Political expert: New Texas redistricting maps creates virtually no competitive races in Houston

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After having more than a dozen competitive races in the Houston area in 2020, a Rice University political expert believes the newly approved district maps create virtually no competitive races for next year's election.

STATE LAWMAKERS APPROVE NEW DISTRICT MAPS

State lawmakers wrapped the third special session of 2021 this week. Before they adjourned, they approved new maps for U.S. House, State House and State Senate districts.

Every 10 years, new maps are drawn based on U.S. Census data.

State Senator Paul Bettencourt said lawmakers spent hours listening to Texans before anything was approved.

"There's been dozens of virtual hearings. There's been hearings in-person. These types of hearings have lasted multiple hours over and over. I think that these maps reflect the total number that was given to us by the federal government," Bettencourt said.

Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said, despite the hearings, Republican lawmakers utilized the new maps to maintain power.

"These districts have been tailor-made for the Texas Republican party to protect the seats they have in the U.S. House, Texas Senate and Texas House, and (they) go on the offensive for a couple of seats," Jones explained.

NEW MAPS COULD MEAN A DRAMA FREE 2022 ELECTION NIGHT

In 2020, the Houston area had several close races involving U.S. representatives and State House members. Jones said don't expect that in 2022.

"The only district that's remotely competitive in the Houston area is House district 134, held by Democrat (State Rep.) Ann Johnson," Jones explained. "Even there, Johnson is going to be a real favorite going into the 2022 election."

Jones used voting numbers from the 2020 Supreme Court of Texas races to determine voting with the new maps. He said the Supreme Court races give a good indication of how people vote.

A competitive race, Jones said, means the vote is within 10%.

The new maps, he said, doesn't just create non-competitive races in Houston, but it'll be statewide.

"We have 219 legislative districts in Texas for U.S. House, Texas Senate and Texas House," Jones said. "Of those, only 11 of those look to be competitive as we move into the 2022 election."

IT'S NOT JUST NON-COMPETITION, SOME WORRY THE MAPS DON'T GIVE REPRESENTATION TO COMMUNITIES OF COLOR

Shortly after the maps were approved, a lawsuit was filed by LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.

2020 U.S. Census data shows people of color drove 95% of Texas' population increase. Because of this, attorney Gloria Leal, who represents LULAC, said the new maps should create more opportunities for minority candidates.

Instead, they're worried the election outcome is already determined.

"I'm concerned that this is going to result in suppression of the vote," Leal explained. "People may not want to get out to vote. Even if you do, you may not have opportunity that you had in the past."

Bettencourt disagrees. He said the new Senate map splits a district that could allow Hispanic representation from both parties.

"I'm not really sure what LULAC is aiming on this lawsuit because the Senate map looks like it's actually going to increase Hispanic representation," Bettencourt said.

Gov. Greg Abbott still has to approve the maps.

Even if they're challenged in court, experts said the legal process will take years, so the maps will most likely remained untouched for the next few election cycles.

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