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October 28th, 2021:

Redistricting lawsuit #2 filed

This one focuses on just the Congressional map.

An organization affiliated with Eric Holder, who was attorney general in the Obama administration, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s GOP-drawn redistricting map for Congress on behalf of a Latino rights group and 13 Texas voters.

Filed Monday in an Austin federal court, the lawsuit claims mapmakers in the Texas Legislature improperly drew political districts in Senate Bill 6 that increased the power of white voters even though 95% of the state’s growth last decade was fueled by people of color.

That population growth made Texas the only state to gain two congressional seats after the 2020 census.

“Yet Senate Bill 6 appropriates those additional districts — and more — for white Texans,” the lawsuit argued. “Senate Bill 6 does so by packing and cracking communities of color along racial lines to ensure that those groups’ growing populations will not translate to increased political influence.”

Holder, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said the congressional districts drawn by Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott violate the Voting Rights Act.

[…]

The new lawsuit, filed Monday on behalf of Voto Latino and 13 voters, asks U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman to overturn the congressional districts and order a new map to be drawn that:

• Adds two majority Latino districts in South and West Texas, from the border region north to Bexar County and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

• Improves the voting strength of Latinos in Congressional District 23, which stretches along the border with Mexico from San Antonio to just east of El Paso.

• Adds a majority Latino or majority Black-Latino district in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

• Creates another majority Latino or majority Black-Latino district in the Houston area.

The lawsuit also complained that Congressional District 35, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio along a narrow strip of Interstate 35, improperly combines far-flung Latino communities into a district with a Latino voting-age population of just under 48%.

A statement from Voto Latino is here, and a copy of the lawsuit is here. The National Redistricting Action Fund, a non-profit affiliate of the NDRC, did the filing. As noted, there is a separate lawsuit filed by MALDEF that challenges the legislative and SBOE maps in addition to the Congressional map. I assume that the NRDC and NRAF focused on the Congressional map because the NDRC’s mission is more of a national one. You know the drill here – the plaintiffs will have tons of evidence on their side, but unless there’s a new federal law to address this, SCOTUS ain’t gonna care. There’s also a chance this could delay the 2022 primaries, though again I would not bet on it. We’ll see what happens. Spectrum News has more.

CM Travis resigns to run for HD133

Did not see that coming.

Greg Travis

City Councilmember Greg Travis on Wednesday announced he is running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, effectively resigning his District G post at City Hall.

Travis told supporters at a River Oaks fundraiser and in an email Wednesday evening that he would seek the Republican nomination for House District 133 in west Houston.

The Texas Constitution forbids council members serving four-year terms from actively campaigning for another office while they hold their seats, and Travis’ announcement automatically triggers his resignation.

“I am torn between representing you at Council or representing you at the State House in Austin,” Travis wrote to his constituents. “I have chosen the latter as I feel I can do more for our families, this District, and Houston in general as a State Representative.”

At the fundraiser, Travis told his supporters he would have continued in his council seat if the law allowed.

The city will have to call a special election to replace Travis on City Council within 120 daysaccording to the Texas Constitution.

[…]

One of Travis’ District G predecessors, Bert Keller, also has announced a campaign for the seat. Keller served on City Council from 1999 to 2003. Republican attorneys Mano DeAyala and Shelley Barineau are running as well. It does not appear any Democrats have joined the race yet. The primary elections are March 1, and the general election will be Nov. 8, 2022.

HD-133 has been solidly red, but this year’s redistricting process might have made it slightly more competitive. Former President Trump carried the previous boundaries of the district by 4.1 percentage points. He would have won the newly-drawn district by less than 1 percentage point. Sen. Ted Cruz, though, carried the new district by 7 percentage points in 2018.

You can see the State House electoral data for 2020 here. That actually shows Trump winning it by two points, 50.3 to 48.4, but that’s a bit misleading, as Republicans did a lot better downballot. John Cornyn won it by almost 12 points, for example, and some of the statewide judicial candidates did better than that. That said, the district as constituted shifted pretty strongly over the decade, as Mitt Romney won it by 35 points in 2012. It should be Republican in 2022, but they won’t be able to take it for granted. (The same was true for the old version of HD133.)

I fully expect Dems to have a decent candidate for this district – the lines on the new maps are barely dry, so we’re still very much in the exploratory phase. They’ll be the underdog, but they should be able to get the support they need. With the Democratic boosts given to HDs 134 and 135, and with HD132 a bit more remote, HDs 133 and 138 are the closest House districts on the menu. We should start seeing candidacy announcements (including, one hopes, from a certain former member of Congress from El Paso) soon.

As for the special election in District G, while the city has to call it within 120 days, I would expect it will still fall on a uniform election date. That means next May, barring anything unforeseen, with a June runoff. Those of you in that district, get ready for that.

Here comes the library police

Hide your children, and your copies of forbidden books.

Warning: This book may warp tiny, fragile minds

A Republican state lawmaker has launched an investigation into Texas school districts over the type of books they have, particularly if they pertain to race or sexuality or “make students feel discomfort.”

State Rep. Matt Krause, in his role as chair of the House Committee on General Investigating, notified the Texas Education Agency that he is “initiating an inquiry into Texas school district content,” according to an Oct. 25 letter obtained by The Texas Tribune.

Krause’s letter provides a 16-page list of about 850 book titles and asks the districts if they have these books, how many copies they have and how much money they spent on the books.

His list of titles includes bestsellers and award winners alike, from the 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates to last year’s book club favorites: “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall and Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.”

But race is not the only thing on the committee chair’s list. Other listed books Krause wants school districts to account for are about teen pregnancy, abortion and homosexuality, including “LGBT Families” by Leanne K. Currie-McGhee, “The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves” edited by Sarah Moon, and Michael J. Basso’s “The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality: An Essential Handbook for Today’s Teens and Parents.”

Krause, a Fort Worth lawmaker and founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, is running for state attorney general against Ken Paxton. Krause declined to comment and no explanation was given as to how these books were chosen.

Krause sent notice of the investigation to Lily Laux, the Texas Education Agency deputy commissioner of school programs, as well as some Texas school superintendents. His letter did not specify which school districts Krause was investigating.

[…]

School officials have until Nov. 12 to respond. It is unclear what will happen to the districts that have such books.

The letter did not give a specific reason that Krause was launching the investigation, only that “the committee may initiate inquiries concerning any ‘matter the committee considers necessary for the information of the legislature or for the welfare and protection of state citizens.’”

State Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, who is vice chair of the committee, said she had no idea Krause was launching the investigation but believes it’s a campaign tactic. She found out about the letter after a school in her district notified her.

“His letter is reflective of the Republican Party’s attempt to dilute the voice of people of color,” she said.

Neave said she doesn’t know what Krause is trying to do but will investigate the motive and next steps.

I mean, this is obviously one part “critical race theory” bullshit, and one part Matt Krause jumping up and down and shouting “Look at me! I’m some guy you’ve never heard of but I’m running for Attorney General so please please please pay attention to me!” I’m sure that the seething masses of the Republican primary electorate, the most delicate and catered-group group of snowflakes that ever demanded special treatment, will be glad to hear it, if they ever do hear of it. In the meantime, school officials can add one more task to their ever-growing list of Shit I Don’t Need To Be Doing Right Now. God bless Texas.

Texas blog roundup for the week of October 25

The Texas Progressive Alliance notes a freshness to the air now that the Lege is adjourned. That’s it, that’s the intro, now here’s the weekly roundup.

(more…)

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez to switch to CD34

And in doing so, he’s probably going to make it harder to hold onto CD15, the swingiest district in the state (as far as we can tell from 2020 data).

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, announced Tuesday he is running for reelection in the 34th Congressional District rather than his current 15th District.

Gonzalez had been considering the move due to redistricting, which made the 15th District more competitive for Republicans — and the 34th District safer for Democrats. U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, is retiring in the 34th District, and he has voiced support for Gonzalez’s switch.

Gonzalez’s decision was made more likely by the final version of the congressional map that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday. The map redraws the 34th District to include Gonzalez’s residence.

[…]

Gonzalez was staring down a tough race in the 15th District, where he won reelection last year by a surprisingly close margin and his 2020 challenger, Monica De La Cruz, is running again with the support of national Republicans. She reiterated Monday she remains committed to the 15th District.

Under the map that Abbott signed Monday, the 15th District shifts from one that President Joe Biden won by 2 percentage points to one that Donald Trump would have carried by 3 points. The 34th District, meanwhile, goes from a district where Biden had a 4-point margin of victory to one that he would have swept by 16 points.

In the new map, both the 15th and 34th districts remain anchored in the Rio Grande Valley, with the 15th ending in Hidalgo County and the 34th ending in Cameron County. But the 34th District was revised to be more concentrated in the Valley, which is predominantly Democratic, and the 15th District was reconfigured to include fewer blue areas outside the Valley.

Gonzalez’s decision sets off a scramble to fill the Democratic primary in the 15th District. The primary has attracted at least two candidates in recent days: Ruben Ramirez, who ran for the seat in 2016, and Eliza Alvarado, an education advocate.

See here, here, and here for some background. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to be in an easier district, or for not wanting to move, but I imagine there are some teeth being gnashed at the DCCC right now. Rep. Gonzalez has two million bucks in the bank, and now none of that is going to be used to try to hold onto a close district. The Republicans are celebrating this news, and they should. It was exactly what they wanted.

All that said, CD15 is hardly a lost cause. Multiple Democrats carried it in 2020, specifically Chrysta Castaneda, Amy Clark Meachum, Gisela Triana, and Elizabeth Davis Frizell. Nearly every Dem carried CD15 by 10-12 points in 2018, with Lupe Valdez the main exception though she still did carry it. Dems had even broader margins in 2016.

Now, we’ve studied this stuff to death, and we know that Latino districts in many places took a hard turn away from Dems in 2020, with CD15 being high on that list. There’s lots of reasons to think this is part of a larger trend, the same trend that is pushing suburbs and more college-educated voters towards the Dems even as some Latinos move away from them. But so far it’s one election, and without Donald Trump on the ballot in 2022 who knows what the many lower-propensity voters who supported Trump last year will do. The main beneficiary here may be the Democrat who wins this primary.

Or maybe not. Maybe even if one of them wins in 2022, it will be super close and they’ll get wiped out in 2024, or they’ll spend however much time they have in Congress doing nothing but fundraising because they’ll always be a top national target. Again, I don’t blame anyone for not welcoming that fate, but it is what it is. It sure would have been nice to take one for the team.

One more thing:

State Rep. Alex Dominguez, D-Brownsville, had been considered a potential candidate for the 34th District, but with Gonzalez switching races, Dominguez may run for something else. His team confirmed Friday that he was instead exploring a primary challenge to state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville.

Fine by me!