So who’s district is it, anyway?
Last week I waded into an interesting debate on the Burnt Orange Report regarding State Rep. Joaquin Castro’s candidacy announcement for the new CD35. After a few short hours it was pretty obvious this race was going to be a controversial one within the Texas Democratic Party. Austin readers were lobbying very hard that Doggett deserved the district after being shoved out by Republicans with the redistricting plans. Those of us from San Antonio and even some Austinites argued that the district was created for Hispanics and that a Hispanic candidate would be the better choice for the district. As is always the case in political debates, it got downright nasty at times. Looking back on it, I have to wonder really who’s district is it?
In case you haven’t been staying up with the recent redistricting changes in Texas, we’re getting four new congressional seats due to our population increase. A lot of that growth is attributable to an increase in the Hispanic population, according to an article in USA Today. “For the first time in recent history, Texas is less than half non-Hispanic white, dipping to 45%, the data shows. Hispanics make up about 38% of the total population,” said the article. Based on the growth of Hispanics, it was natural for one of the four new districts to be carved as a “Hispanic-opportunity district.”
Enter CD35, one of the new districts that seems to fit the bill as targeting Hispanics. The district, as it’s currently drawn, stretches from the westside of San Antonio through the center and southeast then heads off on a road trip to southeast Austin, taking in New Braunfels, San Marcos and Kyle on the trip. I call it the “35 Road Trip district.” It hacks up districts 20, 21, 23, and 25, with most of the population being pulled from CD20 (Rep. Charlie Gonzalez) and CD25 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett). With a lawsuit pending on the redistricting maps the lines could still be changed but since it is mostly a Democratic district most likely it will survive with minor tweaks.
Castro has already announced his candidacy for the new district and has been campaigning very actively. US Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) has also announced for the district, anticipating a better chance with CD35 than with his current district, CD25. Based on the redistricting plans, Republicans altered CD25 to have a more Republican voter makeup, most likely putting Doggett’s chances of re-election in jeopardy. While some may view Doggett’s move as district shopping, it’s not entirely a stretch since a chunk of the new district comes from CD25.
While the district may be split between San Antonio and Austin, there is some aspect of commonality in that it takes in some of the more Democratic areas of both cities. In San Antonio the district encompasses the downtown area, Tobin Hill, Alta Vista, portions of the Jefferson area, King William, Lavaca, SoFlo, the eastside, and southeast San Antonio. It also takes in the cities of New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, and Buda, splitting each of them into CD35 and another district.
In Austin it pulls in the southeast area including the area just northeast of the river, primarily a Hispanic area of the city. The area is very Democratic, averaging 70.26% for Bill White in the 2010 gubernatorial election compared with a Travis County average of 59.77%. However, it seems to have low voter turnout which could be a disadvantage for anyone relying on Travis County to help bolster their chances of winning. Pairing that area with the Democratic strongholds in Bexar County and you have the dynamics for a strong Democratic congressional district. But that may be all that’s in common between the two cities.
If you talk to folks in Bexar County they feel the district should have a Hispanic representing it since it was carved for Hispanics. While San Antonio does have several Hispanic state legislators that could step into the mix, Castro has emerged as the one to run for the office. Even both of Bexar County’s state senators, Sen. Van de Putte and Sen. Uresti, have opted not to run for the seat. Both are supporting Castro in his candidacy, demonstrating a solid allegiance to the hometown candidate.
If you talk to folks in Travis County, there’s a desire to move Doggett to the seat to retain an Austin Democrat representing Travis County, or some sliver of the county. As one commenter put it in BOR, “For more than 50 years everyone in Travis County had one Congressman. That person was a Democrat and they called him when something went wrong. They still think that’s the case even though their Rep is now that dbag Smith or McCaul and Lloyd still helps them out because Smith and McCaul won’t.”
However, even in those cities there is growing allegiance to the candidates opposite the so-called norm. In the case of Bexar County, many view Doggett as a strong Democratic incumbent and feel he should be retained to return to the House. Attorney Mikel Watts and several other trial attorneys have already hosted a fundraiser for Doggett at the Maloney Law Firm. According an article in Plaza de Armas, County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, a Democratic stalwart in Bexar County, showed up at the fundraiser to support Doggett. The new district takes in much of Adkisson’s precinct.
In the case of Austin, Doggett is not everyone’s favorite Democratic congressman, with some feeling he’s overstayed his welcome. Several of the younger progressives feel it’s time to give younger Democrats a shot at this new seat, especially if the candidate is Hispanic. They point to the fact this was carved for Hispanics and would expect a Hispanic to represent the district. There is also a sentiment that Doggett seems to focus on issues he’s concerned about, rather than those of his constituents sometimes.
So, any way you look at it, everyone seems to have a claim for the district and who they think should represent it. Talking to a good friend in Austin about the district, we both agree it seems to be a good marriage of the two cities. It’s just that the wedding ceremony and honeymoon may not be the most cheerful of events.