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Who will ultimately draw the map?

Via Juanita, I came across this story about how redistricting will affect East Texas. It’s a good read, which can be mostly summed up as “they’re gonna lose seats, which will present a challenge to Republicans since they hold all of those seats”, but it was this bit at the end that caught my eye, in which Harvey Kronbeg of the Quorum Report discusses a matter of process:

Redistricting will be handled by legislators in the Senate and House, Kronberg believes.

Kronberg said most House and Senate members do not want the Legislative Redistricting Board, composed of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, comptroller Susan Combs, and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, to redraw districts. The board would redraw district lines if legislators fail to act or the new plans are found invalid.

There are political incentives for board members aiming for higher office, including Dewhurst, who is eyeing the U.S. Senate and Abbott, whose name has been linked to runs at lieutenant governor and governor, to avoid the responsibility of drawing lines, he said. Dewhurst, as land commissioner, drew criticism after redistricting in 2000 and “spent the next year asking for forgiveness from the senators,” Kronberg said.

“He would much rather not go through that mess again because it’s a no win situation for him if he runs for lieutenant governor or the senate,” Kronberg said. “There’s no upside for him.”

The reason I find that interesting is that it’s the exact opposite of what insider/lobbyist Robert Miller predicts:

I believe that the Senate will be able to pass a Senate redistricting plan. The Republicans intend to draw a 20R – 11D map with Sen. Wendy Davis’ seat becoming more Republican. Sen. Huffman’s seat will be shored up. The Republican leadership will need to find 2 Democrats to vote to suspend the rules to bring up the map for Senate debate. Finding the votes to suspend appears achievable, given that if a map does not pass the all-Republican LRB will then draw it.

The real question is can the House pass a redistricting plan. In my judgment, the House has a far greater challenge than the Senate. There are currently 101 House Republicans. I believe that you can only draw 86 to 88 Republican seats if you want those seats to remain Republican for 10 years. If you draw too many Republican seats, the Republican majorities will be too thin and the Democrats will flip the seats in succeeding elections given the changing demographics in the state.

Let’s say I am right and you can only draw 86 – 88 Republican seats. That means the Democrats will pick up 13 – 15 seats in the 2012 election; and you could have to pair up to 26 to 30 Republican members. Pairings will probably be less because of retirements: e.g. Rep. Warren Chisum has already indicated that he is running for the Railroad Commission.

It will be very difficult for the House Republican majority to pass a map for two reasons. One, they will have to pair numerous Republicans. Secondly, they will have to go back to their primary voters and say we had 101 seats, and I just voted for a map that will give us 86 to 88.

Finally, we have history as a guide. In 1971, 1981, 1991, and 2001, a legislative plan did not pass in regular session and the LRB drew the seats. The odds are that it will end up at the LRB again this year.

Either one could be right – they both make good points. I just wanted to note this because it’s fascinating to me how two smart people can reasonably arrive at opposite conclusions. On a related point, Miller and Kronberg are much closer to the other’s opinion:

Impressions are that Straus wants a “rock-solid Republican majority” durable through the end of the decade, Kronberg said. It means 83 to 85 GOP districts with 60 percent to 65 percent Republican support could emerge, he said.

It’s harder to draw rock-solid districts because populations are much more integrated now, with minorities, such as African-Americans and Hispanics moving to the suburbs at or beyond the pace of whites, Kronberg said. But it can be done, he said.

“I am told you could draw 100 Republican districts in the House, but I think Straus is suspicious of that,” he said.

I think with the obliteration of the rural Democrats, the Republican ceiling is more like 90 seats, but achieving that in a Presidential year might not be possible. If they actually try to draw a map that aims to keep 100 seats, I’d put money on them losing their majority by the end of the decade, possibly as soon as 2016. As I said before. just trying to decide what a “typical” election year might look like is enough to drive you batty. No wonder it’s easy to make a case for one group wanting the other guys to do it.

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  1. We in East Texas will gain population at a larger rate this decade. We have water, Toledo Bend, and Sam Rayburn being the two largest lakes with many smaller ones.There is a lot of drilling activity which means we have power which will generate some permanent or semi-permanent jobs. Land is available, a couple of million acres just because of the sale of Temple land, and though not cheap, much less inexpensive than areas around some of the fastest growing areas now and it will actually grow food, cattle, or valuable trees which I can’t say for some of the other areas of the state.
    To the legislator loss, I won’t miss whichever one or two that lose their seats through redistricting. Texas Monthly will just have to look to another part of the state for some of the ten worst.

  2. asmith says:

    Freshman GOP and Paxton supporters will be on the block in east texas. I would think Wayne Christian and James White will be paired, and Lavender and Cain will be paired in a Sulphur Springs to Texarkana district. The tea party types don’t like Lance Gooden of Terrell but he is a Straus guy. I think Kaufman and Henderson population held up with the growth in Forney and along cedar creek lake. I’m not sure what happens to Larry Phillips in Sherman.