Redistricting maps drawn by Republicans in Georgia and Texas are being criticized by some conservatives as too timid and a failure to maximize GOP gains in Congress in 2022, a break for Democrats heading into the midterm elections.
The proposal for new congressional boundaries in Texas does not appear to squeeze Democrats, or create new majority-Republican seats, to the extent analysts thought possible (and likely) after the state picked up two House seats in reapportionment. Georgia neither gained nor lost seats. But the expectations were that Republicans there would redraw the map to bolster the party’s congressional delegation to counter the Democrats’ growing strength in the state, especially around Atlanta.
The Democratic Party’s thin House majority remains in jeopardy heading into next year’s down-ballot contests. But these proposals out of Georgia and Texas could spare the party from losses that had been considered all but certain.
“Republican leaders have a unique and timely opportunity to safeguard Georgia’s future through the redistricting process,” said Ryan Mahoney, a Republican operative in the Peach State whose comments are similar to the criticism of the maps that has popped up on the Right. “They must act with courage and determination, knowing that the opposition will raise holy hell no matter what map is ultimately adopted.”
Republicans control the governor’s mansion and the legislature in Georgia and Texas, and neither state delegates redistricting to an independent commission. That means the GOP is in charge of drawing the new district lines for congressional seats and seats in the legislature. But in both Georgia and Texas, Republicans only tinkered around the edges, producing maps that protected GOP incumbents but did not leave Democrats out in the cold, although the proposals could change.
For instance, in Georgia, Republicans turned one suburban Atlanta battleground seat, Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath’s 6th Congressional District, into solid GOP territory that would have voted solidly for former President Donald Trump had it existed in 2020. Conversely, it turned another suburban Atlanta battleground, Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux’s 7th Congressional District, into a seat drawn to elect liberals. Some Georgia Republicans hope changes will be made to the proposal that will make Bourdeaux more, not less, vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Texas enjoyed a population boom over the past decade. Republicans hoped the state’s gain of two House seats in reapportionment (nearly half of the five seats the GOP needs to win in 2022 to recapture the majority) would provide a significant boost to GOP representation from the state in Congress. It might be the case. But the initial redistricting proposal out from Texas Republicans was cautious and appeared designed to avoid a lawsuit over unconstitutional gerrymandering.
Some Republicans would rather not put the fate of their new map in the hands of the judiciary, worried they would mandate by legal decree congressional district boundaries even more generous to the Democrats. That could happen nonetheless because the map has been criticized for not including enough majority-Hispanic districts to satisfy the Voting Rights Act. In any event, with that concern in mind, some Republican insiders in the state were pleased with the proposed lines.
“It was a conservative approach of locking in the gains of the 2020 election for the next decade,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican operative in Texas, who added that the GOP is positioned to pick up Democratic-held seats along the U.S.-Mexico border before the decade is out.
Those would be the 15th Congressional District, held by Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, and the 28th Congressional District, held by Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar. President Joe Biden won Gonzalez’s seat by under 2 percentage points in 2020; he won Cuellar’s seat by under 5 points but suffered a dramatic drop in support compared to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton four years earlier.
“The GOP has been doing well with Hispanics in Texas, and I think we could actually pick up one or both of those heavily Hispanic districts,” Steinhauser said.
Under the proposal, Democrats would be positioned to win the new, Austin-area 37th Congressional District. And Democratic incumbents in Dallas and Houston, Reps. Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher, respectively, would see their suburban battlegrounds, won from the Republicans in 2018, become bluer.
Simultaneously, a host of Republican incumbents whose districts drifted left over the past decade would be protected with new, safer boundaries.
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Original Author: David M. Drucker