Jul 18, 2022 - Politics

Texas swing districts become more partisan

Data: The Cook Political Report; Chart: Jared Whalen and Baidi Wang/Axios
Data: The Cook Political Report; Chart: Jared Whalen and Baidi Wang/Axios

The Lone Star State is home to nine of the 17 former swing districts that are now more favorable for Republicans after redistricting, according to the new 2022 Cook Partisan Voter Index and analysis from Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman.

Why it matters: Republicans had the power to draw maps in more states than Democrats did, including in Texas, helping them solidify U.S. congressional seats they hold and potentially pick up more in November, writes Axios' Stef W. Kight.

Zoom in: Central Texas has three of the swing districts that were redrawn to be more partisan.

  • The analysis predicts the 31st Congressional District, which stretches from Round Rock to Temple, will be nine points more Republican. GOP incumbent John Carter, who is seeking re-election, narrowly defeated retired Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar in 2018. Carter widened his lead two years later, defeating tech engineer Donna Imam by nine points.
  • Democrats have long eyed the 21st Congressional District, currently represented by Hays County Republican Chip Roy, but the district has shifted nine points more Republican. In 2020, Roy defeated former state Sen. Wendy Davis by 6.6 points in a closely watched race for the district that stretches from Central Austin to San Antonio.
  • Finally, the 10th Congressional District moved nine points further to the right. That's a good sign for incumbent Michael McCaul, an Austin Republican seeking his 10th term in the district that stretches from Northwest Austin to the Houston suburbs.

By the numbers: Seven competitive seats, including three in Texas, were drawn to be more favorable for Democrats. All of them are now too Democratic-leaning to be considered swing districts, according to Cook's criteria.

  • Wasserman points out that even those bluer seats were drawn mostly to allow for more solidly Republican seats nearby.

Between the lines: Austin gained a new safely Democratic congressional district under the recently redrawn maps to shore up the re-election chances of Republican incumbents like Roy, Carter and McCaul, who all occupy gerrymandered districts that include parts of the city and its suburbs.

  • The state's new map was graded an "F" by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and RepresentUs, which found that the districts aren't geographically compact and have "more county splits than typical."

The big picture: Texas leans five points more Republican, according to this year's report.

  • Yes, but: Texas is far from the reddest state on the map. Wyoming, for example, is 25 points more Republican — the highest of any right-leaning states.
  • Residents in neighboring Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma are also more likely to vote Republican than those in the Lone Star State.

The bottom line: After redistricting, the number of hyper-competitive U.S. House seats declined from 51 to 45 — Cook Political Report's lowest count ever.


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