Most congressional districts in Texas have been drawn so the winner is determined in the primary election, not the general.
The districts were purposely drawn by the Republican-dominated Legislature to maximize Republican representation, and packing as many Democrats as possible into each Democratic district.
There is one exception: District 23, the sprawling West Texas district that is larger than several states. Since 2010, it has gone from Democrat to Republican and back in every general election.
The current occupant is Republican Will Hurd, a former CIA officer. His Democratic opponent in 2016 is Democrat Pete Gallego, who Hurd had unseated in 2014.
One reason the district see-saws back and forth is that the Legislature’s map was re-drawn by a three-judge federal court in 2006.
That came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature shifting thousands of Democratic voters into another district, and replacing them with Republicans to help Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla, violated the federal Voting Rights Act.
Former Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez then upset Bonilla in a 2006 special election, and was re-elected in 2008.
In 2010, Rodriguez was beaten by Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco.
But in 2012, longtime Democratic state Rep. Gallego beat Rodriguez in the Democratic primary, and went on to unseat Canseco.
Since 2008, Democrats have won the 23rd in presidential election years, but lost to Republicans in non-presidential years, when turnout drops by about 40 percent.
Democrat Gallego, for instance, beat Canseco in 2012, a presidential year, with 50.3 percent to 45.6 percent. The total turnout was 192,169 voters.
But in 2014, when Republican Hurd took on Gallego, the number of voters dropped 40 percent from 2012, to 115,429. Hurd got 49.8 percent of the lowered total, to 47.7 percent for Gallego.
The district is 70 percent Hispanic, and Texas Hispanics lean heavily Democratic – when they vote.
Gallego obviously hopes a presidential election year turnout generates enough additional Democratic voters to unseat Hurd – an African-American, and the first non-Hispanic to represent the district in its current configuration.
If Gallego wins, and there are no surprise upsets, the Texas delegation to the U.S. House will return to 24 Republicans and 12 Democrats from the current 25-11.
We’ll see in November.
Minus “Muslim” Molly. . . . State Rep. Molly White of Belton, the freshman Republican from Central Texas House District 55, was made infamous last year by what some colleagues thought was insulting Muslims.
On Texas Muslim Capitol Day in late January of 2015, White displayed an Israeli flag in her office, and told staffers to ask visitors to “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”
That raised some hackles around the capitol. It also helped raise the interest of Hugh Shine of Temple in reclaiming the seat he’d held from late 1986 until 1991.
Shine, who left for an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1990, won a squeaker Republican primary by 118 votes.
White, suspicious of irregularities, paid for a recount. Shine’s edge dropped to 104 votes, but he still won.
No Democrat filed in the heavily Republican district, so Shine will replace White in January.
Trump Junior? . . . While many mainstream Republicans fear damage Donald Trump’s presidential bid might cause their party nationally, Republicans in Travis County, home of the Texas Capitol, have the same concerns about their newly elected county party chairman.
Robert Morrow, known for scatological and conspiracy-theory charges on social media and elsewhere, got 55 percent against incumbent James Dickey.
Morrow didn’t campaign or spend any money. He credits his win to his name being first on the ballot.
Morrow’s allegations include Lyndon Johnson having John F. Kennedy assassinated, the Clintons and Bushes involved in organized crime, and some Texas Republican politicians had secret homosexual affairs.
County chairman duties? Morrow, at a recent precinct meeting, said he’s “very concerned about keeping the nuts-and-bolts operation of the Travis County Republican Party going as it always has.”
“However,” he added, “I will oppose any Republican candidates who I think are criminals or murderers, or rapists or CIA drug smugglers. . . . I will continue to savagely attack and tell the truth about the corroded political scum in the Republican Party, just as I have told the truth about the Clintons.”
Meanwhile, local Republican officials, and even Gov. Greg Abbott, hope to wire around the outspoken Morrow.
Legal eagles say there’s no way to oust Morrow absent a felony conviction or retirement, the county party’s vice-chairman, Mack Mackowiak, is trying to find one.
Abbott’s office issued a statement: “Robert Morrow in no way speaks for the Republican Party or its values. He cannot adequately represent the Travis County GOP.”