Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Redistricting Scatters Richardson to the Winds

Texas House maps
Texas House Map 2020
Texas House Map 2022

What do Richardson and Rockwall have in common? They are both represented by Justin Holland in redrawn Texas House District 33. He, along with Angie Chen Button and Ana-Maria Ramos, will represent Richardson in the new redistricting maps passed by the Texas legislature. (Correction: Plano's Scott Sanford will also represent the tiny northwest corner of Richardson, at least until the 2022 election.) Say goodbye to Jeff Leach, whose Texas House District 67 has been redrawn and shifted far to the northeast in Collin County.

Texas Senate Maps
Texas Senate Map 2020
Texas Senate Map 2022

Say goodbye to Angela Paxton, whose Senate District 8 exchanged Richardson for Greenville to shore up the conservative vote for Paxton. Richardson will have a new district with a new face in 2022. Make that two new districts and two new faces.

What do Richardson and Irving and Balch Springs all have in common? Despite one city being on the northern border of Dallas County (Richardson), one on the western border (Irving), and one on the southeastern border (Balch Springs), they are all part of the new salamander-like Texas Senate District 16. The current District 16, which does not contain Richardson, is represented by Nathan Johnson. That's one new face. (Correction: The original post said Nathan Johnson announced his retirement. He did not.)

What do Richardson and Corsicana have in common? They are both represented in the new Texas Senate by Bob Hall (Texas Senate District 2). It's a big chunk of east Texas with a slim finger reaching out to poke the north half of Richardson. That's a second new face. And it's Bob Hall. It's like someone in the Austin GOP leadership really hates Richardson.

How did this happen?

Redistricting occurs every ten years, triggered by population changes enumerated in the decennial census. There are three main drivers of the map drawing (at least how Texas does redistricting; some other states have non-partisan methods).

  1. Maximize majority party representation. The goal is to draw boundaries to give the party in power the maximum number of safe electoral seats. According to analysis by the "Texas Tribune", "The new map includes 85 districts that would have voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election and 65 that would have voted for Joe Biden...Trump only won 76 of the current House districts in 2020." This is an important goal, but protecting incumbents is just as important, maybe even more so.
  2. Protect incumbents. The goal is to draw boundaries to give incumbents safe electoral seats. This works both ways. For example, according to "Texas Tribune", Republicans "took six Republican-leaning counties out of CD-34 and put them into Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria. That transformed CD-34 from a competitive district where Biden won the presidency by only 4 percentage points into one in which Biden would have won by 15 percentage points." In other words, redistricting worked to protect two incumbents, one Republican and one Democratic. Locally, Ana-Maria Ramos and Angie Chen Button's districts are safer for each of them, though both districts will be considered competitive. Then there's the third goal.
  3. Screw Richardson. OK, this last goal isn't really a goal (at least I don't think it is). Normally, this goal is stated as "Try not to divide existing political entities (cities, counties)." But this goal is so low on the priority list that splitting up cities almost always happens in service of political parties and incumbency.

Let's look more closely at the effect of redistricting on Richardson, first in the House, then in the Senate.

Each Texas House district has a population of about 170,000 people. Richardson itself has 120,000 people, meaning one representative could represent all of Richardson (and a bit of neighboring cities). But with the 2020 map, Richardson was divided and constituted just a small part of each of three districts. The good news is that each of these districts is compact. Richardson shares District 102 with north Dallas, District 112 with Garland, District 67 with Plano. There's enough commonality that Ana-Maria Ramos, Angie Chen Button and Jeff Leach can be expected to be very familiar with Richardson's careabouts. Having three can be good (three people looking out for Richardson in Austin, not just one). But it can be bad if the three people have other priorities. That brings us to the new maps.

On the 2022 map, Richardson will be divided into four districts. (The original post said three.) But only one district resembles any of the old compact districts.

  • District 70 is new to Richardson. In the 2020 map, it is a nice compact district in northern Collin County. In the new 2022 map, it's a salamander in southwest Collin County. The northwestern corner of Richardson in Collin County now falls in this district. Its current representative, Scott Sanford, is not seeking re-election.
  • District 102 (Ana-Maria Ramos) resembles the old District 102, if shifted a bit to the south and east. She now represents more of Richardson, less of north Dallas.
  • District 112 (Angie Chen Button) is a salamander that clings to the northern and eastern borders of Dallas County, all the way from the Dallas North Tollway east to Rockwall, then south down to US 80, encompassing parts of Dallas, Richardson, Garland, Sachse, Rowlett, and Sunnyvale. (Note how I had to zoom out for the 2022 map to show all of District 112 in one screen capture.) If you thought Angie Chen Button wasn't sensitive enough to Richardson's interests before, good luck getting her attention now.
  • District 33 (Justin Holland), now as before, is basically the whole of Rockwall County with a long appendage sticking out. In this iteration of District 33, the appendage sticks out from the northwest corner of Rockwall County and stretches two-thirds of the way across southern Collin County, where it picks up the part of Richardson in Collin County. Holland is Rockwall born and always has been Rockwall focused and always will be. Don't expect him to suddenly become knowledgeable about Richardson's interests just because redistricting stretched his salamander along Collin County's southern border.

Each Texas Senate district has a population of about 940,000 people. Richardson is going to be a minority interest no matter how the maps are redrawn. Currently, Richardson is wholly contained in the big District 8, which is mostly southwestern Collin County, but has a bump on its southern border reaching down to swallow up Richardson. District 8 is represented by Angela Paxton. Given our population, getting 12% of a state senator's attention is probably the most we could expect.

District 8 and Angela Paxton are being redistricted away from Richardson altogether. Looking forward, Richardson is getting the worst of all possible outcomes. It's now going to be split in two, so we'll get even less attention from each of two state senators. The identity of one of those senators is why I call it the worst of all possible outcomes.

  • One part is going to District 16. Its new salamander-like shape stretches from Irving in the west to Mesquite in the east, from Richardson in the north to Balch Springs in the south. (I'm sorry that it's hard to see in the second map above. I had to zoom way, way out to fully capture District 2 in one screen capture. More on that in the next paragraph.) District 16's senator will have to pay as much or more attention to bigger, far-flung cities than to Richardson. Not good for Richardson at all, no matter which party wins the seat.
  • The other part of Richardson is going to Texas State Senate District 2. The incumbent Senator is Bob Hall. Look at that map. District 2 is an east Texas goliath. It's bigger than all of the other Dallas/Fort Worth Senate districts combined. (Note how I had to zoom way, way out to get all of District 2 in one screen capture.) District 2 is represented by an east Texas dinosaur. Its been said that Bob Hall is the Texas Senate's version of Louie Gohmert. Every legislative term, "Texas Monthly" issues its list of "Best and Worst Legislators". This is what it has to say about Bob Hall: "In previous years, Hall managed to escape being named a Worst because his inability to accomplish much of anything kept him confined to the Furniture list. Since last session, though, Hall has found ways to do harm while still accomplishing very little." Hall earned his spot on the "Worst" list this year for, among other things, spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and urging use of unproven hydroxychloroquine treatment for COVID-19. In the words of "Texas Monthly", "If we could report him as spam, we would." In prior terms, "Texas Monthly" said Hall called his fellow Republican primary opponent "a pawn of Satan" and called public schools a method of "communist indoctrination." He defended fellow tea party activist Ray Myers after Myers announced that he was a "white nationalist." He has claimed that comprehensive sex education is a tool used by abortion clinics to "increase their supply line of young women for abortions."

    "Texas Monthly" pointedly makes clear that its problem with Bob Hall is not just with his political views but more so with his closed mind. "During his four years in office, Hall has demonstrated little willingness to listen, learn, or get outside his bubble. Legislative hearings are about listening, to experts and people with strongly held and sincere views, and the best lawmakers of all stripes have the ability to understand the beliefs of even their fiercest opponents, if for no other reason than that it makes them better about advancing their own."

    Now Bob Hall will represent Richardson. Somehow I doubt the Senator from Edgewood will be all that interested in learning where Richardson is or what our local needs and careabouts are.

Richardson used to be able to make common cause with Garland, Plano, and north Dallas to get our legislators to understand our concerns. Now, we'll have to make common cause with all those cities and with Irving, with Rockwall, with Sunnyvale, and with Corsicana, too, for Pete's sake. Richardson was screwed by the GOP leadership in Austin.

Enter your address in the "Texas Tribune's" customized map page to see how the new districts affect your own home.


Joe Corcoran said...


You forgot that a small part of Richardson will also be located in State House District 70. Put the following address into the Texas Tribune link:

1311 W President George Bush Hwy, Richardson, TX 75080, USA

Thank you,

Joe Corcoran
Richardson City Council, Place 4

Mauri Long said...

Nathan Johnson isn't retiring. John Turner retired.

Mark Steger said...

Joe Corcoran and Mauri Long, thank you both for your corrections. The post has been updated. I am always grateful for sharp-eyed and helpful readers. ;-)