Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom Delay

By Steve Bickerstaff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
The Dilemma for Racial- and Ethnic-Minority
Lawmakers and Advocacy Organizations

I know I'm going to upset some Democrats with this, but there are things about
redistricting worth supporting. I would have to look closely.

— STATE REPRESENTATIVE HAROLD DUTTON, MAY 27, 2003

Since most African American and Hispanic voters continue to vote for Democratic candidates in Texas, it sometimes is difficult for minority lawmakers and advocacy groups to escape criticism that their choices in redistricting are driven by partisan interests. In reality, most minority lawmakers and minorityadvocacy organizations confront an ongoing quandary of how best to support the Democratic Party and be properly responsive to their constituents and their advocacy mission.

The redistricting process in 2003 posed serious dilemmas for the minorityadvocacy groups, especially the Hispanic organizations. Hispanic groups had not obtained in 2001 the increase in Hispanic-majority districts in the Texas congressional delegation that they thought should accompany the Hispanic population growth that occurred between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. Some of the blame was placed on the Democratic Party's fight to protect its Anglo incumbents. In 2003, these organizations saw a new opportunity to achieve this increase in Hispanic political opportunity, but the adversary had become the Republican Party.

For minority lawmakers, the dilemma was an old one—are the interests of a minority community better served by a redistricting plan that draws the maximum number of districts in which the minority group is likely to control the outcome of an election, or by a plan that gives the minority group the greatest influence on the decision making of the legislative body at stake? Although an old dilemma, it took on added significance in 2003 as the number of minority Democratic elected officials had increased, while the number of Democratic

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