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Carving up the territories Austin The 62nd Legislature, recalled in special session to complete congressional redistricting, breezed through its work in four days. When it adjourned on Friday, June 4, it had sent to Gov. Preston Smith a plan dividing the state into 24 districts which outraged some \(mostly urban mostly feeling that it could have been worse. Despite the popular assumption that the legislators must have been scheming, each to his own advantage, with a bevy of computers and sophisticated census figures revealing esoteric patterns of voting behavior, the truth was that the work was done more in the manner of Nineteenth Century European diplomats carving up colonial territories around a table. If the courts find that the populations adequately conform to the one-man-one-vote ideal of 466,530, the bill may dictate the pattern of congressional representation in Texas until 1980. It creates three new districts without incumbents: District 2 in Deep East Texas, essentially John Dowdy’s old district with his home county, Henderson, removed; District 24, a masterpiece of contortion comprising Denton County and assorted bits and pieces of Dallas and Tarrant; and District 18, a compact, central-city district in Houston. CANDIDATES ARE beginning to line up for the vacant seats. State Sen. Charles Wilson of Lufkin is already running for District 2. Attorney Benton Musselwhite and Secretary of State Martin Dies, Jr., are mentioned as his possible challengers. District 18 seems tailor-made for Sen. Barbara Jordan. Dallas County Commissioner Jesse Price has announced for District 24, although Tommy Vandergriff, the long-time mayor of Arlington who has been active in the Turnpike Stadium and Six Flags projects, is given the best chance of winning. In two districts, incumbent congressmen must run against each other. Conservative Graham Purcell must face Republican Bob Price in a district which favors Price. Dowdy, ill and under indictment for bribery, has been tossed unceremoniously into a district dominated by Wright Patman. Two of the three seats now held by Republicans appear secure, and Price’s is clearly winnable. Beyond that, new Republican party executive director Jim Kane has his work cut out for him. Only in appear that the two-story system has a fighting chance. WHEN THE HOUSE and Senate conferees finally met in special session to hammer out the boundary lines, Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes dominated their activity. Speaker Gus Mutscher came in late wearing a dinner jacket, and, in the words of one House member, “seemed bumfuzzled by the whole operation.” Barnes’ professed goal was to preserve the Texas delegation’s seniority by assuring safe seats for the important incumbents. Such matters as balanced urban-rural representation and community of interest within districts took second place to this goal, if, indeed, they figured in his thinking at all. Consequently, urban legislators who had insisted that the line-drawing should begin in the cities and work outward were rebuffed. Four major urban counties were chopped up to “flesh out” rural districts. Bexar County, where the population justified almost two full congressional seats, got one; the remaining residents were divided almost equally between Fisher’s and Chuck Kazen’s districts. Indeed, it could scarcely have been otherwise, if the basic objective was to guarantee seats for incumbents from San Angelo and Laredo. Dallas County, which was within 75,000 of having enough population for three full districts, got two. A hundred thousand persons were assigned to “Tiger” Teague, who lives in Bryan, 26,000 to Ray Roberts of McKinney, and the rest to the Denton County district. Five congressmen will have a share of Dallas. Ector County was sliced in two to flesh out the districts of Robert White and George Mahon. Tarrant County’s excess population, which could have dominated a second district, was scattered between the Denton district and “Tiger” Teague. Only in Harris County were the lines drawn outward from the city. Bob Casey’s south Houston district needed 160,000 extra persons; they came from outlying Fort Bend and Brazoria counties. EVEN IF balanced urban-rural representation is unlikely as long as the aim is to perpetuate incumbents in office, there is no reason that the district lines could not have been drawn to insure some basic community of interest within them. Economic or social similarities may be more important to insure full representation from mere numerical equality. A small identifiable minority within a district may have no influence at all on a representative’s decisions. About the best that can be said for the new plan is that, on this score, it is probably no worse than the present one. But that is not saying much. home county, Brazos, and snakes northward, one county wide, until it takes in the suburbs of both Dallas and Fort Worth. The Dallas and Tarrant county portions are not ever adjacent to one another. the Trans-Pecos and the Hill Country in search of voters until it discovers northwest San Antonio and gobbles up 200,000 urban residents. again combines two major port cities, Galveston and Beaumont, whose interests are fundamentally adverse. What they both want in the form of federal aid Beaumont gets. By contrast, District 22 counties instead of the much more logical Galveston county, which has a genuine community of interest with the southern part of Harris. Galveston’s residents are injured by having a congressman whose first loyalty is to their rival, Beaumont, while Fort Bend and Brazoria county residents’ influence is virtually nil in a district dominated by urban Houstonians. Shape is not always a reliable guide to community of interest, but several of the new districts give cause for suspicion. oddest products of the cartographer’s art, resembling a backwards “C” \(to avoid with various tentacles and appendages poking into the soft underbelly of Deep East Texas. One of these is Henderson County, which barely connects with the other 20 counties across a four-mile stretch of Lake Palestine. District 24 can be appreciated only by pasting together detailed maps of Dallas and Tarrant counties as incredulous House members entertained themselves by doing during the debate. It includes Arlington and Grand Prairie, but not Irving. It includes part of Oak Cliff, but nothing north, south, or east of it, and damn little west of it. It reaches up to include all of Denton County, but only by virtue of what must surely be the thinnest spine of land ever to bestow contiguity on a Texas congressional district a strip of western Dallas county no wider than a single census tract. THE TWO BIGGEST fights in the redistricting battle took place in widely separated regions the east Texas Gulf Coast area, and the Panhandle. In the former, the real conflicting interests were Senators Jordan, Wilson and Babe Schwartz, along with Congressmen Jack Brooks and Bob Eckhardt, and, to a lesser extent, Rep. Clyde Haynes. But Haynes’ goal a Deep East Texas district without Angelina County, the heart of the region was obviously impossible from the beginning. The others’ problem was more complex. Schwartz, the senior Senate liberal, had July 2, 1971 13