WACO/COLLEGE STATION, TX — Re-redistricting…. experts call it a topic that goes right to the very foundation of American Democracy.
It’s partly why Texas lawmakers have twice fled the state to prevent changes over who gets to vote for who, and hit’s had a lasting impact on Central Texas.
Young Latino Voter Carlos Espina has always kept an eye on politics.
“The district that i’ve always grew up in which is Texas district 17.The past 10 years they were represented by Bill Flores he retired, and now we have Pete Sessions…But in the last four years that bill Flores was an office is he was so secure that he didn’t even have town hall he didn’t have any meeting greets eating he just stayed away from public eye because he knew he didn’t have to.”
Congressman Flores explains, Espina might not have seen him as much… because Espina was looking in the wrong places. Flores says he switched to an electronic, 21’st century format in 2017 which resulted in the inclusion of tens of thousands of voters in his meetings, instead of the hundreds who attended in person.
He says, surveys continued to show more than 70 percent of his constituents preferred the electronic format which allowed him to answer 50 percent more questions, at a lower taxpayer cost than the in-person events.
Even so, Congressman Flores says he maintained a heavy in-district schedule of public appearances at workplaces, schools, veteran’s events and even scout awards. He says COVID slowed those in person appearances, as it did for EVERYONE.
Still, many called Flores’ district, one “safe” for Republicans.
One of the things a lawsuit filed against the Republic of Texas, by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund aims to change.
“It is the goal of the Hispanic community organizations I represent, to create that level playing field so that Latino voters can vote for whoever they want,” said Nina Perales of MALDEF.
MALDEF wants competitive districts instead of what it calls “Gerrymandered” Republican Safe Spaces.
Republicans who currently run Texas politics, fire back, they did their work “by the book”
“We’ ve got to play by these rules so lets play by these rules so I believe that’s more in line with this particular legislative session and the drawing of the boundaries than in the past,” said Jon Ker, of the Texas Republican Executive Committee.
But Central Texas and the Brazos valley are no strangers to the “cut and paste”of redistricting.
If you take a good, close look at Central Texas and add the Brazos valley you notice a kind of solar system. Yes, we all revolve around Texas … but look closer and you’ll see different parts of central Texas have orbits that appear to pull us apart rather an bring us together.
for instance, Waco seems in many cases of government and business to orbit around Dallas and Fort Worth the way Ganymede orbits Jupiter.
Temple and Killeen, an hour or less from the Capitol in Austin orbit that area.
And the Brazos Valley, including Bryan and College Station have more in common with Houston than any other part of Texas.
but in a quirk of redistricting, , Waco and Bryan – College Station ended up together. How did THAT Happen? Former Texas lawmaker John Mabry watched it happen.
“for over 100 years McClennan and bell county and Coryell County were in the same Congressional district, but in the early 2000s when the Republicans took complete control of the state they decided to re-district more than once in a decade, which was relatively unprecedented,” he said.
It’s why he and other Democrats high-tailed it to Oklahoma, sound familiar? in a bid to stop the process, that only delayed it.
The aim? Mabry says Republicans wanted long-time, up to then unbeatable, conservative Democrat Chet Edwards out.
Eventually it worked and voters in the new Waco to College Station district elected Bill Flores. A move, Democrat Mabry says, put the regions in competition.
“With the addition of our newest we do have a State REP who’s from McLennan County but we’ve gone from four to two that’s a loss of power by any calculation,” said Mabry.
But an improvement over the previous 4 to 1.
Oh, and that congressman he mentioned? None other than Waco native Pete Sessions… who came into congress representing the north Dallas suburbs in the 1990’s on the heels of a redistricting… and then years later losing to Former Tennessee Titans Linebacker Collin Allred in what reports still call a “population shift”. Sessions returned to his Waco roots and sailed back to the U.S. Capitol, replacing Bill Flores…
Which brings us back to the push-me-pull-you of Waco and College Station. Mabry says Waco didn’t benefit from Flores for whom the party had created a “safe” district, but one which tended to create allegiance issues. While Flores seemed to successfully straddle those issues, Espina says, he and voters like him in the Brazos valley didn’t get what they expected either.
” Either way, like, no matter what happens i’m going to win the district, so I think that’s the hard part of the system we’ve created where people representatives don’t even have to engage with their district anymore, because it’s so secure, and I think very having districts that are very competitive is a good thing for democracy, because then it encourages more debate or more dialogue” he said.
….Something Republicans say redistricting will bring, and what MALDEF says, its lawsuit will get us… as That debate and dialogue continue.
If you don’t think any to this affects you, You’ll want to check your mailbox.
Election officials have sent out new voter registration cards. Take a close look to see what’s changed, ahead of the March First Primary
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