Texas House members on Thursday released the first proposal for a new map redrawing the chamber’s 150-member districts. The initial draft would both increase Republicans’ strength across the state and the number of districts in which white residents make up a majority of eligible voters.
House Bill 1, authored by Corpus Christi Rep. Todd Hunter, the GOP chair of the House Redistricting Committee, is just the first draft, and it will likely change as it makes its way through the legislative process before it’s signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Texas Legislature is in the midst of its third special session. This one is dedicated to redrawing political maps based on the latest census data
Locally, if the map is adopted, it would mean a pretty significant change to the Killeen area.
One of the first noticeable changes is that according to the proposed map, Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Salado, would lose all of Lampasas County. The map shows that the entirety of his District 54 would be within the borders of Bell County.
Lampasas County would move into District 68, which is currently represented by Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro.
For Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, his District 55 would also be remain entirely within the borders of Bell County.
What would be a significant change in Bell County, however, is that Shine would lose a lot and Buckley would gain a lot within the county to even out the population.
According to the plan, the population numbers between the two districts would be within 131 people. District 54 would have a total population of 185,389, while District 55 would have a total population of 185,258.
Currently, Buckley represents most of Killeen and Shine represents all of Temple and almost everything east of Interstate 35.
With the proposed map, however, Buckley would have a large portion of Temple and most of the county east of I-35 and Shine would have a large portion of Killeen.
Census data showed people of color fueled 95% of Texas’ population growth over the past decade. The percentage of Hispanics is now nearly equal to white people in Texas.
But, the new map creates fewer districts where Black and Hispanic people make up a majority of eligible voters. Black and Hispanic Texans make up two racial groups that along with Asian Texans outpaced the growth of white residents in the state over the last decade.
Currently 83 of the chamber’s 150 districts are areas in which white residents make up a majority of eligible voters; 33 are districts where Hispanic voters make up the majority, while Black residents are the majority of eligible voters in seven districts.
Under the new proposal, the map adds six more districts where white residents make up the majority of eligible voters while the number of Hispanic and Black districts would each drop by three.
The proposed map would also change the partisan breakdown among the 150 districts, tilting the scale toward Republicans.
Currently, there are 76 districts that went to former President Donald Trump during the 2020 general election while 74 went to President Joe Biden. Among those, 50 districts voted 60% or more for Trump, — indicating the district is safely Republican — while 40 districts had more than 60% support for Biden — indicating strong Democratic support.
Under the proposed new map, 86 districts would have gone for Trump, while 64 would have went for Biden. The number of districts that voted 60% or more for Trump or Biden would be tied at 46.
The House draft would also pit several incumbents against one another, including two El Paso Democrats — state Reps. Evelina “Lina” Ortega and Claudia Ordaz Perez — who would have to vie for the new House District 77.
In statements soon after the initial draft was released, both lawmakers criticized the proposal for pitting two Hispanic incumbents against the other.
Ortega, who referred to the proposal as “a direct attack on our border community,” said she was “committed to working for our community to stop this injustice from occurring.” Ordaz Perez said she would “refuse to sell out my values or those of the people I represent for political gain,” adding that she intends to return to the lower chamber for another term “to fight for the people of El Paso.”
In two other cases, state Reps. Jacey Jetton, R-Richmond, and Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, would have to compete for the proposed House District 26, while state Reps. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, and Terry Wilson, R-Marble Falls, would face off for the new House District 19.
Later Thursday, disagreement emerged between Jetton and Stephenson over whether the latter had been drawn out of his district.
Stephenson’s office told the Tribune that Jetton “isn’t playing the nicest with this new map” and blamed him for drawing Stephenson out of his district.
Jetton, in a statement to the Tribune, acknowledged that while “there has been some confusion about Representative Stephenson’s residence,” it was his understanding that Stephenson resides in Wharton County, “so we are not actually paired in HD-26.”
As for the other GOP matchup, it appeared later Thursday that the two incumbents could avoid a primary after Biedermann tweeted he may run in another district.
Other incumbent pairings under the House proposal involve a lawmaker who is either running for another office or has already announced their retirement.
In the proposed Dallas-area House District 108, for example, state Rep. John Turner, D-Dallas, who would have to face off against state Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, has already announced he will not seek another term to the lower chamber.
Since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Texas has not made it through a single decade without a federal court admonishing it for violating federal protections for voters of color.
Herald staff writer Thad Imerman contributed to this article.