgo said in a press briefing held Thursday.

Hidalgo took a jab at the two Republicans on commissioners court, Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, who broke quorum for more than six weeks to stop Democrats from passing their proposed property tax rate. While the Democrats were proposing a tax rate decrease, Ramsey and Cagle argued for a slightly lower rate on the grounds that residents needed more tax relief.

Because the court was not able to reach a state-required quorum of four members present to set the tax rate by the end of October, the county defaulted to what is known as the no-new revenue rate, the levy that would generate the same revenue as last year. The county is projected to take in an additional $45 million from new properties on the tax roll.

Facing a lower tax rate, the court voted to approve a lower budget, cutting nearly $100 million that was to be allocated to law enforcement, including raises for sheriff deputies.

“I’m proud of the record investments we’ve made in public safety, even despite the fact that two colleagues boycotted our budget process and forced us to cut some expenses we’d planned,” Hidalgo said. “Even with that, we’ve been able to see results and we’re working really hard, including with the recent bond that passed, to try to strengthen our criminal justice system.”

County government will keep tackling issues that traditionally have not been on the agenda, she said.

That’s what she said. She didn’t say anything about Constable/JP redistricting, either as a political goal or a policy goal. She didn’t say anything about taking all of those $100 million in forced budget cuts from Tom Ramsey’s precinct, which I would totally tell her to at least publicly muse about if I were advising her. She didn’t say anything about whiny crybaby sore losers pursuing their completely bogus “investigation” of the Elections office. She’s a responsible elected official, and I’m a yahoo on the Internet, so that probably has something to do with it. But these are things that could be said, and maybe will be said in a more measured and nuanced way at some point in the coming weeks. We’ll see. Oh, and be sure also to see the hilariously thin-skinned response she drew for her victory celebration from a local furniture salesman and gambling aficionado. Someone needs a nap, I’d say.

UPDATE: Said furniture salesman gets roundly panned by Chron readers.

On comparing counties from 2018 to 2022

I started with this.

Voters in counties across Texas chose GOP leaders over Democrats at a higher rate than they did four years ago, a Dallas Morning News analysis shows.

The findings, based on data as of noon on Wednesday, reflect that an overwhelming number of counties — 205 out of 254 — favored Republicans. Those counties turned more Republican by an average of 2.87 percentage points, the data showed.

The analysis also showed urban areas are shifting toward Democrats, part of a continuing trend across the country.

All five North Texas counties experiencing population growth saw an uptick in the percentage of votes for Democrats, the analysis showed.

Collin County, a Republican stronghold anchored by suburban women, shifted its share of votes to Democrats by 4.45 percentage points compared to 2018, according to the analysis.

Tarrant County, another GOP-dominated region that has seen an increasing number of Democratic votes, increased support for Democrats by 3.04 percentage points; Dallas County, by 3.23 percentage points; Denton by 3.53; and Rockwall by 3.5, the analysis showed.

Political experts who reviewed The Dallas Morning News’ findings weren’t surprised by the shift. Though slow-moving, the changes can make an impact over the next decade, they said.

“We shouldn’t delude ourselves in any way that the Democrats are about to take over,” said James Riddlesperger, a professor of political science at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. “At the same time, election coalitions are dynamic and what we’re seeing is the competitiveness of the two political parties in this area is becoming more apparent.”

This Trib story has more of the same. And it set me off to do the thing I usually do, which is put a bunch of numbers into a spreadsheet and then try to make something interesting happen with them. If you were to do the same – copy county-by-county election results for the Governor’s races from 2018 and 2022 into Excel – you’d see what these stories say, which is that Beto generally did better than Lupe Valdez in the large urban and suburban counties, and generally did worse elsewhere. You’d also notice that the reverse is true, which is that Abbott did worse where Beto did better and vice versa. You might think this means something about maybe Dems closing the gap in some places, and maybe that’s true, but if so then you have to contend with the fact that the likes of Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton did better overall than they had done four years ago, and as such there’s a limit to this kind of analysis.

I got to that point and I just didn’t feel like putting more time into it. I’ll spend plenty of time looking at district-level numbers, to see how the assumptions of the 2021 redistricting have held up so far and where opportunities and dangers for 2024 might lurk. Much of that data won’t be available until after the next Legislative session begins, though some county data should be there after the votes are canvassed. But statewide, I think we already know what we might want to know, at least at a macro level. We Dems didn’t build on 2018. There’s nothing to suggest that the trends we saw over the last decade have reversed, but there was nothing to see this year to suggest that we have moved the ball any farther than it would have moved on its own. So I’m going to put my effort into places where I hope to find things to work for in the next election or two. I promise I’ll throw numbers at you in those posts.

HISD redistricting is on the docket

Already happening, in fact.

Current districts

Houston ISD plans to redraw the boundary lines for its nine school board trustees based on population changes reflected in the latest U.S. Census.

HISD officials emphasized that the changes only impact voting, not what schools children are zoned to. The district is required to adjust those boundaries when the U.S. Census reflects a significant population shift.

The board presented two plans, which are fairly similar, and aim to decide by mid-December. Both aim to return each district to within 10 percent of a predetermined ideal size of about 164,000 people.

District VII, represented by Bridget Wade and spanning from River Oaks to Briarmeadow in west Houston, has seen the most growth, so it will be redrawn.

That district also saw growth 10 years ago, the last time the Census was done. However, the growth wasn’t considered significant enough to warrant being restructured. District I, which represented the north side, and District IX, the south, were the only two to be restructured 10 years ago after the last Census.

On the flip side, this year’s Census data showed that District III in southeast Houston shrank. Dani Hernandez represents that district.

It’s difficult to adjust just one or two districts, said Sydney Falk, an attorney of Bickerstaff Heath Delgado and Acosta LLP, an Austin-based law firm that did the analysis.

“It’s a ripple effect,” Falk said. “As soon as you touch one, you need to adjust the others.”

He added that all the changes were relatively minor. Districts I, III, IV, VII and VIII will all be restructured. Districts II, V, VI, IX generally won’t change.

I couldn’t find anything about the proposed plans on the HISD website, but I’m sure something will appear sooner or later. There are some community meetings happening if you want to discuss the matter; I’m sure the proposed maps will be present at these.

HISD did a small redistricting in 2011 as noted, and then had to do it again in 2014 after the annexation of North Forest ISD. I expect the process to be pretty peaceful and straightforward this time around.

And if you’re wondering if HCC will go through a similar process, the answer is Yes, they will, and they are.

The Houston Community College Board of Trustees is conducting a once-per-decade redistricting process to better align HCC districts based on equitable population distribution.

The board is considering redistricting options at meetings over the next several months. Options currently under consideration are available for the public to comment on and review at an HCC information web page on redistricting located at www.hccs.edu/about-hcc/board-of-trustees/hcc-redistricting-information.

Community residents can review proposed maps and provide map suggestions via a redistricting form at the web page or by emailing [email protected]. All submitters must provide their full name, home address, a phone number and, if available, an email address.

“Redistricting is the process by which the boundaries of elective single-member districts are periodically redrawn in response to changes in population,” said Board Chair Dr. Cynthia Lenton-Gary. “We encourage members of the public to visit this site for information and updates concerning redistricting and the proposed maps we will be reviewing.”

Districts are determined based upon U.S. Census data. If population numbers show that a single-member district exceeds the population of the least populated, single-member district by more than 10 percent, the district map must be re-drawn. The goal is to ensure that each single-member district consists of near equal population across the system.

That was posted on October 10; I trust you’ll forgive me for not having that at the forefront of my mind at the time. Their index page for redistricting has all the information you could want. Current and proposed maps are here – not surprisingly, they all look very similar – and the timeline tab indicates they plan to adopt a map next April. Like I said, all the info is there for you to see.

Commissioner-elect Briones

Good story.

Lesley Briones

Yes, Lesley Briones secured a victory that handed Democrats a stall-proof majority on Harris County Commissioners Court.

And yes, she upset Republican Commissioner Jack Cagle in a precinct where he has won reelection every cycle since 2011, beating the incumbent by about 3 points when polling in the week before the election marked Cagle with a firm lead in the race.

It’s also true that Briones’ election to office marks the first instance in its 145-year history that two women have served on Harris County Commissioners Court at the same time. It should also be noted that her presence adds a third representative with Latin American heritage to the five-member body in a county where Latinos make up the largest racial demographic group and have been growing every year since 2010.

But Briones maintains that the circumstances and implications surrounding her victory will not color her decisions as she prepares to assume her role as Harris County’s newly elected Precinct 4 Commissioner. A former Harris County Civil Court Judge who graduated from Harvard and went to law school at Yale, told Chron that she plans to approach her role as commissioner “just the way I did in court.”

“In my court, I wear a black robe, not a blue robe, not a red robe or any other color. And I listen to both sides of a case, or all sides if there are multiple parties. And I listened to the evidence and made my rulings in the fairest way possible,” Briones said.

“I am a proud lifelong Democrat, but it’s beyond partisanship,” said Briones. “It’s about being Americans, being Houstonians, being Texans. It’s about fixing potholes, improving parks, maintaining ditches. It’s about making sure we have the number of law enforcement officers we have,” she added.

Looking back at her and Democratic Judge Lina Hidalgo’s re-election victories, Briones said that “when people box themselves into corners, if it’s hyperpartisanship or polarization or however you want to frame it, it wasn’t serving people, and things weren’t getting done.”

First, that was the same poll that had claimed Judge Hidalgo was losing in her race; it underestimated her support by six points. To be fair, that poll showed a lot of undecided voters and noted that they came primarily from demographics that would favor Democrats. I’m just noting this all for the record, so we can examine the polls of 2024 more carefully.

I like the subtlety with which Commissioner-elect Briones calls out her vanquished opponent for his quorum busting – there’s more later in the story – which she had taken the opportunity to attack as it was happening in the latter stages of the campaign. I have no idea if this had an effect on the outcome – we don’t have any data on that – but as the victor one gets to write the narrative. Seems like a pretty good way to start telling the story of her tenure.

Finally, given that we will be talking a lot about Latino representation on Houston City Council in the coming year, not to mention the promised lawsuit to get rid of the At Large Council seats, it’s worthwhile to compare Harris County to Houston and note the disparity in their governing bodies. I will note that County Commissioner races are a lot more expensive than At Large City Council races, and that Briones won in a district that was not specifically drawn to elect a Latino. She had to defeat a diverse slate of opponents in her primary to get onto the November ballot. To be sure, she’s running in a partisan race, which can be (but isn’t necessarily) a boost to one’s fundraising prospects. She’s also running in an even-numbered year, which as we’ve discussed before in the City Council context means much higher turnout and thus a more diverse electorate than our odd-year municipal elections. If we had city elections in even-numbered years, we would almost certainly have a different-looking City Council. There are good reasons to not want to have those elections in even years, I’m just saying it’s another option, and something to keep in mind as we have this longer conversation in 2023. Campos has more.

The case for redrawing Constable/JP precincts

A Twitter thread of interest:

Note that he means the Justice of the Peace courts. Current maps for those precincts are here. Note that the Constable and Justice of the Peace precincts are the same. Note also how large geographically precincts 4 and 5 are. I’m sure they were quite empty in the 70s, but that was a long time ago. That’s one of the main theses in the accompanying article, which focuses on population growth and caseloads, and how they affect people facing evictions, which are handled by the JP courts.

Every Monday morning, Judge Israel Garcia, Jr., who serves as Harris County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, stares down a punishing docket of eviction, debt collection, and traffic cases for the week. His courtroom has a line out the door of parents and children, desperate to resolve a dispute with their landlord or settle a longstanding debt. But the law can be unfriendly to these defendants, and Judge Garcia must know that relief will never come.

All Justice of the Peace Courts in Harris County deal with large caseloads, but the number of cases in Precinct 5 is seemingly endless. If you visit our Harris County Evictions Dashboard, you’ll see how imbalanced the caseload really is – there are 10 times as many cases in Precinct 5 compared to Precinct 6.

What’s going on here? Do renters in Precinct 5 have a much higher risk of eviction than renters in other areas? Are its residents that much more likely to fall behind on their credit card payments or speed through a school zone? No. The reason why Precinct 5 has more cases is because it has more people –  a lot more people. And it has more people because Harris County hasn’t redrawn the boundaries of JP courts since 1973.

For this blog post, I explore just how lopsided the caseloads in Harris County’s JP Courts have become due to a lack of redistricting over the past 50 years. I also show the results from a simulation I ran of 1,000 new maps for the courts that account for population change. Every single one is better than what we have today.

I discussed the political case for redistricting the Constables in an earlier post. That’s a separate matter from what David McClendon is advocating. The two goals, if they are indeed goals for Commissioners Court, would be in some tension here. My first thought is whether McClendon took the Voting Rights Act into account in this exercise, because Precinct 6 – one of two precinct with Hispanic Constables and (with the election of Dolores Lozano in Precinct 2) all Hispanic JPs – would be first in line to be made larger. Precinct 2, the other of those two precincts, is right next to it. Precincts 3 and 7 have Black Constables and JPs. Any potential redrawing of these precincts needs to ensure that Black and Hispanic voters aren’t losing representation.

The Constables are currently five Dems and three Republicans, with Precincts 4 and 8 being all-GOP, while Precinct 5 has one JP from each party following Israel Garcia’s win in 2020. As a practical political matter, Commissioners Court is not going to draw a new set of maps that will make it harder for Democrats to win. Again, as far as I can tell, McClendon didn’t take that into account.

And that’s fine. That wasn’t his idea, and his goal was to even out the caseloads to enable a better process and hopefully better outcomes for tenants facing eviction. The good news here is that McClendon ran a thousand maps, each of which were better than the existing one for his purposes. That strongly suggests to me that the political purpose of not making it harder for Dems to get elected – while also at the least not making it easier for a few specific Constables to get re-elected – can be achieved at the same time as making the courts function better for everyone. Maybe there’s not an optimal solution for each in the same map, but surely improvements can be made. I would absolutely advocate for Commissioners Court to take a long look at this.

The Lege is a little more diverse now

A good thing.

Salman Bhojani

Voters in Texas added to the diversity of their state Legislature on Tuesday, tripling the number of openly gay Black lawmakers holding office and electing the first two Muslim lawmakers to serve in the Capitol.

As recently as May, there were no openly gay Black members of the Legislature. Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston, became the first when she won a special election that month. She was elected to a full term on Tuesday. She’ll now be joined by Democrats Christian Manuel Hayes and Venton Jones, who both won their races Tuesday night. Hayes will represent House District 22, based in Beaumont, and Jones will represent House District 100 in Dallas.

“They’ve never backed down when our rights are on the line and we are confident they’ll channel this courage and compassion in Austin,” said Annise Parker, the former Houston mayor who serves as president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

The two candidates will take office ahead of a legislative session in which LGBTQ issues are likely to play a large role. Conservative lawmakers in recent years have raised concerns about books in schools that portray the experiences of gay and transgender people and indicated an interest in banning some content.

The first two Muslim lawmakers are Salman Bhojani, who won election to House District 92 in Tarrant County, and Suleman Lalani, who won election to House District 76 in Fort Bend County.

Both men are also immigrants. Bhojani, whose family is originally from Pakistan, moved to the United States as a teenager. Lalani came to the country in the 1990s to begin his career as a doctor.

In the Texas Legislature, Muslims haven’t always been met with open arms. In 2007, Dan Patrick, then a state senator, boycotted the Texas Senate’s first-ever prayer by a Muslim cleric.

I’m sure he’s so much more compassionate and tolerant now. HD76 is a Democratic seat moved from El Paso to Fort Bend in redistricting. HD92 is a new Democratic-drawn seat in Tarrant County. HD100 is the seat vacated by US Rep.-elect Jasmine Crockett, and HD22 is the seat in Jefferson County made vacant by the retirement of Rep. Joe Deshotel. I wish I could say that all the newbies were coming into a welcoming place where they’ll have a fair chance to pass bills of interest to their constituents, but signs point to No on that one. Nonetheless, I welcome them and wish them all the best. Whatever they can do to make that place and our state better, we’ll be happy for it.

In which Harris County Republicans look for moral victories

Believe me, as a Texas Democrat and a longtime fan of the Rice Owls, I know what it looks like to search for moral victories in the face of defeat. It looks like this.

Feel the power…

Harris County Republicans on Tuesday posted their strongest showing in years, appearing to capture their first countywide race since 2014 and nearly unseating County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

In the end, though, Hidalgo eked out a narrow victory over Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer, leaving the party all but empty-handed despite massively outspending Democrats and launching an all-out push to reclaim control of Harris County Commissioners Court.

Under new precinct boundaries crafted by Democrats last year to expand their court majority, Republican Commissioner Jack Cagle also came up short against Democrat Lesley Briones, whom he trailed by more than 3 percentage points with all voting centers reporting. Democratic Commissioner Adrian Garcia also held off Republican Jack Morman by more than 5 points in Precinct 2.

Mealer conceded early Wednesday morning, cementing a 4-1 majority for Democrats on Commissioners Court.

Even Republicans acknowledged this year could be their last realistic chance, and certainly their best shot in recent years, at winning a county that has seen pronounced demographic shifts over the last couple of decades. Harris County’s population is growing younger and more racially and ethnically diverse, while adding more college-educated residents — groups that all tend to favor Democrats, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

However, Harris County Republicans saw a confluence of factors — the felony indictment of three Hidalgo aidesa rise in homicidesDemocrats bracing for a Republican wave year nationally — that appeared to put the county judge race and other countywide seats in play. Also fueling their optimism was the removal last cycle of straight-ticket voting, meaning voters no longer can cast their ballots for every candidate from one party by pressing a single button.

“The best chance to unseat a Democrat in Harris County is when they’re new to office, when they’re somewhat vulnerable, and when national trends cut against the Democrats,” Rottinghaus said. “That’s the perfect storm.”

Typically a low-profile affair, this year’s county judge race unfolded into one of Texas’ marquee election battles. Republican and business community donors, sensing Hidalgo was vulnerable, poured millions of dollars into Mealer’s campaign and political action committees backing Republican candidates, leaving Hidalgo and other local Democrats financially overwhelmed in a race few expected to be truly competitive a year ago.

The conditions in Harris County’s high-profile races appeared to boost Republicans in down-ballot judicial contests, five of which swung in favor of the GOP. Through unofficial results, Democrats appeared to lose control of two criminal district courts and three county misdemeanor courts, marking the party’s first countywide defeats in eight years.

Republicans also held a number of Democratic judicial candidates under 51 percent, far narrower results than their recent courthouse sweeps.

“We are light years from where we were four years ago. Light years,” state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said to a crowd at the Harris County Republican Party’s election night watch party.

Atop the ballot, Democrat Beto O’Rourke carried Harris County over Republican Gov. Greg Abbott by about 9 percentage points — far less than his 17-point margin over U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.

That year, O’Rourke helped usher in a wave of Democratic wins in down-ballot county races. Under less favorable conditions atop the ticket this year, Democrats running for administrative countywide offices still narrowly retained the seats they had first captured four years ago.

I wrote three posts talking about the connection between statewide performance and Harris County performance for Democrats. This might be a good time to point out that when Republicans were running the table in Harris County in the off-year elections, they were also absolutely stomping Democrats statewide. This was a worse year for Dems statewide than 2020 and 2018 were, but it was (ahem) light years from where they were in 2014 and 2010. Light years.

I mean, I had plenty of moments of doubt and worry going into this race. Some of those late polls, the ones that had Beto down by 12 or 13 points, were in line with the expectation that Harris County would be at best a mixed bag for Dems, with the real possibility of not only losing Judge Hidalgo’s race but also the majority on Commissioners Court. Hell, having both Lesley Briones and Adrian Garcia also lose wasn’t out of the question if things were really going south. I would have preferred to not lose any of those judicial races, but I can live with it. At least now there will be benches to run for that don’t require primarying someone. Oh, and by the way, all five of the losing Democratic judges had a higher percentage of the vote than Mealer did. Just so you know.

I will say, and I’ll say it again when I write another post about the state-county connection to update it for 2022, I do think the campaign to blame Democrats for crime, and all the money spent on it, probably moved the needle enough to get at least a couple of those Republican judicial candidates over the hump. They still needed the good statewide showing to be in a position to take advantage, but every little bit helps. But crime has been declining, and the crime rate has basically nothing to do with who’s on the bench anyway, so good luck replicating that in 2026.

I must note, by the way, that some people (on Twitter and on the CityCast Houston podcast) have mentioned that the five losing Democratic judicial candidates were all Black and all had names that might suggest they are Black. On the podcast, Evan Mintz noted this and mentioned the 2008 election, in which several Democratic judicial candidates with uncommon names had lost. I will just say that if you scroll through the Election Day results you will see quite a few Democratic candidates who are Black and whose names might also suggest they are Black that won. I’ve said before, there is always some variation in the range of performance for the Democratic judicial candidates. I’ve never found a pattern that consistently explains it, and that includes this year. As such, I am very reluctant to offer reasons for why this happens. I do think as I have just stated that the millions of dollars spent on blaming crime on the judges had some effect, but if it did then the effect was an overall one, with the range of scores being a bit lower than it might have been. That was enough to push a handful of Dems below fifty percent.

By the way, the two Republican judicial candidates who lost by the largest margins were named “Geric Tipsword” and “Andrew Bayley”. Make of that what you will.

I guess the question I’d ask is how confident are you right now that things will be better for your team in 2024, and in 2026? I feel pretty confident right now that Dems will sweep Harris County in 2024. The track record in Presidential years is a bit longer and more decisive. For 2026, it’s much harder to say. The possibility of a bad year in what could be Year 6 of President Biden or Year 2 of President Some Other Democrat is one that can’t be dismissed. You couldn’t get me to wishcast a 2026 gubernatorial frontrunner right now for love or money. Current trends suggest Dems would be in a better position in four years even with those possibilities, but trends don’t always continue as they have in the past, and even when they do they can slow down or bounce around a bit. With all that said, I still like our chances. Ask me again in three years when it’s filing season for that election.

Judge Hidalgo celebrates her win

Winning is sweet. Victory laps are even sweeter.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

Fresh off a narrow reelection that was anything but assured, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Wednesday held a news conference to praise colleagues, thank supporters and call out some members of her own party for not backing her campaign.

“There were some elected officials that weren’t there because they didn’t think it was convenient, those in my own party that wouldn’t do an ad for me, that wouldn’t have a fundraiser, that wouldn’t help when it got tough,” Hidalgo said. “And oh, I remember who they are.”

The Hidalgo campaign declined to specify which officials she was addressing.

Hidalgo also addressed critics during the election cycle who accused the Democrats on Commissioners Court of defunding police, including what she called “unscrupulous politicians of both parties.”

She called out Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat, without naming her directly.

“This person who is supposed to represent justice in this county more than once said with a straight face ‘stop the defunding’ knowing full well that the budget had increased,” Hidalgo said.

[…]

Despite being significantly out-funded by Republican newcomer Alexandra del Moral Mealer, Hidalgo emerged from early voting ahead of her opponent and narrowly maintained that lead throughout the night as votes were counted. The final unofficial tally, released just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, put Hidalgo in front of Mealer by slightly more than 17,000 votes, or 50.8 percent of the nearly 1.1 million votes cast. That was a narrower margin of victory than her surprise election in 2018, when the then-27-year-old ousted popular Republican Ed Emmett.

Mealer tweeted her concession around 9:30 a.m.

“While we did not accomplish our goal of changing leadership in Harris County, we were successful in elevating the profile of critical issues like the need to appropriately resource our law enforcement and criminal justice system as well as the desire to eliminate corruption and increase transparency in local government,” Mealer said in a statement. “This campaign was always about good government and I am hopeful that we have played a role encouraging that going forward.”

Hidalgo acknowledged her opponent’s hard-fought campaign, much of which centered on crime, blaming policies championed by Hidalgo for rising numbers of homicides the past two years, and accusing the first-term judge of corruption, mostly related to a controversial COVID vaccination outreach contract that resulted in indictments against three of her aides.

Since July 1, Mealer raised more than $8.5 million, much of it from large donors like Gallery Furniture owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, an early supporter of her campaign. Hidalgo, who has refused to accept campaign contributions from county vendors, raised $2.4 million in that period.

“She had almost $10 million in the bank and she had a U.S. senator and she had a furniture salesman,” Hidalgo said in her speech, taking a swipe at McIngvale who ran several campaign ads in support of Mealer.

“I want to thank Alex Mealer for running a hard fought campaign,” Hidalgo said. “I want to thank her for her concession. And I want to thank her again for her service to our country.”

Surrounded by union leaders and Democratic party elected officials, Hidalgo thanked her supporters for helping her block walk, raise money and host campaign events.

Much of her speech was of a celebratory nature, citing past accomplishments with current Commissioner Court colleagues Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia.

“We have done so much from the very first meeting,” Hidalgo said, citing countywide voting as one example of successes while she has been in office. “We did that at the first meeting in 2019.”

In re: the margin of victory, they are referring to the raw vote differential. In 2018, Judge Hidalgo won by 19,277 votes, while in 2022 it was 17,397 votes. Of course, there were more total votes cast in 2018 than in 2022, which has an effect. As it happens Judge Hidalgo’s margin of victory as a percentage of the vote is greater now than it was then: In 2018 she won 49.76% to 48.18% (there was a Libertarian candidate that took the rest). In 2022, it was 50.79% to 49.19%, with a write-in candidate getting the other 0.02%. That means she won this year by 1.60 percentage points, compared to 1.58 in 2018. Pick your preferred measure of expression.

As for what may be on the agenda for 2023, I’m not the first person to suggest this, but don’t be surprised if Commissioners Court looks at redrawing the Constable/JP precincts. Most counties just have the Constable and JP precincts be the same as the Commissioners Court precincts. Harris has its own weird precincts for them that don’t match up in population and (as I understand it haven’t been updated since the 70s. There’s also no shortage of bad blood between (at least some) Constables and the Court, so a bit of payback may be in order. I suspect this would be a complex matter and would surely invite litigation so I don’t think it will be undertaken lightly, but I will be surprised if it doesn’t at least come up.

Beyond that, I expect the Court to do more of what it’s been doing, with the freedom of knowing that their next budget can’t be busted by no-shows. The main obstacle will continue to be interference from the state and whatever new BS legislation may come down. This is where I remind you that Harris County was under a Republican majority on Commissioners Court going back to at least the mid-70s, which is as far back as I’ve been able to verify, up until 2019 when Dems finally achieved a 3-2 advantage. We’ve done things a certain way for a long damn time. Making changes to make things better will take time, too. For now, we can celebrate a bit as we look forward. Let it out, Judge Hidalgo. You’ve earned it. The Press has more.

We have already entered Speaker’s Race season

And I’m already exhausted.

Rep. Tony Tinderholt

State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, announced Friday he is running for speaker, challenging fellow Republican Dade Phelan.

Tinderholt is one of the furthest-right Republicans in the chamber, and in a statement, he made clear he would be running on his opposition to Democratic committee chairs.

“Will the priority legislation of the Republican Party of Texas receive a vote on the Texas House floor?” Tinderholt said in a statement. “The truth is, we have no idea with our current speaker in control.”

Phelan is expected to run for speaker again but has not made it official yet. His office declined to comment on Tinderholt’s announcement.

Tinderholt has served in the House since 2015 and once was a member of the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus. Even before Texas’ latest restrictions, he has been an ardent opponent of abortion, filing legislation that would make it possible to charge a woman who has an abortion with criminal homicide.

Phelan has been speaker since 2021, when he was elected with near-unanimous support of the 150-member chamber. He helped steer the state further right through his first session, allowing passage of the state’s new laws banning almost all abortion and allowing permitless carry of handguns.

But his critics on the right have not been satisfied, arguing conservative priorities will always be held back if the minority party is permitted to chair committees and control what legislation reaches the floor. Like his GOP predecessors, Phelan has given some chairmanships to Democrats, including on the prominent House Public Education Committee.

I mean, this session is going to be a shitshow in any circumstance other than a Democratic majority in the House, which to put it mildly is highly unlikely. Tinderholt is the kind of politician that will be unappealing to most normal people, but first he has to get himself elected Speaker, and that’s always harder than it looks. If he really has some juice, we’ll start seeing other members publicly backing him. In the meantime, note that his HD94 is not very red, though it used to be; it is slightly redder than it was pre-redistricting. If we’re lucky, Tinderholt will do us the favor of making himself a bigger electoral target. May take a couple of cycles to get there, but keep hope alive.

Houston City Council approves its new map

Now we wait for the lawsuit(s).

City Council on Wednesday approved new boundaries for the city’s 11 districts for the 2023 elections, featuring modest adjustments affecting parts of downtown, Braeburn, Greater Inwood and a few areas in southeast Houston.

The new boundaries aim to balance district populations based on the latest census data.

By law, the most populous district should not have more than 10 percent more residents than the smallest district. Based on the 2020 census, Districts C and G need to give up some neighborhoods. Districts H, I and J, on the other hand, have lost too many constituents and need to expand. Overall, fewer than 3 percent of the Houston’s 2.3 million residents will change districts.

The redistricting plan had gone through several iterations based on months of internal discussions and public feedback. On Wednesday, four council members also offered amendments to the proposal, three of which were successful.

Despite the majority support for the new maps, council had to vote twice to approve them after it was revealed late Wednesday that the city secretary called out the wrong agenda item before the council voted during the morning session.

The council reconvened at 6 p.m. for a public hearing on a proposed bond election. Following the hearing, which drew no speakers, the council confirmed the new maps by a 14-2 vote, with District I Councilmember Robert Gallegos and District E Councilmember Dave Martin dissenting.

[…]

City Demographer Jerry Wood said throughout the design process he had to juggle competing interests from council members and the public and was unable to accommodate some requests.

“If you go into this thinking that you’re going to make everybody happy, you’re going to be sorry for thinking that,” Wood said. “If you go into this thinking that you’re going to make as few people unhappy as possible, then you might have some success.”

See here for some background. The map I’ve embedded is from the early part of the process and doesn’t include any of the changes made at that Council meeting, so go here for the latest details. CM Gallegos has some issues with the process and with an amendment that affected District I; the story did not say why CM Martin voted no. Overall, this was pretty painless, certainly easier than it was in 2011 when we had to add two new districts. That doesn’t mean there won’t be legal issues:

Much of the discussion around redistricting has centered on the lack of Hispanic representation at City Hall.

While about 45 percent of Houston residents are Hispanic, Gallegos of District I is the only Hispanic council member out of the 16, even though the city previously created two other Hispanic-opportunity districts, H and J.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the largest Hispanic civil rights organizations in the country, has promised to sue the city over what its advocates characterize as a gross underrepresentation of Latinos on the council.

The goal of the lawsuit is to replace the city’s five at-large seats, which represent voters citywide, with single-member seats, which cover a certain geographical area, to improve minority representation.

The city has hired a law firm in anticipation of the legal challenge.

“We are asking for equity and fairness, and we just don’t have that with the current districts,” said Sergio Lira, a Houston-based leader with the organization. “That’s why we are filing the lawsuit to push for changes.”

Some are worried that Kamin’s amendment could have an adverse effect on Hispanic votes.

The areas set to move to District H instead of Freedmen’s Town, have high percentages of Hispanic constituents, but are experiencing gentrification and are expected to see a decline in Hispanic populations in the following years, according to Wood.

Gallegos said that he did not originally agree with LULAC’s demand to abolish Houston’s at-large seats, but in light of these new developments, he plans to work closely with the organization to advance its cause.

“After what happened this morning, I agree that we need all single-member districts to make sure that we have the representation we need,” he said.

See here for some background. I don’t have anything to add to what I wrote then. I think the plaintiffs would have a decent chance of prevailing if they file, but it’s not a slam dunk. An alternate possible outcome would be to agree to move City Council elections to even-numbered years, as the natural boost in turnout would create a more diverse electorate and thus could raise the chances of Latino candidates in citywide races. That was one of the things that happened in Austin, in addition to the switch to districts from At Large; their elections had been in May of odd years, for maximal non-turnout. Greg Wythe wrote on this topic some years ago at his sadly defunct blog, and it’s stuck with me ever since. There are good reasons to keep city elections in the odd years – Lord knows, we have enough to vote on in the even years, and putting them in the even years would very likely make them more overtly partisan – I’m just saying it’s a possible option. We’ll see what happens.

The imminent Latino plurality

It may already be here, but it’s not quite officially official just yet.

A closely watched estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday indicates that Texas may have passed a long-awaited milestone: the point where Hispanic residents make up more of the state’s population than white residents.

The new population figures, derived from the bureau’s American Community Survey, showed Hispanic Texans made up 40.2% of the state’s population in 2021 while non-Hispanic white Texans made up 39.4%. The estimates — based on comprehensive data collected over the 2021 calendar year — are not considered official.

The bureau’s official population estimates as of July 2021 showed the Hispanic and white populations virtually even in size. But in designating Hispanics as the state’s largest population group, the new estimates are the first to reflect the foreseeable culmination of decades of demographic shifts steadily transforming the state.

The incremental trend demographers have been tracking for years reflects the state’s profound cultural and demographic evolution. The state lost its white majority in 2004. However, the Hispanic population’s relative growth, through both migration and births, has not been reflected in many facets of the state’s economic and political landscape.

The 2020 census captured how close the state’s Hispanic and white populations had come, with just half a percentage point separating them at the time. By then, Texas had gained nearly 11 Hispanic residents for every additional white resident over the previous decade. And Hispanics had powered nearly half of the state’s overall growth of roughly 4 million residents since 2010.

Hispanic Texans are expected to make up a flat-out majority of the state’s population in the decades to come, but they are already on the precipice of a majority among children. The latest census estimates showed that 49.3% of Texans under the age of 18 are Hispanic.

Without corresponding political and economic gains, Hispanic residents’ economic and political reality is captured in the persistent disparities also reflected in the latest census data. Hispanic people living in Texas are disproportionately poor. They are also less likely to have reached the higher levels of education that often serve as pathways to social mobility and greater economic prosperity.

It was sometime during my first decade of blogging, maybe 2004 or 2005, when Anglos ceased to be the majority in Texas. The trends have kept on trending since then. As far as political representation goes, maybe we’ll get a shot at that in 2031 redistricting cycle – it ain’t happening this time around, not with this SCOTUS. But as Campos notes, we can at least do something about that locally this year. The Chron has more.