Roll Call: Between the Lines—Doggett’s Darned District Dilemma in Texas
“I think this map is so far from reality and in so much violation of the law, it’s premature to say,” Doggett said in a phone interview. “It’s the only district in the area that has enough of my district, enough Democrats at this point, but again, I haven’t made any final decision.”
Instead, Doggett and his fellow Democrats are planning to take the map to court. Texas’ new Congressional lines must be cleared by the Justice Department for appropriate minority voting power, and the Congressman was quick to declare that the proposed map is in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act.
“It’s an outrageous map. It is a map that means that you will have Members of Congress who are less accessible, less accountable,” Doggett said. “Once those forums are resolved, I hope we will have better maps than we do today.”
In the meantime, state lawmakers will consider the proposed map as part of a special legislative session that began Tuesday morning. There might be additional tweaks to the map, but it’s highly unlikely the Legislature would do anything to accommodate Doggett.
After all, this isn’t the first time Doggett has faced a redistricting-related challenge. When then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R) aides redrew the lines in 2003, Doggett’s district was stretched all the way down to the Mexican border. Doggett noted that DeLay aide Jim Ellis wrote in an August 2003 memo: “We must stress that a map that returns Frost, Edwards and Doggett is unacceptable and not worth all of the time invested into this project.” He was referring to then-Reps. Martin Frost and Chet Edwards, Democrats who were defeated in the last decade.
“Well, I’m the last one there, and there’s no doubt they would like to finish the work,” Doggett said.
And if the proposed map stands, Doggett is left with two less-than-appealing options as future districts.
On the surface, the newly drawn 35th district would be ideal territory for Doggett, given that it’s a safe Democratic seat: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) received only 38 percent of the vote there. But not only is that district mostly composed of new territory for Doggett, there’s also a 63 percent Hispanic population, making it a ripe opportunity for a local Hispanic politician to begin his or her Congressional career.
The most often-mentioned name to run in the new 35th district is state Rep. Mike Villarreal (D), the vice chairman of the state House redistricting committee who told Roll Call he’s taking a “serious look” at the running. However, Villarreal stopped short of saying he would be willing to run against Doggett in a primary.
If Villarreal passes on a House run, one of the biggest names in Texas Hispanic politics is one of the Castro brothers: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro or his twin brother, state Rep. Joaquin Castro, are in a position to run.
“Bye, bye, Lloyd Doggett. He has two very bad options,” said Chris Perkins, a GOP consultant based in Texas who drew the Congressional map under DeLay in 2003.