Thursday, May 31, 2012

Texas’s House Delegation Likely Won’t Reflect Hispanic Boom


After intense infighting and multiple delays, Tuesday’s Texas primaries proceeded under a compromise map intended to hand two of the state’s four new House districts to Latinos. It now appears as if neither of the new Hispanic-majority districts will send one of their own to Washington.

Texas’s population ballooned over the last decade due to the state’s rapidly growing Hispanic population. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Hispanics grew by 2.8 million in the state; the group now comprises almost 40 percent of the population. But they make up less than one-fifth of its congressional delegation — and after November, that contingent could shrink, even after advocates fought tooth and nail to open the doors for Latino candidates with the state’s redistricting map.

Latinos had hoped redistricting would afford them new opportunities since their growing numbers are a large part of why Texas was awarded four new congressional districts based on reapportionment following the 2010 census. It didn’t work out that way.

A federal court in San Antonio ultimately drew the new map after the Republican-controlled state legislature’s map was thrown out for not creating any new majority-minority districts. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the lower court’s map because it gave Hispanics — who accounted for 80 percent of the population gain it Texas — an edge in too many of the new districts and instructed them to try again. The result was the compromise map, comprising two Hispanic-majority districts.

“I think the overall impression is it’s still kind of a mixed commentary,” said Texas Democratic state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, on the new district lines. Fischer serves as chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, one of many groups that filed suit over the Republicans’ original map.

“I feel strongly that we need more Latino representation because of obviously what that means to other up-and-coming leaders,” said retiring Texas Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Still, Gonzalez said, the purpose of a minority-majority district is to “empower Latino voters.” It’s about “the power that will rest with minority communities to elect someone of their choice … it might be someone else who doesn’t have a Latino last name,” Gonzalez said.

Read the full story @ TPM

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