Texas's state's rapid population growth netted it four new congressional seats in reapportionment this cycle, and about two-thirds of the 4.3 million people Texas added from 2000 to 2010 were Hispanic. Yet the Lone Star State isn't really guaranteed more than one new Hispanic representative in Congress, and you could argue that that Gulf Coast/Mexican border district should have had one already. The lack of real guaranteed gain in Hispanic representation in Texas is an interesting case study for the difficulties standing before the Hispanic community as it tries to translate growing numbers into political influence, and I took a look at why in this week's National Journal magazine:
The reasons why Hispanic representation isn't expected to surge are sometimes peculiar to individual congressional districts. The new 34th District, situated along the Gulf Coast and the Mexican border, will almost certainly elect a Hispanic Democrat, but the area by all rights should have had Hispanic representation anyway--Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold, who is not Hispanic, won one of the flukiest GOP victories of 2010 there in a low-turnout affair against 14-term Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz. The new majority-Latino 35th District, stretching from Austin to San Antonio, is the nominal home of a popular, longtime fixture in Texas politics, nine-term Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who also is not Hispanic.
The 33rd District, in Dallas and Fort Worth, is the only real new minority district in Texas, and it represents Hispanics' best hope to elect one of their own. Nearly two-thirds of the district's population is Hispanic, something former state Rep. Domingo Garcia hopes to leverage in the May 29 Democratic primary. But that advantage is not what it seems: Narrow the district's population to voting-age citizens, and the Hispanic share drops to about 39 percent, according to Census Bureau estimates. Narrow it again to registered voters with Spanish surnames, and it drops again, to 34 percent. Given historic turnout trends, the percentage of Hispanics will likely be even lower than 34 percent when voters go to the polls.
NJ subscribers can read the full piece here.