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Between the Lines: Everything’s Bigger in Texas, Even the Opportunities

Texas might very well be the biggest land of opportunity for House candidates in 2012.

Not only is the state gaining four House seats, but there’s also an additional open seat in play after Rep. Ron Paul’s (R) retirement announcement.

The new Congressional map is expected to become law this month, and then the Justice Department must pre-clear it. Texas insiders expect the courts to draw the final lines eventually, but that hasn’t stopped Congressional hopefuls from gearing up to run for the open seats.

“It’s a risk, but it’s a calculated risk. Candidates have to get out there, start raising money, starting putting together an organization knowing that the map, frankly, could change,” said Corbin Casteel, a Republican strategist who works extensively in Texas. “That’s the gamble they take.”

The open 25th district, currently represented by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D), was redrawn to include the area northwest of Austin. Doggett indicated he’ll run in a neighboring, more Democratic district instead. 

Texas Republicans mentioned state Reps. Sid Miller and Jason Isaac as likely GOP candidates to run in this conservative district. Republicans also say Donna Campbell, Doggett’s GOP challenger last cycle, could run for this seat. Conservative activist Bill Burch is also close to announcing a bid.

The ink on the new Congressional map was not even dry before candidates expressed interest in the new 33rd district. Former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and former Secretary of State Roger Williams dropped out of the Senate race to run for this House seat instead.

Mapmakers fidgeted with Eastern Texas’ Congressional boundaries before they settled on the new 36th district. Originally, state Rep. James White (R) expressed interest in the seat, but sources say the final map forced him to reconsider and decline.

State Sen. Mike Jackson, a veteran GOP lawmaker, is strongly considering running for the new 36th district, multiple Texas sources said. Jackson lives in the 36th district, but his legislative district includes much of Paul’s neighboring district — prompting speculation that he could instead run there. Jackson’s disadvantageous geographical base in the 36th district creates an opportunity for a candidate — such as former Pasadena Mayor John Manlove — from the conservative Pasadena area to run against him in the primary. 

Paul’s announcement that he would not seek re-election opens the floodgates for Republicans who have been eyeing the seat for decades. State Rep. Larry Taylor (R) released a statement Tuesday saying he’s been encouraged by supporters to run. In addition to Jackson, Republicans say state Rep. Dennis Bonnen is a potential GOP candidate. 

Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) told the Houston Chronicle he’s considering running for Paul’s seat, although the redrawn 14th district favors a GOP candidate. Former Rep. Steve Stockman (R) also indicated his interest.

There are also two open seats where Democrats are expected to prevail.

Democrats continue to mention state Sen. Eddie Lucio or state Rep. Eddie Lucio — father and son, respectively — as potential candidates in the 34th district, although both have indicated they’re not interested.

Meanwhile, two big-name Democrats are already running in the new 35th district, which stretches from southern Austin to San Antonio. Doggett and state Rep. Joaquin Castro will face off there.

“You have a Latino and an Anglo squaring off, but some will see it [as] a generational race,” said Democratic consultant Matt Angle, a veteran of Texas politics. “Someone will see it as a choice between looking forward and looking back.”

Nevada: Judge Rules Nonpartisan Panel to Draw New Lines

A state court judge ruled Tuesday that Nevada’s new Congressional lines will be drawn by a panel of nonpartisan officials, a decision made after the state Legislature was unable to agree on a map.

According to the Associated Press, the judge suggested the panel be made up of registrars from Clark and Washoe counties, Carson City and an official from the Legislative Counsel Bureau who has experience working with computer map-drawing software. Lawyers for the two parties were given until July 20 to offer their own panel suggestions and raise concerns they might have about the process, the AP reported.

“I don’t want anybody with political agendas,” Judge James Russell said.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval previously vetoed two Democratic proposals to redraw the lines and declined to call a special session for the two sides to come together again.

California: Members Resigned to Visualizing New Lines

The 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission is not releasing a second round of draft maps this week.

Instead, the commission will continue to release map “visualizations,” which are proposed options for districts that are considered and discussed by the commission. The decision was made so the commission can “produce the best district maps possible,” according to a release.

The final maps for state legislative and Congressional lines are scheduled to be released July 28. The commission will then adopt the maps Aug. 15.

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