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A federal three-judge panel dealt Republicans a major blow today in the Texas redistricting legal battle.
The judges drew a preliminary Congressional map that appears to protect incumbents and gives Democrats an edge in picking up three of the four new seats Texas gained in reapportionment. The plan increases the electoral potency of minorities in certain districts, giving an added boost to Democrats who tend to do very well among Latino and African-American voters.
The biggest individual winners are Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) and state Rep. Joaquin Castro (D). The two were set to run against each other — based on a GOP-drawn map passed earlier this year that is now being litigated in court — in a district that ran from south Austin, hugged Interstate 35 and went deep into urban San Antonio. With the GOP-drawn map tied up in the courts, the interim map released today is likely to be used in the 2012 elections.
Under the court-drawn map, political observers believe Castro will run for a new seat based in San Antonio. Doggett will now likely run again in his current 25th district, which under the court redraw includes a large amount of friendly territory in his native Travis County.
In the state Legislature’s original map, the 25th was dramatically redrawn to favor Republicans. The candidate most likely to win that seat, former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, is one of the two biggest losers in the map released today.
The other big loser is former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams (no relation). He was running in the 33rd district, one of the new seats that under the GOP map encompassed predominantly Republican parts of Tarrant County. The court-drawn version of the 33rd makes it likely a majority-minority district that includes urban, Democratic parts of Tarrant County. One Texas Republican expert on redistricting matters doubts either Williams will be going to Congress if the court-drawn map is implemented this cycle.
Two freshman Republicans will still have races to watch under the new map. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R) is expected to see a competitive contest in the the 23rd district, while party operatives on both sides of the aisle said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) is in deep primary trouble.