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.