The abomination passed out of the Texas Legislature this week is a betrayal of West Texas.
Redistricting has been painted as a way to better reflect Texas voters’ interests. Yet the redistricting map agreed to this week reflects no interests west of Interstate 35.
The map carves U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm’s 17th District, of which Abilene and San Angelo are the population centers, into thirds.
The northern third takes away Jones County (Anson) and several others and pushes them into Amarillo’s 13th District.
The middle third is a snaking, snaggle-toothed smile of a 19th District that encompasses Lubbock and Abilene. It starts at Deaf Smith County just southwest of Amarillo and curves around to Stephens and Young counties, outside of Weatherford.
The bottom third begins in the nation’s least populated county-Loving, located directly beneath New Mexico-and travels eastward, all the way to Llano and Burnett counties, suburbs of Austin.
What an atrocity.
Reapportionment of congressional districts should focus on communities of interest, the relevant laws on such matters state. A member of Congress should represent an area composed of people and interests that are generally cohesive.
In public hearings and closed-door meetings,West Texas public officials told state representatives, state senators, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Gov. Rick Perry and their constituents that they did not want a significant change in their districts.
Perry and Dewhurst instead ignored the citizens here to cater to the interests of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who personally brokered the gerrymandering asininity passed by the Texas Legislature this week.
State House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has his district with Midland as its anchor, but at potentially overwhelming cost.
Stenholm’s power and prestige in Washington as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee cannot be underestimated, especially considering the overall waning influence of America’s farming interests. Yet district lines were drawn to split Stenholm’s house in Abilene and his farm in Stamford.
Communities of interest cannot be served by a district that starts in the cotton-growing South Plains, runs through agricultural Abilene and ends in a growing suburban area.
Abilene residents appear to be out of options. They could vote out their elected officials if Rep. Bob Hunter and Sen. Troy Fraser hadn’t been among the few Republicans in the Legislature to vote against the map.
Instead, we must hope agricultural interests trump city-vs.-city politics. Stenholm has long been a benefit to West Texas, and losing him would be a blow to this region. Redistricting attempts in the past have failed to unseat him; we hope this proves to be equally unsuccessful.