“The level of attention the issue is getting is at a peak since I’ve been following it,” said Tim Storey, a redistricting analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “It’s somewhat of modern phenomenon to start with. Until the 1950s, it wasn’t a regular occurrence in many states.”
In Texas, after the Legislature failed to agree on a new Congressional map following the 2000 Census — the Constitution leaves the task of setting district boundaries to the states — a federal court stepped in and set the House lines for the 2002 elections.
Enter DeLay, then the Majority Leader, who in 2003 worked with Republican state legislators in Austin to replace the court-drawn map with districts that were GOP-friendly, and helped the party win five seats in the 2004 elections that Republicans might otherwise not have picked up. A sixth seat changed hands when Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) left the Democratic Party.
Redistricted out of a job were Texas Democrats such as Martin Frost, the longtime Democratic point man on redistricting, and Nick Lampson, who is DeLay’s presumed opponent this year in Texas’ 22nd district. The 2003 remap also was drawn with an eye toward expunging Rep. Chet Edwards (D), but he survived to win re-election in the new Republican-leaning 17th district.
DeLay and other Texas House Members each gave up territory from their districts as they existed at the time in order to create the additional GOP districts, which Republicans say contributed to DeLay winning re-election in the previous cycle by the smallest margin of his 22-year Congressional career.
He won in 2004 with 55 percent of the vote.
Josh Kurtz and Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.