January 04, 2006

New CD22 vs. old CD22

I've seen lots of partisan bickering back and forth about whether Tom DeLay's district was strengthened or weakened in the redistricting for the 2004 Texas Congressional maps. So hopefully I can set the record straight.

In 2004, Tom DeLay won 55%-41%. He substantially underperformed Bush, who won CD22 64%-36%.

In 2002 (the old district), DeLay won 63%-35%.

However, in the parts of old CD22 that are in the new CD22, DeLay won 74,243 - 39684 in 2002. The parts of the new CD22 that were NOT in the old CD22 were in old CD25 (Chris Bell v. Tom Reiser) and old CD9 (Paul Williams v. Nick Lampson). Those parts voted 19,160 Republican to 17,850 Democratic in 2002. Meanwhile the parts of old CD22 that are NOT in new CD22 voted 26,256R - 16,032 Democratic in 2002.

Confused yet? OK, I'll make it as simple as I can.

New parts of CD22 voted 51.8% GOP in 2002 congressional races, and 49.6% GOP in 2000 congressional races. The parts DeLay gave up in new CD22: 62.1% GOP in 2002 congressional races, and 56.2% GOP in 2000 congressional races.

The bottom line: DeLay's new district is about 2-3% less Republican than it used to be. Redistricting removed areas that voted around 60% GOP and added areas that vote around 50% GOP.

Admittedly, the sample size is small, because I could only easily find data from the 2002 and 2000 congressional races. However, I don't know of any reason to think that the 2002 and 2000 congressional races should have produced odd results.

Based on numbers alone, there isn't much support for claims that DeLay's new district is significantly less Republican than his old district. There is absolutely no support for claims that redistricting strengthened DeLay's district. Anyone who claims that is flatout wrong.

DeLay substantially underperformed his district in 2004 by about 7%. This isn't too surprising, because DeLay had just been admonished by the House Ethics Committee in the month before the election.

However, DeLay may have a valid claim, because about 30% of the new CD22 is new to him. Most of those 30% are over in southeastern Harris County, which isn't familiar with Tom DeLay. Most of the new 30% of voters are likely to only know DeLay through Houston Chronicle/Houston TV news. Depending on the reporter in that particular cycle, I think unsympathetic would be a reasonable description of the Chronicle's news coverage of DeLay. However, the Chronicle's editorial coverage would probably be best described as openly hostile. That's actually rare: generally, newspapers are supportive of local House leaders because they wield great influence for the local metro region and state.

So, DeLay's district is less Republican, but where DeLay is really hurt by the new district is that almost 1/3 of his current district wasn't very familiar with him in 2004. Still, the powers of incumbency are appreciably greater the longer you've represented an area, and DeLay hasn't represented this new section very long, leaving those areas more likely to split their tickets.

UPDATE: Welcome Chron opinion readers! This blog (main page is here) is just getting started, so if you're interested in hearing about the latest on the CD22 race, then bookmark us and come on back soon.

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