Sept. 21, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Between the Lines: Doggett’s Darned District Dilemma in Texas

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A proposed Texas redistricting map makes significant changes to Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s hometown district.

On the surface, the newly drawn 35th district would be ideal territory for Doggett, given that it’s a safe Democratic seat: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) received only 38 percent of the vote there. But not only is that district mostly composed of new territory for Doggett, there’s also a 63 percent Hispanic population, making it a ripe opportunity for a local Hispanic politician to begin his or her Congressional career.

The most often-mentioned name to run in the new 35th district is state Rep. Mike Villarreal (D), the vice chairman of the state House redistricting committee who told Roll Call he’s taking a “serious look” at the running. However, Villarreal stopped short of saying he would be willing to run against Doggett in a primary.

If Villarreal passes on a House run, one of the biggest names in Texas Hispanic politics is one of the Castro brothers: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro or his twin brother, state Rep. Joaquin Castro, are in a position to run.

“Bye, bye, Lloyd Doggett. He has two very bad options,” said Chris Perkins, a GOP consultant based in Texas who drew the Congressional map under DeLay in 2003.

Florida: Fair and Balanced Districts, for Now

The Justice Department has cleared the language of two constitutional amendments approved by Florida voters in 2010 that attempt to limit gerrymandering.

The DOJ sent a letter Tuesday to the Florida House and Senate that said the government does not object to the amendments, effectively “pre-clearing” the language as required by the Voting Rights Act.

The “fair district” amendment requires House districts to be drawn equally, contiguously and compactly and prohibits lines from being drawn “with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent” or with the intent of denying minorities a fair stake in the political process.

For Democrats who have virtually no control over the redistricting process in the GOP-controlled Legislature and governor’s mansion, the ruling was welcome.

“I would like to applaud the U.S. Justice Department for approving the Fair District Amendments through the preclearance process,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement.

But the “fair district” amendments must still jump through at least one more legal hoop. Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R) filed suit against the amendments last year, alleging they would violate the Voting Rights Act, and oral arguments in the case are expected later this year.

Rhode Island: Commission for the Ocean State?

Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a plan to establish an 18-member commission to oversee the Ocean State’s redistricting process.

It’s unlikely the panel would significantly alter the state’s two Congressional districts, especially given the makeup of the commission.

Democrats currently occupy both seats, and the state Speaker and Senate President, both Democrats, would control 14 of the 18 commission appointments in a proposal reviewed Wednesday by a key legislative committee. The top Republicans in each chamber would appoint the remaining four.

Nevada: Sandoval Issues Second Veto

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed a second Democratic-written redistricting bill Tuesday, just two weeks after sending back the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s first plan.

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