By Alex Gonzalez
According to three new reports, redistricting and the current winner-take-all system have produced safer seats, helped ingrain more incumbents, and made the potential for any major shift remote for 2014. But It also mean that in Texas, the GOP may take back district 23 in an off-year gubernatorial race in a Republican state, and where Latinos are still only 55 percent of the population.
The Cook Political Report currently lists only seven races as toss-ups, with 22 either in Lean Republican or Democrat, while the Rothenberg Political Report lists five at pure toss-ups, 13 as Toss-Up/Tilt Republican or Democrat, and 11 as Lean Republican or Democrats. Another analysis by the non-partisan group Fair Vote also highlights that only 5 percent of Congressional seats across the nation are toss-up races ( these observations can be helpful for those who are thinking about running for Congress in Texas).
But if we look into Texas, only Congressional District 23 currently held by Democrat Pete Gallegos is considered swing district since Gallegos won with only 50.3% of the vote over Republican “Quico” Canseco.
I put all the “safe” districts numbers, including Latino demographics and 2012 turnout, from Texas on a table to compare any potential effects of Latino Vote in these districts, and when it may happen. Note that +5 or above means “safe” district for 2014.
After looking into the reports and the Table this is my conclusion. With the exception of Rep. Blake Farenthold representing District 27th in the Corpus Christi Gulf area that has a 49% Latino Population, The median share of the Latino population in all Republican districts is about 25%. Conversely, all Democrat districts have a median share of Latino Population of about 60%. The other conclusion is that you cannot win as Democrat in Texas without the Latino Vote.
Also, if we look at the turnout in both Republican and Democrat districts, we can easily conclude that Republican districts have a 20% to 30% higher voter turnout than Democrat districts on average. See table.
The two Democrat representatives with low 38% Latino population are Congresswoman Sheila Jackson (Dist-18) but she also gets elected with strong African-American vote in the Houston area, and Congressman Eddy Johnson’s district 30 has a 34% Latino population representing the Dallas area where many “white” liberals reside.
What this also means is that until the Hispanic population in Republican districts mature to above 50%, the Congressional map will not change in the next 6 years until 2020 when new Census numbers dictate the new Congressional districts lines; until then, Republicans will still control redistricting, and therefore, will most likely keep “safe” districts with a low level of Hispanic voters–until they can be confident that Latinos will vote Republican, and thereby, redraw districts to bring in more Latino voters into to the districts to help Republican candidates–that is how redistricting works in red and blue states.
It is well known that in Texas the Latino population in some district don’t vote in the same numbers as other minority groups. Thus, the district outside South Texas might be more favorable to a Hispanic candidate later in the decade as the Latino population grows, gets older, and becomes more likely to vote.
But this demographic factor also means that as a Democrat in Texas, you can only win if you come from district with 60% Latino population; or you may win as Democrats if you want to represent a large metro area like Houston or Dallas with black or “white’ liberal voters.
Consequently, a turning point for Republican districts that are concerned with the growth of the Latino population and its impact in a Congressional race will happen when the district become competitive when 50% of the residence are Latinos; in which both “Anglos” and Latinos voters amounting to 100,000 and 150,000 voters will pick the representative as it is the case in districts 23 and 27 (see district 23 and 27 in table to see average turnout in competitive districts).
District 23 is only 55% Latino, and thus, still competitive for Republicans even if Gallegos defeated Conseco in 2012. This is somewhat similar to District 27 where Latinos are only 49% of the population but growing, whereas other south Texas Congressional districts with 60% of Latino population and above are non-competitive Democrat districts.
Because we cannot find a district with 60% Hispanic population that is Republican, we can speculate, therefore, that the challenge for the GOP is, as districts become more Latino and reach the 50% population threshold beyond south Texas, GOP candidates will have to adjust their message to Latino priorities, which ever those priorities may be in the next 10 years.
But, the good news for Texas GOP is that 2014 is an off-year Republican gubernatorial year in Texas, winch means that district 23 is winnable with the right candidates that appeal to both South Texas Latinos and rural “Anglos” South of San Antonio.
Correction. TX-2nd is 30% Latino.Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote! He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters’ Degree, with emphasis in American politics, from San Francisco State University. comments to firstname.lastname@example.org