Texas should be playing a role in Republican politics this year as big as, well, Texas. The fast-growing state – the most populous by far in the Republican column – has four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a big U.S. Senate race and more than a 10th of the delegates who will choose the party’s presidential nominee. But a racially tinged dispute over redrawing its congressional districts has delayed the Texas primary by almost three months, complicated the U.S. Senate and House contests and altered the race for the White House. A San Antonio court pushed Texas’ primary back to May 29 from March 6 after complaints that a new electoral map drawn by Republicans violated the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of blacks and Latinos. Three of Texas’ four new U.S. House seats were created in areas dominated by whites, even though Hispanics and blacks accounted for 90 percent of Texas’ population growth since 2000.
The battle sets white Republicans, who have firmly established political control in Texas within the past decade, against rising and strongly Democratic Hispanic and black populations, whose leaders argue that they are being unfairly denied an equal voice in state politics. The stakes are high both for 2012, when the White House and control of the U.S. Congress are up for grabs, and longer term, when a rapidly growing Hispanic population is expected eventually to disadvantage Republicans and benefit Democrats.
“Republicans can work that racial solidarity thing for a while, but in the end, they’ve got to do better than 35 percent of the Hispanic vote or their election prospects are not great,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.