Denton and Amarillo would be in U.S. House District 13 under GOP proposal


Now a Democratic stronghold, the city of Denton would be corralled into the most Republican-leaning congressional district in Texas, under Republican lawmakers’ proposed redraw of U.S. House boundaries.

Amarillo Rep. Ronny Jackson, whose district former President Donald Trump won by 60 percentage points last November, would represent the rapidly growing North Texas city if the Legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott approve the draft map.

That means Denton and Dalhart, about 400 miles away at the very edge of the Panhandle, would be in the same sprawling district.

The carving exemplifies GOP lawmakers’ strategy to keep control of some suburban seats that are ripe for takeover by borrowing from their advantage in reliably Republican areas. Meanwhile, some residents and voting rights advocates are calling foul, worrying Democrats’ voting power would be diluted under the new map.

“We are simply being hijacked,” said Delia Parker-Mims, chair of the Denton County Democratic Party.

“We should be able to have intelligent debates about what’s best for us as a society … not slicing it up so you don’t get a seat at the table and your mouth is covered.”

As GOP mapmakers drew Denton into the more favorable Congressional District 13, they shored up incumbent Rep. Michael Burgess’ Congressional District 26 – which he won in 2020 by a 60% to 37% margin – by adding Cooke County and more of Wise County.

“Suburban districts are reshaped in ways that gobble up more of the rural areas, and the rural areas are left with less of that territory but are still generally red-leaning,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston political scientist.

“It’s a subtle swap, but one that changes the fortunes of what’s likely to happen in Congressional District 26 in the next decade,” he added.

While the proposed boundaries of Congressional District 13 – which Rottinghaus called a “sacrificial lamb” of the redistricting fight – may be the most extreme pairing of a large rural swath with urban and suburban areas, it’s not the only one proposed in North Texas.

Congressional District 6, currently a fairly compact district in southern Tarrant County and Ellis and Navarro counties, would add the more rural Hill, Freestone, Anderson and Cherokee counties. The Tarrant county portion of the district would be reduced to a sliver in the southeast, and a large part of Irving in Dallas County is added. The changes would shore up first-term GOP Rep. Jake Ellzey.

The Republican strategy comes as Denton, like other Texas suburban areas, has grown younger, more Democratic and racially diverse. People of color fueled the state’s population explosion since 2010, with much of the growth concentrated in cities and suburbs, census data show.

Swelling 23% in population over the last decade, Denton is home to the University of North Texas and elected last year its first Black mayor. The Panhandle city is older, more conservative and rural, Rottinghaus said, growing 5% in population since 2010.

Some residents and political watchers called out the proposal on Twitter, noting how Amarillo and Denton are five to six hours apart by car and that the communities have different interests and needs. The office of state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who chairs the upper chamber’s redistricting committee, did not respond to a request for comment.

In a closer 2020 race, Trump carried the North Texas city’s congressional district by 14 percentage points.

Jackson, the former White House physician and close Trump ally, suggested the remap was expected. In 2020, he handily won 79% to 19%, making his district a safer place to move Democratic voters.

“Everybody knows you’re gonna have to give stuff up, and some people are gonna get things,” Jackson told POLITICO.

“So I just walked into this knowing like I’m giving up a lot, you know? I mean, I’m not gonna be an R+33 anymore – there’s just no way,” he said, referencing the district’s Partisan Voter Index.

Both Jackson and Burgess are up for re-election in 2022.

Denton Mayor Gerard Hudspeth said he is focused on how the city’s needs would be met by its congressperson, not what the map looks like.

“I just want someone that respects the fact that Denton is the 27th most populous city in the state of Texas and we’re growing, and just want to make sure that our citizens are heard and issues addressed,” Hudspeth said.

This year, GOP lawmakers have a clearer path toward drawing and using the lines they want, as Texas is no longer required to get federal approval on new political maps.

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