New Election Districts Generate Scramble
Dallas, TX – Fort Worth Council member Kathleen Hicks yesterday became the first Democrat to file for Tarrant County's newly created Congressional District 33. It's a race that is expected to draw a big field of competitive candidates. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports on the possibility of Tarrant again having a Democrat in Washington, and on the Republican challenge that could prevent that.
Tarrant County's Congressional House District 33 is the product of last week's federal court ruling that overrode redistricting maps adopted by republican legislators in Austin.
The three-judge panel in San Antonio instead drew election boundaries creating three new congressional districts dominated by minorities and democrats.
One of those districts is in Tarrant County. District 33 includes Southeast and Northwest Fort Worth, as well as parts of Arlington and Grand Prairie.
Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair Steve Maxwell says the district's largest ethnic group is Hispanic, followed by nearly equal numbers of African Americans and Anglos.
Maxwell says the district should give Tarrant something it hasn't had since Congressman Martin Frost was defeated in 2004.
Maxwell: Tarrant County was the largest county in America that did not have Democratic congressional representative. So not just to get the district where it's possible a Democratic congressman can get elected but to get a district that is entirely in Tarrant County is a huge thing.
And Maxwell believes the new district will help elect other Democrats running further down on the ballot.
Maxwell singles out Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis. The court's new election boundaries give her a decent chance of reelection, but Maxwell says the Congressional race gives her an edge.
Maxwell: The increased voter turnout the congressional race will produce, I think she will have just an excellent chance of being reelected.
Tarrant County's GOP Party Chair Stephanie Klick says Denton Republican businessman Bill Lawrence has also filed to run in District 33. But Klick admits the district drawn by the federal judges would be difficult for a Republican to win.
Klick: I think the right Republican will make it competitive but it is drawn as a Democrat district.
Klick and other Texas Republicans now have their hopes pinned on the U.S. Supreme Court. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has asked the justices to block the implementation of the new election boundaries claiming judges never officially declared the Republican-drawn map invalid.
Justice Antonin Scalia has asked minority groups opposed to the Republican legislative plan to have briefs prepared by Thursday.
Klick says candidates interested in Congressional District 33 and many other races are waiting for the court's decision so they can decide if and where to run.
One Republican has also filed to run in District 33, Denton County businessman Bill Lawrence.