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Court releases new redistricting maps 

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  After nearly four months of legal wrangling, Texas finally has maps. A panel of federal judges in San Antonio today released a plan that looks much like the compromise negotiated between Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Latino Redistricting Task Force earlier this month – interim redistricting maps that were flatly opposed by some minority groups and the Texas Democratic Party. The court didn't ask for comments from parties on the interim maps, meaning unless someone files an appeal these look like the state House, state Senate and congressional maps Texas will use for the 2012 elections (see the map here). The Cliffnotes version of the squabble goes something like this: minority groups challenged the maps churned out by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year saying they all but ignored the state's booming Hispanic population, much of the reason Texas gained four congressional seats this go around. With the federal pre-clearance process, required under the Voting Rights Act, crawling in the courts, the federal three-judge panel in San Antonio drafted interim maps late last year for Texas to use in 2012. That revision, when challenged by the state, went before the U.S. Supreme Court, who sent the lower court panel back to the drawing board saying redistricting is a job for elected leaders, and that the lower court should have adhered more closely to the Lege's maps in drafting an interim plan. The Texas Democratic Party didn't like the last “compromise” touted by state Attorney General Greg Abbott, and it doesn't like this one either. In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the TDP spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said:
We appreciate the court's efforts, but their maps are far from accurate representation. These maps may be slightly better than those passed by a radical legislature but they still grossly misrepresent the demographics of our state. The Texas Democratic Party will continue to support our allies who are fighting to ensure that all communities are accurately represented.”
The interim plan makes a hatchet job of Travis County, splitting the Austin area into no less than five congressional districts. And it reinstates the previous version of Congressional District 35, designed to target Austin's longtime liberal Congressman Lloyd Doggett by pushing him out of his Austin base and into shaky ground: a heavily Hispanic district weighted in San Antonio. (The old interim maps previously drafted by the San Antonio judges gave Doggett back his Austin-based district).

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In a statement Tuesday afternoon, AG Abbott insisted the new interim maps “more accurately reflect the decisions of elected Texas legislators.” Doggett issued his own statement on the map earlier this afternoon:
As an effective advocate for schools, veterans, health care and retirement security, my service fits well with the neighborhoods that have now been joined from South San Antonio to North Austin. I will continue the visits with working families that I already have underway. And I will continue to stand up to Rick Perry and other extremists, whose misguided policies are threatening our families' security.”
Naturally, Doggett's next major campaign event is an April NCAA watch party and fundraiser here in town, hosted by local Democratic Party stalwarts Mikal and Tammy Watts. Former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, who lost to freshman GOP Congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco last election cycle, has already said he'll run in the new District 35 instead of challenging Canseco for his old seat. Shortly after the court issued the new maps, Bexar County Tax Assessor/Collector Sylvia Romo announced she'll also run in the Democratic primary for newly-formed district.

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