While a lot of attention has been paid by the media recently to how redistricting will affect the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats, there has not been much focus on how Republican leadership is using redistricting to punish members of their own party.
Throughout the most recent Texas legislative session (and special sessions), freshman State Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) has proven himself to be a thorn in the side of House leadership, and is consistently ranked by conservative organizations as one of the most conservative members in the house. Cason is a disrupter, and a passionate advocate for the causes in which he believes, very much in the mold of his predecessor, Jonathan Stickland.
Cason was also one of only two members who did not vote for Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).
Apparently, Cason has raised the ire of House leadership so much that they are planning to redraw his currently light red district into one that is deep blue. After spending all summer castigating the Democrats for breaking quorum and fleeing the state to block an election reform bill (which eventually passed anyways), House Republican leadership is now giving them an extra seat.
“The map released doesn’t target a single Democrat, it targets me, the most conservative Republican representative in Tarrant County,” Cason said in a statement, calling the proposed redistricting maps “an assault on grassroots conservatives” and an “insult to voters”.
“We currently have 3 Democrat districts in Tarrant but Republicans have decided to reward the quorum busting Democrats with another Democrat colleague by drawing my District as a 4th blue District in Tarrant,” Cason explained. “Secondly, Matt Krause is running for Attorney General which provided an opportunity to give each Republican incumbent a red district, but instead, an open seat was created while my district was turned blue.”
Cason said that he was not shown the map prior to it being released to the public. However, he was told by several colleagues in the House that senior members of Tarrant County’s legislative delegation had met with the chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) to discuss the plans.
“Let me be clear,” said Cason. “These maps were created with the approval of [State Reps.] Craig Goldman and Stephanie Klick. They are two top chairmen and have the most pull in Tarrant County. We can only surrender a seat to Democrats and punish the most conservative Representative in Tarrant if they allow it. Unfortunately, it appears they planned it this way.”
The reason? “I am not a Republican who allows myself to be controlled by leadership, my vote belongs to you and not them. They reward members who give away their votes to leadership instead of independently representing the values of their voters,” says Cason.
Cason apparently wasn’t the only one of the lower chamber’s most right-leaning members to fall victim to redistricting. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) is being drawn into the same district as State Rep. Terry Wilson (R-Marble Falls). Biedermann has also been consistently ranked as one of the House’s most conservative members who hasn’t always voted with leadership.
However, it would appear that the maps are not checkmate Biedermann: soon after the plans were release he announced that he owns a home in a new neighboring open district (which will contain much of his old district). Biedermann could change his residency to the other home and run in the open district.
State Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton) also found himself drawn into a new district in the proposed maps. If the plan goes through, he would have to run against State Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond). Although Stephenson is actually not one of the most conservative members of the House, he hasn’t always necessarily stood lockstep with GOP leadership. He was on former speaker Dennis Bonnen’s 10 member hit list.
In our reporting on the proposed congressional maps, Texas Citizen Journal has documented how the new Congressional District 8 is being drawn by GOP leadership to deliberately exclude State Rep. Steve Toth (R-Conroe) from running to replace retiring Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX). Toth’s residence and entire state house district are being moved into Dan Crenshaw’s Congressional District 2. It is widely known that Toth is interested in running for the open CD-08, however, GOP leadership is clearly trying to block him from doing so.
“Montgomery County residents are taking it on the chin from Harris county and DC politicians,” said Toth. “We stand to lose influence in both Congressional District 8 and CD 2. CD 8 is currently a predominantly Montgomery County district. But not if DC politicians get their way.”
None of the maps are final at this time. They must be approved by both houses of the legislature. The maps are still subject to tweaking. However, house leadership has expressed their intentions pretty clearly: protection of favored Republican incumbents and retaliation against Republicans who vote independently and don’t take orders from leadership.
“Instead of working to ensure Republicans win more elections and more seats in the Texas House, they worked in favor of Democrats to box out a conservative,” said Cason.
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