New Districts Shuffle Travis County Campaigns
Lawmakers and hopefuls across the state began filing to run for the 2012 election this week. At the same time, the state continued its battle to change the maps those candidates would use to run for election.
When the federal three-judge panel drew the new state House map, it created five districts in Travis County that should elect Democrats and one that all but guarantees the election of a Republican.
Incumbent Republican Paul Workman gets that district. While he’s not likely to see a serious challenge from a Democrat, he does have thousands of new Republicans from Jonestown, Lago Vista, Volente and Steiner Ranch to meet.
“There’s no question about it, it’s not a slam dunk,” Workman said. “And we are certainly not taking it for granted. We’re going to work hard in that area as well as our current area. So there’s a lot of new territory, and we’re just out after it doing what we can.”
In the state Senate, where Travis had most of the county falling into Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson‘s seat, now four senators will take parts of the county, and those districts stretch down to the Mexican border and up to Abilene.
“We would prefer to have one congressional seat and one state Senate seat,” said county Democratic Chairman Andy Brown. “But I think that Watson has always been the senator for Austin and will continue to represent us well in the state Senate.”
The court-drawn congressional map actually gives U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, the most compact district he’s had since 2003′s Republican-led redistricting. That left Doggett representing a district that started in Southeast Travis County and ended on the Rio Grande.
But that map and the others are temporary. A federal district court in Washington, D.C. will decide in the coming months, or even years, what the final version of the maps will be.
And Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let the state use the maps passed by the Legislature in May for the 2012 elections.
State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, says all this drama could easily be avoided if the redistricting power were taken away from lawmakers and given to a citizen redistricting commission.
“We have proved abundantly again and again, whichever party is in control, that we always elevate the parochial and political interests above the requirements of what is legal and just,” Strama said.
Strama filed a bill creating the commission during the last legislative session, but it never got a committee hearing. A similar bill filed by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, made it to that chamber’s floor but was never brought up for a vote.