Texas lawmakers approve new congressional map

Near the end of the third-called special session for the 87th Legislature, Texas lawmakers approved new congressional boundaries that fit in two new districts in the Austin and Houston areas.

Unlike the state House and Senate maps, which each chamber let the other pass without interfering, two different versions of the congressional map were approved, which led to a conference committee to sort out the differences.

Several, but not all, of the changes made to Senate Bill (SB) 6 by the House were accepted by the conference committee.

Perhaps most notably, Texas’ 9th, 18th, and 29th congressional districts were reconfigured to be shaped more like what they currently do than how they would have been under the original Senate plan.

When SB 6 was first approved by the Senate, Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) and Al Green (D-TX-09) would have been drawn into the same district.

Though living outside of congressional district lines does not prohibit an individual from seeking to represent it, Jackson Lee expressed opposition to the proposal.

The conference committee accepted the changes to Harris County made by the House, which puts Jackson Lee back into TX-18, though the new plan still leaves Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02) outside of the boundaries of his new district.

Another change that the House and Senate agreed to was to draw Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15) into Texas’ 34th Congressional District, currently held by outgoing Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX-34).

Gonzalez was already reportedly considering running for TX-34 instead of his current district since he was narrowly reelected in 2020 and the redistricting proposal tilts TX-15 further toward Republicans though still leaving it in tossup territory.

Senate Democrats also expressed opposition to the military installations of Fort Bliss and Lackland Air Force Base being placed into the district of Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23), and the House voted without opposition to move Fort Bliss back into the district of Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16).

Under the conference committee report, the majority of Fort Bliss would remain in TX-16, but Gonzales’ district would receive some portions of the base including the airfield.

While several of the House amendments sailed through the process, one that didn’t was a change offered by state Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa), which would have increased the number of Hispanic voters in TX-27 and TX-35.

Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), the chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, repeatedly iterated throughout the process that the maps she drew had been drawn “blind to race.”

Of all the changes made through the House amendments and conference committee, something that did not see any drastic changes is the partisan leanings of the 38 districts.

Though things could change again before the primary election slated for March depending on the outcome of court challenges, the map approved by the legislature shores up Republican support to solidify 23 GOP-leaning districts and 13 Democrat-leaning districts while the remaining two districts could be competitive.

While the vote between the two parties had been split fairly evenly in TX-23 during the elections of 2018 and 2020, the new map shifts that about four percent toward Republicans.

TX-15 also saw a rightward shift, moving from a district that Democrats carried on average with 54 percent during the 2018 and 2020 elections to an average of 52 percent in favor of Democrats. Under the new plan, Trump would have carried the district in 2020 with 51 percent of the vote.

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