House District 105 is Gerrymandered but Diversifying. Will Republicans Eke Out Another Win?

Rodney Anderson, Terry Meza
Rodney Anderson, Terry Meza Courtesy/Facebook
Rodney Anderson, Terry Meza
Rodney Anderson, Terry Meza Courtesy/Facebook

In the last decade, Democrats have come within a few percentage points of winning House District 105 in the Dallas suburbs three times. In 2008, the year of the last blue wave in Texas fueled by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Democrat Bob Romano, who had no party support and little name recognition, came within 20 votes of toppling Republican incumbent Linda Harper-Brown. If Romano had won, Republicans and Democrats would have split the Texas House, 75 seats to 75 seats. Instead, the GOP maintained narrow control. In 2012, the Democratic challenger lost to Harper-Brown by just 1.8 points. And in 2016, Democrat Terry Meza, an attorney and fourth-generation resident of Irving, lost to GOP incumbent Rodney Anderson by just 64 votes — 0.26 percent of the vote.

Meza is back again this year fighting for Anderson’s seat and she has good reason to be hopeful. Hillary Clinton won the district by more than 8 percentage points in 2016. HD 105, which covers Irving and Grand Prairie in Dallas County, is becoming one of the most diverse in the state; only about a third of its residents are white.

But Democrats have performed poorly in midterm elections, and Meza is far from a shoo-in. Like most of Texas, the turnout in HD 105 is abysmally low. That’s particularly true of midterms, when about half as many voters turn up to the polls compared to general elections.

The two candidates have clashed over property taxes and Medicaid expansion, and Meza has criticized Anderson for supporting a state budget in 2017 that underfunds public schools. Anderson, who was first elected to the Texas House in 2010, is backed by Empower Texans, the uber-conservative group run by Republican gadfly Michael Quinn Sullivan. Anderson was categorized in a vote-crunching analysis as one of the more conservative GOP members of the House last year.

A four-term incumbent, Anderson has been able to pull in a healthy sum of money. As of early October, he had raised $111,000 with $61,000 on hand, while Meza raised $60,000 and has $31,000 remaining.

HD 105 may be gerrymandered enough to insulate Anderson from Meza’s second challenge. Last year, a three-judge panel found that some Texas House districts were illegally drawn to reduce the voting power of minorities. The judges wrote “that map drawers improperly used race to make HD 103 and HD 104 more Hispanic and HD 105 more Anglo to protect an Anglo Republican.” But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against redrawing HD 105 earlier this year.

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Naveena Sadasivam is a staff writer covering the environment, energy and climate change at Grist. She previously covered environmental issues at the Texas Observer, InsideClimate News and ProPublica. At ProPublica, she was part of a team that reported on the water woes of the West, a project that was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting. She has a degree in chemical engineering and a master’s in environmental and science reporting from New York University and was a 2017 Ida B. Wells fellow at Type Investigations. You can contact her at [email protected] and follow her work on Twitter.

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