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The Brief: Nov. 18, 2011

Revised voting maps released Thursday may have handed Democrats what's become the rarest of rarities for the party in Texas: a significant victory.

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The Big Conversation:

Revised voting maps released Thursday may have handed Democrats what's become the rarest of rarities for the party in Texas: a significant victory.

On Thursday, a panel of federal judges in San Antonio proposed new redistricting maps for the Texas House and Senate that could potentially give Democrats several more seats in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Under the new maps, which will remain in effect while a D.C.-based court examines whether the original Republican-drawn plan meets federal voting rights standards, Democrats stand to gain at least a handful of seats in the House, many in the Houston area. As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, the new lines — which await final approval from the court — give Houston Democrats Hubert Vo and Scott Hochberg their own districts, instead combining Republican Beverly Woolley's district into fellow Republican Jim Murphy's. The revisions may have also created a new Hispanic district in Harris County.

The new maps also shift two incumbent Republicans into the same district in the Corpus Christi area, draw Hispanic majorities in every district in El Paso County, create a minority-coalition district in Central Texas and add a district in the Hidalgo/Cameron County area.

"This is significantly more than we were able to accomplish on the floor," state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the San Antonio Democrat who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, told the Tribune.

On the Senate side, Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, appears to have regained much of her current district, which Republicans had chopped up in the original maps, which the Legislature passed earlier this year. "The Senate map is a big win for Fort Worth and for Wendy Davis," said Matt Angle of the Democratic Lone Star Project. "She has a chance to replicate that [2008] coalition in 2012 and probably will. She clearly from a political standpoint is the winner here."

Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose office is defending the Republican-drawn maps, declined to comment on the revisions. "We have received the court's proposed interim maps and are reviewing them and working to prepare a response as requested by the court," she said in an email.

Culled:

  • The federal government dealt Texas Republicans another setback on Thursday when the Justice Department informed the state that its election officials haven't provided enough demographic information about the recently passed voter ID law. The department requested that the state furnish information on the racial breakdown and counties of residence of voters in the state who lack ID, as well as how many of them have Spanish surnames, but the state has said it does not request such race data on voter registration applications. The ruling throws into doubt the law's implementation date of Jan. 1. “I am disappointed,” state Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, who sponsored the bill in the House, told the San Antonio Express-News. “I don't know that the secretary of state can provide the information in the format that they want. I am not sure that we will be able to satisfy them. I think it's ridiculous.”
  • In a look at Rick Perry's recent attacks on President Barack Obama, The New York Times says some of the governor's jabs have "drifted into the realm of falsehood." A Perry ad released Wednesday, for instance, slammed Obama for recently saying that Americans have "been a little bit lazy," but as the Times notes, Obama's remarks were directed at foreign investment, not Americans at large.
  • The Times also writes today that the U.S. Senate candidacy of conservative darling Ted Cruz may test the power of Tea Party forces in 2012. Cruz appears to have captured the anti-establishment conservative fervor that put Marco Rubio of Florida into office in 2010, and his personal story and deep free-market roots may help him mount a similar winning strategy in 2012.

"Well, he did ask if I could debate here in Washington on Monday. It is my understanding that the letter has come in. Monday, I’m going to be in Portland in the morning. I’m going to be visiting some of our labs in California in the afternoon. That’s two. I can’t remember what the third thing is." — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday in response to Rick Perry's debate challenge

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