Most of the maps of Texas I have seen here have been either Democratic gerrymanders, to illustrate what Democrats could do if they were in control of redistricting, or Republican gerrymanders, to guess on what the legislature might do. But as it turned out, the map used for 2012 was sort of a joint effort between the Republican legislature, which gave the basic idea, and some judges, who made sure the map complied with the VRA. So my thought was: What would an ungerrymandered map of Texas look like? What sort of map would judges draw if they put VRA compliance above all other factors, and had compactness as their second most important factor? That was the sort of map that I set out to create.
While making this map, I tried to put political considerations aside and simply try to draw more VRA districts without them looking too ugly, and to make the lines as neat as possible where no VRA districts could be drawn. I drew this map with complete disregard for the homes of the incumbents, because I feel that’s what a court would do.
The results were, to sum it up in one word, intriguing. Follow me over the fold to see the map and the districts.
Here is a map of the entire state:
2008: 76-23 McCain
This vast, heavily Republican district contains the entire Texas Panhandle and includes Amarillo and Wichita Falls. It is one of the most heavily Republican districts in the entire country, and it may have voted as much as 80% for Mitt Romney in 2012. It is 66% white, 6% black, and 25% Hispanic VAP (all racial statistics below are in VAP), but only 17% SSVR. Thornberry is completely safe, one of the safest incumbents in the nation. SAFE R.
District 2 (green): Randy Neugebauer (R-Lubbock)
2008: 72-27 McCain
This also-vast district takes in a large swath of the central part of West Texas, and it includes Lubbock and Abilene and goes east to Mineral Wells. It is 65% white, 6% black, and 26% Hispanic, but only 20% SSVR. Neugebauer (of “baby killer!” fame) is totally safe. SAFE R.
District 3 (purple): Mike Conaway (R-Midland)
2008: 76-23 McCain
This large district takes in the oil-producing areas of West Texas, including Midland and Odessa, and then goes east to include San Angelo and much of the Texas Hill Country. It is 65% white, 3% black, and 30% Hispanic, but only 20% SSVR. Conaway is completely safe. SAFE R.
A note about the first three districts: I almost always draw those three districts the same way in every Texas map that I make, regardless of whether the map is a Democratic gerrymander, a Republican gerrymander, or somewhere in between. I feel that since West Texas is so monolithically Republican, the districts there do not need to be gerrymandered, even if every other district on the map is heavily gerrymandered. Despite the fact that the Hispanic population is increasing in all three of the West Texas districts, it will be a very long time before a Democrat even has a prayer of winning there.
District 4 (red): Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso)
2008: 65-34 Obama
This district is basically El Paso. It is one of the least gerrymandered (and gerrymanderable) districts in the nation, and it has the smallest deviation (-1) of any district on this map. It is 17% white, 3% black, and 78% Hispanic VAP, and it has 66% SSVR. This is the first VRA district on this map. Newly-elected Rep. O’Rourke will be safe in any general election here; his only danger is being primaried by a Hispanic politician. SAFE D.
Here is an inset map of the San Antonio area:
2008: 59-41 Obama
This district is similar to Gallego’s current district, except that it ditches some of its mostly-white areas to the 3rd and 11th, and gains some more Hispanic areas in San Antonio. The old district included some ultra-conservative, mostly-white suburbs of San Antonio that voted heavily Republican, while this district gets rid of them in order to put Hispanics firmly in charge of who this district elects. The district is 24% white, 4% black, and 71% Hispanic, and it is 63% SSVR. Since Gallego was able to defeat a Republican incumbent in a district that Romney won, this district should present no problem for him. SAFE D with Gallego, LIKELY D generic D vs. generic R.
District 6 (teal): Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio)
2008: 58-41 Obama
This district is basically the Central and West Sides of San Antonio, and is similar, in both location and partisanship, to Castro’s current district. The district is 27% white, 5% black, and 63% Hispanic, and is 52% SSVR. This number may seem low, but the name Castro is golden in San Antonio (where Joaquin’s twin brother Julian is the mayor), and Castro will have no problems. Additionally, most (if not all) of the state legislators who represent this area are also Hispanic, so even if Castro were to retire then Hispanics would still have an excellent chance of electing his successor. SAFE D.
District 7 (gray): Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo)
2008: 61-38 Obama
This district stretches from Laredo to the eastern and northeastern suburbs of San Antonio. The Bexar County portion of the district is relatively racially mixed, but the rest of the district, especially Laredo, is almost completely Hispanic. For example, there are fewer than 100 non-Hispanic white children in the entire public school system of Laredo (population 236,000). The district is 21% white, 8% black, and 69% Hispanic, and is 57% SSVR. Cuellar is safe in a general election, though since he is a Blue Dog he might be vulnerable in a primary. SAFE D.
District 8 (slate blue): Open Seat
2008: 57-42 Obama
This district is one of those bacon-strip districts that stretch from South Texas to northeast of San Antonio. These districts are forced to be drawn by the VRA, because a district entirely in Hidalgo County would be overpacking Hispanics. This district includes Mission, McAllen, and Pharr in Hidalgo County, and then includes some other heavily-Hispanic counties and goes north all the way to Seguin and San Marcos. The district is 23% white, 2% black, and 74% Hispanic, and is 63% SSVR. A Hispanic Democrat would easily get elected here; after all, Cuellar and Hinojosa were easily re-elected even as Bush carried their districts in 2004 (something which will probably never happen again). SAFE D.
District 9 (cyan): Ruben Hinojosa (D-Mercedes)
2008: 57-42 Obama
This district is the second of the bacon-strip districts that are required by the VRA. This one includes Edinburg, Alamo, and Weslaco in Hidalgo County, and then goes north to include Alice, Beeville, and Caldwell County. Now, some might say that this district looks too much like the Austin-to-McAllen district that the SCOTUS declared was unconstitutional, but there is one key difference, and that is that this district does not include the Hispanic community in Austin. This district has a whopping two precincts of Bastrop County and only one precinct of Travis. The district is 25% white, 3% black, and 71% Hispanic, and is 63% SSVP. Hinojosa would be very safe here. SAFE D.
District 10 (pink): Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville)
2008: 60-39 Obama
This district is a smaller version of Vela’s current district. It includes all of Cameron, Willacy, Kenedy, and Kleberg Counties, and then the majority-Hispanic areas of Corpus Christi and Nueces County. The result is a strongly-Democratic district that is 19% white, 2% black, and 77% Hispanic, and is 68% SSVR. Vela will be very safe here. SAFE D.
Here is an inset map of the Austin area:
2008: 66-33 McCain
This district includes the white parts of San Antonio, and then parts of the corridor up to Austin and Williamson County. The district is 72% white, 3% black, and 22% Hispanic, and only 14% SSVR. This district is relatively unremarkable; Smith will easily win here. SAFE R.
District 12 (cornflower blue): Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin)
2008: 66-33 Obama
This district takes in most of Bastrop County and a large chunk of Travis County, including the most Democratic parts of Austin. A judge would not slice and dice Austin like the legislature did; instead a judge would keep Austin mostly whole, which is what this district does. This district is 57% white, 7% black, and 30% Hispanic, but is only 16% SSVR. Doggett would be completely safe here. SAFE D.
District 13 (salmon): John Carter (R-Round Rock), Michael McCaul (R-Austin)
2008: 53-46 Obama
This district takes in northern Travis County and most of fast-growing Williamson County, and is about half in each county. The Travis portion leans Democratic, while the Williamson portion leans Republican, and the result is a fairly balanced district. The district is 57% white, 9% black, and 25% Hispanic, and is 13% SSVR. It is unclear whether McCaul lives in the 12th or the 13th district here, but he is more likely to run here than in the 12th. However, Carter, who is in the Republican leadership in the House, also lives here, and the district is more Carter’s than McCaul’s. While it is possible that McCaul could still win a primary (since he is very rich), McCaul could carpetbag over to the open 28th, which includes most of the areas of Houston that are in his current district. As for the Democrats, any state legislator who represents this area would be a solid candidate. Since the 2008 numbers are pretty much identical to Obama’s nationwide numbers, it’s hard to call this district anything but a TOSSUP.
District 14 (olive): Open Seat
2008: 59-41 McCain
This compact Central Texas district is based in Bell and McLennan Counties, home to Killeen and Waco respectively. The district also includes Fort Hood. The district is 60% white, 17% black, and 18% Hispanic, and is 11% SSVR. No incumbent lives here, but Bill Flores (who lives in Bryan) could run here so as to leave the 15th for Blake Farenthold. On the Democratic side, our best candidate would be Chet Edwards, and even he would face an uphill climb trying to win this seat. SAFE R without Edwards, LIKELY R with Edwards.
District 15 (orange): Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), Bill Flores (R-Bryan)
2008: 69-30 McCain
This district stretches from Corpus Christi all the way north to Leon and Freestone Counties. This district was originally supposed to be more compact than it turned out, but constraints from other districts (mainly the 9th) forced it to take its present shape. The district is 66% white, 9% black, and 22% Hispanic, and is 15% SSVR. Although this is more Flores’ than Farenthold’s district, Flores could move over to the 14th, seeing as that has Waco, and leave the 15th to Farenthold, who really doesn’t have any other options. Either way, this district is heavily Republican, and whichever of the two wins the Republican primary will also win the general. SAFE R.
District 16 (green): Joe Barton (R-Ennis), Roger Williams (R-Weatherford)
2008: 74-25 McCain
This district contains the southern and western exurbs of the DFW Metroplex. Unsurprisingly, these areas are mostly white and heavily Republican; in fact, the western counties in this district gave Romney more than 80% in 2012. Barton, who lives in Ellis County, would be very happy with this district, although that obviously was not my intention. Barton would easily defeat Williams in a primary, seeing as Williams is a freshman while Barton has been in Congress for a while. Also, the district has more population in the southern suburbs of the Metroplex (Barton’s area) than in the western suburbs (Williams’ area). SAFE R.
Here is an inset map of the Dallas-Fort Worth area:
2008: 64-35 McCain
This district, entirely in Tarrant County, is the C-shaped district that results from the creation of the VRA-protected 18th district. It includes the white parts of Fort Worth and Arlington as well as some northern and western suburbs. The district is 72% white, 7% black, and 15% Hispanic, and is 9% SSVR. Granger will be very safe here. SAFE R.
District 18 (yellow): Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth)
2008: 63-36 Obama
This district takes in the minority-heavy areas of Fort Worth and Arlington. Unlike Veasey’s current district, this district is entirely in Tarrant County, and leaves the heavily-Hispanic Dallas County areas in Veasey’s current district to the 19th. This district is 33% white, 24% black, and 36% Hispanic, and is 18% SSVR. Since most of the whites in this district are Republicans, this district will consistently nominate black candidates such as Veasey, and the district is Democratic enough so that the Democratic nominee will always win the general. SAFE D.
District 19 (yellow-green): Open Seat
2008: 57-42 Obama
This district takes in most of Grand Prairie, all of Irving, and some heavily-Hispanic areas of Dallas. This district has the greatest chance of electing a Hispanic representative of any district in the DFW Metroplex. It is 29% white, 13% black, and 49% Hispanic, and is 27% SSVR. This may seem like a very low number, but look at it this way. Most of the whites are Republicans (since most of Dallas’ white Democrats are in the 20th), and 13% probably isn’t enough for a black candidate to defeat a well-organized Hispanic candidate in the primary. 57% Obama in the Metroplex isn’t quite enough for a district to be safe for the Democrats, but it’s close. LIKELY D.
District 20 (light pink): Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas)
2008: 71-29 Obama
This district, based in South Dallas, was for a while the only VRA district and the only Democratic district in the Metroplex. It’s still the blackest and most heavily Democratic district in the Dallas area. It takes in all of South Dallas, the four mostly-black suburbs south of it, and then the mixed and whiter areas of central and northeast Dallas, so that the 21st can be a VRA district as well. The district is 35% white, 37% black, and 24% Hispanic, and is 9% SSVR. EBJ would cruise in this district. SAFE D.
District 21 (maroon): Open Seat
2008: 59-40 Obama
This is a new district based in east and northeast Dallas County. It includes some areas of East Dallas, Balch Springs, Mesquite, most of Garland, and parts of Richardson. The district is 33% white, 23% black, and 37% Hispanic, and is 15% SSVR. These demographics are very similar to those of Marc Veasey’s district, and so it is quite likely that this district will elect an African-American. Jeb Hensarling lives either here or in the 20th, but he wouldn’t want to run in either, so he might carpetbag to the open 27th, or just retire. SAFE D.
District 22 (brown): Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell), Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville)
2008: 66-33 McCain
This district is based in the heavily Republican northeastern areas of Tarrant County, and it also includes Flower Mound and Lewisville in Denton County and Coppell in Dallas County. The district is 71% white, 6% black, and 14% Hispanic, and is 7% SSVR. While both Marchant and Burgess live here, the district contains most of Marchant’s base in northeastern Tarrant County, and Burgess could simply move up to the open (and just as Republican) 24th district and run there. SAFE R.
District 23 (aquamarine): Pete Sessions (R-Dallas), Sam Johnson (R-Plano)
2008: 60-39 McCain
This district is based in North Dallas and the northern suburbs of Dallas, and includes most of Richardson and all of Plano and Allen. The district is 66% white, 8% black, 13% Hispanic, and 12% Asian, and is 5% SSVR. Both Sessions and Johnson live here, and if Burgess takes the 24th, then neither have any better place to run. However, Johnson is very old (he’s 82), so I wouldn’t be surprised if he retired and let Sessions take the seat. SAFE R.
District 24 (dark purple): Open Seat
2008: 65-34 McCain
This district takes in the far northern suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth, including Denton, Frisco, and McKinney. The district is 71% white, 8% black, and 15% Hispanic, and is 7% SSVR. This is just another monolithically Republican Metroplex seat, and although it is open, Michael Burgess might claim it since it has considerable overlap with his current district. Either way, it is SAFE R.
District 25 (magenta): Ralph Hall (R-Rockwall)
2008: 71-28 McCain
This district contains the counties north of Dallas that border Oklahoma, as well as some outer eastern suburbs of Dallas. It includes the cities of Denison, Sherman, Greenville, and Rockwall. The district is 80% white, 7% black, and 10% Hispanic, and is 5% SSVR. Hall, the oldest member of the House ever, lives here and would run here. If he were to retire or die, there are plenty of Republicans who would fall over themselves to run here. SAFE R.
District 26 (dark gray): Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler)
2008: 69-30 McCain
This district contains the two cities of Tyler and Longview, and then, unlike Gohmert’s current district, goes north to pick up Mount Pleasant and Texarkana. However, this doesn’t really change the partisanship of the district much. The district is 70% white, 17% black, and 11% Hispanic, and is 4% SSVR, the lowest of any district in the state. Gohmert is (sadly) totally safe here. SAFE R.
District 27 (pale green): Open Seat
2008: 69-30 McCain
This district is a true rural East Texas district. It contains no major cities and all or part of 18 counties. It basically contains everything east of the Trinity River, south of Tyler, and north of Montgomery County. The district is 71% white, 16% black, and 12% Hispanic, and is 4% SSVR. No incumbent lives here, but Jeb Hensarling might carpetbag down here, as some of his district is included here. Democrats might have been able to compete here ten years ago, but not anymore. SAFE R.
Here is an inset map of the Houston area:
2008: 50-49 Obama
This district contains some fast-growing, increasingly-diverse western suburbs of Houston, as well as most of Waller County. The district is 33% white, 18% black, and 41% Hispanic, and is 19% SSVR. However, don’t let those numbers deceive you; the whites here are extremely Republican, and most of the Hispanics don’t vote. Even with high black turnout and more white support than usual, Obama only barely won this district by fewer than 1,000 votes. Hopefully, the suburbs here will get more diverse, and thus, more Democratic. No incumbent lives here, however this district might be Michael McCaul’s best option since McCaul represents some of this area now. Democrats should not leave this district unchallenged, and a state legislator (of any race) would be a good candidate here. LEAN R.
District 29 (green-gray): John Culberson (R-Houston), Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land)
2008: 60-39 McCain
This district contains most of the white areas of Houston. It then goes down to Fort Bend County to take in the whitest areas there. The district includes both the liberal white areas, such as Montrose, and the conservative white areas, such as Cinco Ranch. However, clearly the latter outweighs the former. The district is 66% white, 6% black, 17% Hispanic, and 10% Asian. This is basically Culberson’s district, and he would easily win here. Olson is pretty much screwed under this map; his district is split in four pieces, each of which is either heavily Democratic or already has a Republican incumbent. SAFE R.
District 30 (pink-red): Al Green (D-Houston)
2008: 62-37 Obama
This district takes in the very diverse Southwest Houston, as well as adjoining areas in Fort Bend County, including Rosenberg and Stafford. The district is 19% white, 24% black, 40% Hispanic, and 16% Asian, and is 18% SSVR. This district is quite compact and is very safe for Green. SAFE D.
District 31 (khaki): Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Houston)
2008: 80-19 Obama
This district takes in the very diverse remainder of Fort Bend County as well as some heavily-black areas of Houston. This is one of the districts that I am the most iffy about, because I am concerned that I may have overpacked this district. It is 16% white, 47% black, and 28% Hispanic, and is 12% SSVR. I have thought about ways to give some of the blacks in this district to the 30th in order to make them more similar, but any means of doing that would make both districts much uglier. As the district is, it is completely safe for Jackson-Lee. SAFE D.
EDIT: I made some changes to this district. Parts of (mostly black) south Houston are taken out, and mixed areas northwest of downtown are added. The result is that the black percentage falls to 41%, and Obama's 2008 percentage falls to 75%. This district is still safe for any black Democrat, however.
District 32 (dark orange): Gene Green (D-Houston)
2008: 62-37 Obama
This district is the Hispanic district in Houston. It contains North Houston, Southeast Houston, and parts of Pasadena. It is 16% white, 14% black, and 66% Hispanic, and is 46% SSVR. Since the Hispanic community in Houston seems to like Green, he doesn’t need to worry in either the primary or the general, but it is quite likely that he’ll be replaced by a Hispanic when he retires. SAFE D.
EDIT: This district also changed. I added some Hispanic areas in Pasadena from the 34th, and gave some of the mixed areas (with <20% SSVR) to the 31st. This district is now 50.4% SSVR, and 63% Obama 2008.
District 33 (light pale blue): Randy Weber (R-Pearland), Steve Stockman (R-Friendswood)
2008: 67-32 McCain
This district takes in suburbs south and southeast of Houston. It includes the entirety of Brazoria County as well as mostly-white parts of Galveston and Harris Counties. The district is 64% white, 8% black, and 21% Hispanic, and is 13% SSVR. The odd shape of the district in Galveston and Harris Counties is to accommodate a new VRA district, the 34th. Weber would probably beat Stockman in a primary here. SAFE R.
District 34 (lime green): Open Seat
2008: 56-43 Obama
This district includes most of Jefferson County, excluding only the whitest bits, and also Galveston and Texas City in Galveston County. It then goes north to take in Baytown and parts of southeast Houston. This district is the most gerrymandered district on the map, and this is because I was trying to draw one more district that could elect a minority. This district is 36% white, 25% black, and 35% Hispanic, and is 19% SSVR. Since Obama did worse than most Democrats do in Jefferson and Galveston Counties, a Democrat should be relatively safe here. The most likely Democratic candidates are ex-Rep. Nick Lampson and St. Rep. Craig Eiland (who are white) and St. Rep. Joe Deshotel (who is black). LIKELY D.
EDIT: I made some important changes to this district. It lost Hispanic areas in Paasadena to the 32nd, and gained black areas in south Houston from the 31st. The result is that this district is now 33% black, and up to 63% Obama 2008. This district is now safe Democratic, and more likely to elect a black Representative.
District 35 (dark orchid purple): Ted Poe (R-Humble)
2008: 75-24 McCain
This district stretches from Orange County at the Louisiana border to the northern half of Montgomery County, including Orange, Nederland, Kingwood, and Conroe. These areas are some of the most Republican areas in the nation, and this is the 3rd most Republican district on this map (after the 1st and 3rd districts). The district is 77% white, 6% black, and 14% Hispanic, and is 7% SSVR. Poe would be completely safe here. SAFE R.
District 36 (orange-yellow): Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands)
2008: 72-27 McCain
This district is in the northwest suburbs of Houston, and contains The Woodlands and other unincorporated areas south and west of it. These are relatively new, white-flight suburbs and they are very conservative. The district is 68% white, 7% black, and 17% Hispanic, and is 9% SSVR. Kevin Brady is very safe. SAFE R.
So in total, there is:
18 SAFE R
1 LEAN R
2 LIKELY D
14 SAFE D
9 Hispanic districts (1 El Paso, 2 San Antonio, 1 Laredo, 3 Valley, 1 Dallas, 1 Houston)
6 Black districts (1 Fort Worth, 2 Dallas, 2 Houston, 1 Beaumont/Galveston)
Comments, questions, concerns, or thoughts are all appreciated.