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The alternate Congressional universe

Since I brought up redistricting yesterday, here’s an interesting thought experiment for you: What might the state’s Congressional delegation look like today if the 2003 DeLay-orchestrated re-redistricting had never happened? I’ll leave it to you to peruse the maps and data in that post, but my thoughts are approximately as follows:

1. Clearly, Martin Frost and Chris Bell would still be in Congress, while Ciro Rodriguez would still be representing CD28, his original district. You think if Frost were still around that BAE Systems would have been caught off guard like they were?

2. Along similar lines, I feel reasonably confident that Nick Lampson would still be in Congress as well, and would therefore still be representing NASA/Clear Lake. Think things might be a little different for them if that were the case?

3. It’s harder to predict what might have happened with Max Sandlin, Jim Turner, and Charlie Stenholm. Their districts got progressively more hostile, but they were never all that friendly to begin with. Maybe they’d have continued to stick it out, maybe they’d have retired or gotten beat. Would the Republicans have found strong, well-funded candidates to try to take them out? Stenholm would likely be a very influential member if he were still serving, which might have been enough to keep him in. I can imagine any of them being in, and I can imagine any of them not being in. Choose your own adventure here.

4. Do I need to mention that Chet Edwards would still be in? He’s got a tough race this year, but the man is a survivor. If the Republicans couldn’t take him out in 2004 after cutting him off from his power base, they weren’t taking him out with him still attached to it.

5. And then there’s Ralph Hall, the ultimate Democrat-in-name-only as of 2003, when he finally switched parties. Given what the national landscape looked like back then, I see no reason why he wouldn’t have switched regardless, but if he hadn’t then surely he’d have become a prime netroots target, and may well have gotten primaried out in 2006 or 2008. In which case, of course, his seat would be held by a Republican, as it is now. One way or the other, I don’t see a D, even the DINO-est D of them all, still being there.

6. Finally, there’s Henry Bonilla, who came close to losing to Henry Cuellar in 2002, got a huge chunk of electoral security from Tom DeLay in 2003, had it taken away by the Supreme Court in 2006, then lost later that year to Ciro Rodriguez. I think a Bonilla-Cuellar rematch in 2006 or especially 2008 might have gone Cuellar’s way, but not in 2004. The Republicans had a reason to be worried about that seat.

Note also that John Culberson’s district got a lot more purple between 2000 and 2008, but I don’t think it would have been friendly enough to elect a Democrat in 2008. In either universe, Culberson is going to need some assistance from the mapmakers next year.

The bottom line, then, is that by any reckoning DeLay’s gerrymandering was successful at its core goal, which was booting a bunch of Democratic Congressmen out. It’s possible, had there been no re-redistricting, that the Dems could still have the 17-15 advantage in delegation size, assuming Hall switched or lost, and Bonilla fell to Cuellar. It’s more likely that the Rs would have had a net gain over the past three cycles of between one and three seats, depending on what happened with Sandlin, Turner, and Stenholm; Lampson losing is also a possibility, though a less likely one in my view. A three-seat gain would make for an 18-14 delegation in favor of the GOP. That would be 56% Republican, which actually overstates Republican strength from the last election, in which John McCain’s 55.45% was the high score. The Republican average among the eight statewide races was a shade under 53%, which would correspond to 17-15. (I mention these things because one of the earliest justifications given for redoing the Congressional boundaries in 2003 was that the state was approximately 56% Republican, based on the total Congressional vote from 2002. Which would have led to an 18-14 GOP delegation had that logic been followed to its conclusion, not the 21-11 – intended to be 22-10, now 20-12 – delegation we wound up with.) DeLay tilted the scales in the other direction, just in time for the Democrats to regain the majority in the House, which cost the state a ton in seniority. Not that he cared about such trivia, of course.

It’s fun to play what-if, isn’t it? You wonder as well, if DeLay hand’t meddled so much in state affairs – which necessarily means staying out of, or at least playing a much smaller role in, the 2002 legislative elections – would he still be in office today? His district would still be a Republican one, though it would be beginning to trend away from that. A non-indicted DeLay would probably have had no reason to fear for his re-election. I can imagine a lot of electoral scenarios, but I have a hard time picturing a world in which Tom DeLay’s corruption didn’t catch up with him. Some things are just too hard to swallow.

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  1. Bill Kelly says:

    Meanwhile, the only official mentioned in the following article from Texas is . . . Annise Parker.

  2. […] the Kuff takes a look at an alternate universe in which the DeLay-engineered re-redistricting of 2003 never took […]

  3. […] the Kuff takes a look at anĀ alternate universe in which the DeLay-engineered re-redistricting of 2003 never took […]