Texas Dems, minority groups near huge win with redistricting settlement

The Texas state attorneys defending the state’s GOP-drawn redistricting plans from court challenges have reached out to settle litigation, according to sources in the state. The settlement would give minority groups and Democrats what they’ve been demanding from the start: more heavily minority, Democratic-leaning House seats.

The result would likely mean at least four more Texas Democrats in Congress as of next year, a good start on the 25 or so seats Democrats need to win to retake control of the House.

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“They’re backed up against the wall and have to come to some agreement and it’ll be awfully favorable on our end,” said one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Another plaintiff agreed.  “It’s clear they know they’re in a vulnerable position and that’s why they want to settle,” he said.

Any settlement would need to get the multiple minority group plaintiffs on board, and would create more majority-Hispanic and majority-African American congressional districts. Two of the plaintiffs predicted that an agreement will be reached early next week.

If the state of Texas and the plaintiffs in the case reach an agreement it would solve a drawn out process with two separate lower court battles and a Supreme Court opinion already on the books.

Texas is gaining four seats in Congress and will have 36 total House seats next election.  Most of the state’s population growth has come from African Americans and Hispanics, but the Republican state legislators who drew the maps gave the groups few new opportunities in the state. 

Any agreement would lead to a minimum of 13 Democratic-leaning seats, and possibly a fourteenth seat depending on how the districts in Fort Worth are drawn.

With conservative former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) running for a Galveston-area seat, Democrats could win as many as 14 or 15 seats in the state, up from the nine seats they currently hold. Republicans would hold 21 or 22 seats, down from the 23 they currently have.

Those 23 seats include two Democratic-leaning seats won by Republican Reps. Quico Canseco and Blake Farenthold in the 2010 Republican wave election. Farenthold would have a chance to run in the same Galveston district Lampson is likely to run in, while Canseco would have an uphill fight for reelection.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) is also likely to be spared a tough race — initial plans would have forced him to run in a Hispanic-majority seat, something Latino groups are looking to avoid.

Texas Republicans in the legislature likely overreached by drawing a very Republican-friendly maps for the statehouse and Congress. Because of Texas’s history of racial discrimination it needs to get its redistricting maps cleared at the federal level under the Voting Rights Act, and it has been increasingly clear that those maps would not be cleared.

In exchange for a map that would give minorities and Democrats what they want, the agreement would allow Republicans to keep the state’s primary on April 3, saving the state money and making it more likely its presidential primary will be early enough to matter. Texas has already had to move its primary back once because of the ongoing court cases. They would also avoid having two federal courts label their plans intentionally discriminatory.