Republicans propose map to keep hold on power - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Republicans propose map to keep hold on power


By JAY ROOT, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republicans are proposing to throw some of their newest tea-party backed members overboard, but a redistricting plan released Wednesday would retain much of their strength in the heavily GOP state House.

Rep. Burt Solomons, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, revealed details of his plan Wednesday. The plan could pit as many as 14 Republicans against each other by "pairing" incumbents in seven districts. But Solomons wants to draw eight new open seats, seven of them heavily Republican. Democrats are paired in one district.

Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri, said population changes, fueled by a surge of minority voters, could lead to GOP losses. But he liked Solomons' map.

"I have been pleasantly surprised that the proposed map affords the Republican Party the opportunity to maintain a solid majority," Munisteri said. "I believe this map affords the Republican Party a fair opportunity to retain the vast majority of its current seats."

Rep. Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat on the House Redistricting Committee, said she did not think the plan would meet legal requirements to protect the interests of minority voters.

"I don't know how they pull that off once it gets to court," Alvarado said. "The map should be more reflective of the state's diverse population and reflect the growth of the state, which is majority minority."

The Texas Legislature is trying to draw maps for both the state House and Senate, the Texas delegation in the U.S. Congress and the State Board of Education. An SBOE proposal faces a House vote Thursday. Congressional redistricting in Texas, which is getting four new seats and far more power in Washington, has drawn national attention because it could influence the partisan balance in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But legislators tend to care more about their own fate than that of their congressional brethren, and state House leaders in Austin are focused on the effect on their own seats first. A hearing on the House plan has been scheduled for Friday.

Several freshman Republicans, including those with strong tea-party credentials, have been drawn in districts against other Republican officeholders. The map presents an awkward choice for Reps. Connie Scott and Raul Torres, both freshman Republicans from the Corpus Christi area: run against each other or decide who will step aside. They both say they've been shown maps that draw them into a single district. Scott said party leaders would have a big say in who stays and who goes.

"Hopefully we can work something out," Scott said. "One or the other of us will step aside and do what's right."

Torres said God would decide what happens.

The political representation goes where the people are, so rural areas will have to cough up seats to fast-growing suburban counties. Under state House redistricting, the 150 districts are shifted around to take new census figures into account. Dallas County faces the loss of two seats, and Harris County — where Houston is located — would lose one under the proposal.

Rural East and West Texas, heavily dominated by Republicans, are also losing political strength in Austin. New Republicans members in those areas are facing contests against each other under the new map. One of the West Texas pairings was made in a district where an incumbent Republican is expected to retire, so that could limit the fallout.

The proposal still has a long way to go and is sure to undergo changes as it moves through the legislative process.