Monday, the first proposed map defining boundaries for Texas’ share of U.S. congressional boundaries were made public, as drawn by the Texas Senate.
Bottom Line Upfront
Texas currently has 36 congressional districts. Due to an increase in population over the last 10 years, census data has provided justification for an additional two districts, which would make Texas’ share 38 of the 435 total U.S. congressional districts.
The proposed map makes efforts to shore up historically competitive districts in favor of Republicans and the more moderate of Democrats. Of the two new districts, one is allocated to a portion of Harris County in favor of a Republican, while the other is allocated to a portion of Travis County in favor of a Democrat.
The bottom line? Incumbents are protected.
The Greater Metroplex Area
One of the more notable district changes is that of Texas Congressional District 24, currently represented by freshman Republican Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne. This is a district that President Joe Biden won by five points in the 2020 general election cycle. In the proposed map, the district would have been 12 points in favor of former President Donald Trump. The new boundaries would cut out the southeastern portion of Denton County and extend slightly further west into Tarrant County.
For announced Democrat challengers, like current State Rep. Michelle Beckley (Carrollton), these changes do not seem to favor their candidacy.
Another notable change is that of Texas Congressional District 13, currently represented by freshman Republican Congressman Ronny Jackson. The proposed boundaries would extend further into Denton County, ultimately seeking to further neuter the growing Democrat voting block that exists around the University of North Texas.
It is also important to highlight the proposed changes to Congressional District 12. The district is currently represented by longtime Republican Congresswoman Kay Granger. The proposed boundary change would take away the portions of Wise and Parker counties that were less favorable to her in the primary election race in the last election cycle, where she saw herself going toe-to-toe with former Colleyville City Councilman Chris Putnam.
Under the proposed map, the Parker County portion instead becomes a part of Congressional District 25, currently represented by Republican Congressman Roger Williams, who sees his district also extend into Tarrant County. In turn, this takes away a portion of the current Texas Congressional District 6 boundaries, currently represented by recently elected Republican Congressman Jake Ellzey. This was seemingly done to help shore up Republican support for other districts.
Similar to trends seen in the proposed Texas Senate district map, Texas Congressional District 3 (currently represented by Republican Congressman Van Taylor) sees its boundaries extend just beyond Collin County and also into Hunt County to bring in additional Republican voters as an edge against recent election trends that show cities like Allen and Plano have begun voting more in favor of Democrats.
Greater Houston Area
One of the newly created districts is included in Harris County in Texas Congressional District 38. The new boundaries would extend from Northwest Harris County to the Central West portion of the county, primarily outside Loop 610. Seemingly, it would be more favorable to a Republican candidate in that district, based on previous election trends and its extension into suburbs in the greater Houston area. Wesley Hunt has already announced his intent to run for the position. Hunt was the Republican challenger to freshman Democrat Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, who currently represents Texas Congressional District 7. Fletcher only won by about 10,000 votes. That district also finds itself being bolstered in favor of the incumbent and Democrats. Fletcher represents the more moderate wing of her party. By bolstering her district, it likely produces less competition for Republicans attempting to run in the Houston area.
Another notable boundary change is Texas Congressional District 8, which is being vacated by longtime Republican Congressman Kevin Brady. The district currently stretches from Houston to Montgomery County. If the proposed map holds, Montgomery County will be split between two congressional districts for the first time. Texas Congressional District 2, currently represented by Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw, would extend beyond the northern portion of Harris County and into the southern portion of Montgomery County, including The Woodlands. The portion of District 8 also gets shifted to Texas Congressional District 17, currently represented by Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, who would gain all of Leon, Houston, and Trinity counties.
Austin and Surrounding Areas
The other newly formed district is that of Texas Congressional District 37. In the proposed map, it would run in the near-middle of Travis County and the City of Austin, with the northern portion crossing over into Williamson County. This district seems drawn to be favorable to Democrats. These boundaries seemingly also come at a cost, however, in that the districts currently represented by Republican congressmen that surround it saw their boundaries drawn more favorably.
An example of this is the boundary changes to Texas Congressional District 10, currently represented by Republican Congressman Michael McCaul. The district currently extends from North Travis County eastward to western Harris County. The proposed boundaries would extend District 10 further west into Travis County, picking up more affluent voters, as well as extending northward to pick up additional Republican voters.
Yet another example is Texas Congressional District 21, currently represented by Republican Congressman Chip Roy. The district currently includes portions of Travis and Hays counties, extends westward beyond the cities of Fredericksburg and Kerrville, and extends southward into San Antonio. The proposed boundaries forgo a large portion of Travis County. In doing so, the district goes from boundaries that favored former President Donald Trump by three points to that of a district that favored him by 20 points.
San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley
Texas Congressional District 15, currently represented by Democrat Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, seems to be the lynchpin for much of the change in South Texas. It currently extends from the city of Seguin to McAllen. In the proposed map, Texas Congressional District 28, currently represented by Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar, would gain Duval and Jim Hogg counties, bolstering Democrat support in the district. District 15 previously had boundaries that voted two points in favor of President Joe Biden, and would now lean toward a district that voted three points in favor of former President Donald Trump, potentially making it more competitive for Republicans.
Another significant proposed change is that of Texas Congressional District 34, currently represented by retiring Democrat Congressman Filemon Vela. The proposed boundaries would significantly cut the district in half by removing DeWitt, Goliad, and Bee counties as well as all of San Patricio and Gonzalez counties. The removed counties would then go to Texas Congressional District 27, currently represented by Republican Congressman Michael Cloud.
What is Next?
The proposed map took the form of Senate Bill 6 and was referred to the Senate Special Committee on Redistricting for their consideration on Friday, September 30.
During the ongoing third called special legislative session, the state Legislature is charged with drawing the maps for 38 U.S. congressional districts (which include two more than the last redistricting cycle), 31 state Senate districts, 150 state House districts, and 15 State Board of Education districts.
Almost undoubtedly, approved maps will be subject to immediate lawsuits. Notable, however, is that for the first time in more than 50 years, Texas is not subject to additional federal scrutiny under a process known as “preclearance.” As such, it is likely that the negotiations leading up to the public reveal of the maps have considered potential litigation in efforts to thwart anything that would stick.
The timing by which the maps are finally approved is important, as well. During the second called special legislative session, lawmakers passed legislation that would allow for delayed candidate filing periods and primary elections depending on the final disposition of redistricting maps.
You can check out a recent Facebook live conversation here, where we discuss the proposed Texas congressional district boundaries and the overall decennial redistricting process.