Republicans performed better among Hispanics in Texas in the 2010 elections than they did in several other states with sizable Hispanic populations. Gov. Rick Perry took 38 percent of the vote last year, better than other Republicans in recent years, and the GOP picked up two House seats in majority-Hispanic districts.
Republicans under former Rep. Tom DeLay effectively re-redistricted the state in the middle of the decade, tearing apart districts Democrats had carefully drawn to protect their "WD-40s"--white Democrats over 40. The plan was a big success for Republicans: The delegation went from 17-15 Democrat earlier in the decade to 21-11 Republican in 2004. Republicans now hold 23 of the 32 House seats after picking up three districts in the 2010 wave election, and Democrats hold only one House seat where whites make up more than a quarter of the district's population. Forty-two of the 49 Democratic state representatives are minorities.
Republicans in control of redistricting this time around may struggle to do better than break even. Two Republican freshmen, Reps. Blake Farenthold and Francisco (Quico) Canseco, come from heavily Hispanic districts that voted for Pres. Obama. It will be especially hard to shore up Farenthold, who won by a narrow margin and is surrounded by mostly Democratic territory.
"Over the last several months people in both parties saying a 2-2 split would be pretty good," said Seliger. "That's fine as a theoretical assertion, okay. But if we were to do that it has to be fair to the areas involved, it's got to be legal."