Politics

Hurd Defends District Lines in Court

Congressman says more districts should be like his

Rep. Will Hurd's district could be redrawn if federal judges rule its boundary lines violate the Voting Rights Act. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. William Hurd said more districts should be drawn like his, defending Texas’ 23rd Congressional District ahead of a federal court decision on alleged racial gerrymandering that could impact the 2018 midterm elections.

“My district is competitive, and that’s a good thing...because it forces people to talk to a broader sense of the community,” Hurd said Saturday as the closing witness in a trial over whether the district lines should be redrawn.

The Texas Republican said the 23rd District, which spans the U.S.-Mexican border, was one of the few “swing” districts in the nation.

“If more districts were like mine, we’d have better caliber people in Washington,” Hurd said.

The case centers on a lawsuit from 2011 that alleges the state’s congressional district lines are drawn in a way that suppresses minority voters.

Federal judges invalidated the 2011 district lines in March, finding that three congressional districts, including the 23rd District, violated the Voting Rights Act. The decision had no effect, however, because the state adopted a new interim map in 2013.

Civil rights groups and individuals argue that the new map is also discriminatory as it includes some of the original boundaries.

Federal judges said in March that the 23rd District lines from 2011 “denied Latino voters equal opportunity and had the intent and effect of diluting Latino voter opportunity.”

The two other districts found to be unlawful were the 35th District, represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett, and the 27th District, represented by Republican Blake Farenthold.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office has argued that the 2013 lines are constitutional and that the plaintiffs have not met the necessary standard to prove discrimination under the Voting Rights Act.

Fearing that a redistricting plan ordered by the court would result in lost seats, Republicans have urged Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to redraw the Lone Star state lines. Congressional Republicans told The Texas Tribune that they would prefer to have their allies in the state legislature draw the lines rather than seeing the court do it.

Democrats are already targeting Hurd’s seat, as former Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego considers challenging Hurd for a third time. Hurd unseated the one-term Gallego in 2014 and the two faced off again in 2016.

Other Democrats considering mounting their own campaigns against Hurd include Jay Hulings, an assistant U.S. attorney, and Judy Canales, a former President Obama appointee.

There is no timeline on when a decision will be handed down in the current redistricting trial.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 23rd District as Tossup.

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