Partisan Politics and Redistricting in Texas
The history of electoral politics in Texas during the latter half of the twentieth
century can best be described as the story of the dominance, decline, and eventual
eclipse of the Democratic Party as the state's majority party.
—HENDERSON V. PERRY (2005)
The extraordinary events of 2003 in Texas are best understood against the background of the history of partisan politics in Texas. For over 100 years, from the 1870s until the 1980s, the Democratic Party dominated congressional, state, and local elections in the state. A victory by a candidate in the Democratic Party primary was tantamount to winning election to office. Rarely, if at all, were Democratic candidates seriously opposed in any general election.
A sprinkling of Republicans began winning congressional and state legislative seats in the 1960s, but they were a feeble minority, subject to domination by Democratic elected officials on all partisan issues and to potential discrimination in the drawing of congressional and state legislative district lines. For the Republican Party, the chance to flex its power over redistricting in 2003 presented a time for payback.
The Republican Party did not exist as an official organization in Texas until 1867, although the provisional governor (A. J. Hamilton) appointed by President Andrew Johnson in 1865 was a Republican.1 Under President Johnson there were few restrictions on voting or office holding by former Confederates. African American Texans, however, were still unable to vote. As a result, Democrat J. W. Throckmorton (a Unionist) was elected governor of Texas in