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First Texas U.S. House map redraw reduces number of majority-minority districts

GOP’s initial redistricting proposal also reduces number of competitive districts

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasAUSTIN (CFP) — Texas is getting two new seats in the U.S. House because of the state’s explosive population growth, most of which was because of increasing numbers of black, Hispanic and Asian residents over the last decade.

But the first legislative plan to redraw the state’s congressional maps, released September 27, actually reduces the number of majority-minority districts, drawing immediate howls of protest from advocacy groups and promises of protracted litigation.

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First new Texas U.S. House map proposed by GOP (From Texas Legislative Council)

The first draw of the state’s map — proposed by State Senator Joan Huffman of Houston, who heads the Senate’s redistricting committee – is the starting point of the fight over new maps, taking place in a special session that began September 20.

And while those maps are likely to change as legislative continues, the plan reflects the thinking of Republican leaders — who have total control over the reapportionment process.

Overall, the map would make life much easier for House incumbents of both parties by vastly reducing the number of competitive districts statewide.

To accomplish this, Republicans mapmakers have shifted lines to make GOP-held marginal districts more Republican friendly; as a result, however, safer Democratic seats have also been created.

The two new seats are split between the parties, with creation of a new Democratic district in liberal-leaning Austin. Overall, under this map, Republicans are likely to control 25 of 38 seats, a net gain of two seats, and have a chance at a 26th seat in South Texas, which saw a shift to the GOP in 2020.

Here is a look at some of the highlights of the new map:

  • Texas is getting two additional seats because of the state’s population growth, raising the total number of seats from 36 to 38. The new map puts one of those seats in the Austin area, which will be Democratic, and another in the Houston suburbs, which will be Republican.
  • In 2020, Donald Trump carried 22 districts and Joe Biden 14; the new map has 25 districts that Trump would have won and 13 that would have gone for Biden.
  • In 2018 and 2020, there were as many as 10 districts in the Lone Star State that were somewhat competitive between the two parties. The new map makes these marginal GOP-held seats more Republican, with just one district where the margin between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in 2020 was less than five points. (The swing district, CD 15, is in South Texas and currently held by Democrat Vicente Gonzalez.)
  • The current map includes 22 districts where a majority of voters are white; the new map has 23. The number of majority Hispanic districts falls from eight to seven, and the state’s lone majority black district is eliminated. However, the number of districts where no racial or ethnic group has a majority will rise from five to eight.
  • In 2018, Democratic U.S. Reps. Colin Allred in Dallas and Lizzie Fletcher in Houston flipped long-held Republican seats, and they survived fierce GOP challenges in 2020. However, the new map makes both of their districts more Democratic by moving Republicans to adjacent districts to help GOP incumbents, which will leave Allred and Fletcher in safe seats.
  • The new map puts Democrat Sylvia Garcia in the same district with Republican Dan Crenshaw in Houston and Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green in the same district, also in Houston. However, House members aren’t required to run in the districts where they live, so all four would be able to shift to safe districts where they won’t have to run against each other.
  • Texas is covered by the Voting Rights Act, which requires mapmakers to optimize electoral opportunities for minority voters, which means the reduction in majority minority districts in this map will almost certainly trigger a legal challenge if it survives the legislative process. However, because of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, the state no longer has to get Justice Department approval for its political maps, forcing advocacy groups to use the courts to stop implementation.

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Georgia businesswoman launches GOP primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Jennifer Strahan comes out swinging in 14th District race with broadside against “unserious” politicians

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

GeorgiaATLANTA (CFP) — Saying “this is not the time for unserious politicians who just want to hear themselves talk,” Georgia health care consultant Jennifer Strahan has launched a Republican primary campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose tumultuous tenure in Congress has trailed clouds of controversy.

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Congressional candidate Jennifer Strahan, R-Georgia

“I’m a no-nonsense conservative who believes our country and our culture have gotten off track,” Strahan said in her announcement video released September 15. “Like a lot of you, I’m tired of out-of-touch people in Washington putting what’s good for themselves ahead of what’s good for the country.”

Strahan’s entry in the race will sets up what is likely to be one of the most contentious GOP primary contests of the 2022 cycle, with the polarizing Greene a magnet for campaign cash from both her detractors and her admirers.

Four Democrats have also entered the race to unseat Greene but would be long shots in the overwhelmingly Republican 14th District, which takes in the state’s northwest corner.

Strahan, who lives at the southern edge of the district, holds a doctorate in health care leadership and runs a health care consulting company. This is her first bid for political office.

Watch Strahan’s announcement video at end of article.

Responding to Strahan’s entry into the race, Greene released a statement calling herself “the most effective member of the GOP conference this session because I’ve stood on the House floor and demanded roll call votes on the Democrats’ Communist agenda and the rest of the party has joined my efforts.”

Greene said she has led efforts “to Impeach Joe Biden, Fire Tony Fauci, Expel Maxine Waters, Eliminate The ATF, and Ban Vaccine Mandates” and that if Republicans want to regain control of the House in 2022, “we aren’t going to do it with pathetic empty campaign promises written by DC consultants.”

Greene was elected to the open seat in 2020 after parachuting into the 14th District, where she did not then live, after Republican incumbent Tom Graves retired. During the campaign, she had to explain her previous dalliance with the QAnon conspiracy theory and suggestions that the Parkland school shooting in Florida was a hoax.

Arriving in Washington with a take-no-prisoners style, she led objections to President Joe Biden’s Electoral College certification, advancing unsupported claims that Donald Trump actually won the election. The House Democratic majority voted to boot her from her committee assignments after she was accused of threatening Democratic members.

Greene has also been fined twice for refusing to wear a mask on the floor of the House and raised eyebrows by telling attendees at a political event in Alabama that people might shoot Biden’s “police state friends” trying to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. Twitter has suspended her repeatedly for posting vaccine disinformation.

She also repeatedly compared mask mandates to the Holocaust and even voted against giving the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who protected the Capitol during the January 6th attack by a pro-Trump mob.

But Greene has also spun all of that controversy into campaign gold, raising nearly $4.8 million for her re-election contest and giving her a head start over Strahan and her other challengers.

In addition to Strahan, Republican Mark Clay is also running in the 14th District, along with Democrats Lateefah Conner, Wendy Davis, Marcus Flowers and Holly McCormack.

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Texas State Rep. Jake Ellzey wins U.S. House runoff, defeats Trump-backed Susan Wright

Ellzey will replace the late U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, who died from COVID-19 in February

TexasARLINGTON, Texas (CFP) — State Rep. Jake Ellzey claimed Texas’s 6th U.S. House District seat in Tuesday’s all-Republican runoff, defeating Susan Wright, who was trying to keep the seat of her late husband, U.S. Rep. Ron Wright.

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U.S. Rep.-elect Jake Ellzey, R-Texas

The result was a blow to former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Wright and publicly supported her candidacy in the final stretch. His super PAC also dropped $100,000 in a last minute advertising buy.

Ellzey took 53% in the runoff to 47% for Wright to win a district that includes Arlington and parts of Tarrant County, along with Ellis and Navarro counties to the south.

The all-party special election was called after Ron Wright’s death from COVID-19, while undergoing cancer treatment in February.

In the first round of voting in May, Wright and Ellzey claimed both spots in the runoff. Democrats were boxed out when the party’s 2018 nominee for the seat, Jana Lynne Sanchez, came in third, just 350 votes behind Ellzey.

Democrats had hopes of flipping the seat in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth, which Trump carried by just 3 points in 2020. But two other Democrats in the race took 10,000 votes from Sanchez, securing the seat for the GOP.

Tuesday’s runoff was something of a rematch from the 2018 election for the post, when Ron Wright defeated Ellzey to win an open seat.

The district’s previous long-time congressman, Joe Barton, endorsed Ellzey, as did Governor Greg Abbott and former Governor Rick Perry. But Trump went all in for Wright.

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Murder plot? Secret recording roils Florida U.S. House race

District 13 candidate William Braddock reportedly brags about having access to a “hit squad” to make rival Anna Paulina Luna “disappear”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

FloridaST. PETERSBURG (CFP) — Florida Republican congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna’s claim that her political rivals were plotting to murder her raised skeptical eyebrows when she made the charge in a court application asking for stalking protection.

“I really think that she’s exhibiting behavior that I would say is concerning,” said one. “This woman is off her rocker,” said another.

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Florida GOP congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna

But then, Politico obtained a recording in which a man identified as her political rival, William Braddock, is heard bragging that he has access to a “hit squad” of “Ukrainians and Russians” prepared to make Luna “disappear” if she closes in on the Republican nomination in the 13th U.S. House District in Pinellas County.

“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America,” says the man identified as Braddock in the secretly recorded telephone conversation. “That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done.”

“Luna is a f—ing speed bump in the road,” the man identified as Braddock says. “She’s a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood.”

When contacted by Politico, Braddock declined to say whether the voice on the recording, made June 9 by conservative activist Erin Olszewski, is him or whether he threatened to kill Luna. But he said, “This is a dirty political tactic that has caused a lot of people a lot of stress and is completely unnecessary.”

Florida’s 13th District seat, which Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is vacating to run for governor, is perhaps the GOP’s best pick-up opportunity next year in the Sunshine State. It is perhaps not helpful, then, that the two Republican candidates currently in the race — Luna and Braddock — are now involved in a police investigation over a possible murder plot.

A hearing has been scheduled for June 22 on whether to extend the injunction Luna got that bars Braddock from both her speaking events and Conservative Grounds, a coffee shop in Largo frequented by Pinellas conservatives.

After losing to Crist in November in the swing district, Luna, 32, a businesswoman and Air Force veteran, decided to make another run, encouraged by the prospect that Florida’s GOP-led legislature may make the district more Republican during redistricting.

Braddock, 37, a St. Petersburg attorney and former Marine, entered the race last week after Luna’s allegations became public.

Olszewski said that in her phone call with Braddock, he tried to dissuade her from supporting Luna in next year’s GOP primary; she recorded the call and turned it over to St. Petersburg police because she said she was concerned about Braddock’s “unhinged” dislike of Luna.

However, in Florida, secretly recording a phone call without the other person’s knowledge is a felony, and Braddock told Politico that he would seek civil damages and criminal charges against “folks in possession of whatever recording they think they have of myself or someone else.”

In her request for protection, Luna also said that Braddock claimed he was “working together” with two other Pinellas Republicans — Amanda Makki, whom Luna defeated in the 13th District GOP primary in 2020, and Matt Tito, a conservative political commentator who lost a Florida House race last year.

Both Makki and Tito have denied having any role in a plot against Luna (Makki is the person who called Luna’s behavior “concerning”), and Tito has said he’s talked to a lawyer about pursuing a defamation claim.

Tito told the Tampa Bay Times that although he knows Braddock and Makki, he has infrequent contact with both.

“[Luna’s] goal was to embarrass us, it was to get us to keep us out of the race, to intimidate us,” he told the Times.

In the meantime, the four Democratis in the race — State Reps. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner, Christian Hotchkiss and Eric Lynn continue their campaign, without any mention of political assassination or Russian and Ukrainian hit squads.

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All-Republican runoff set for vacant Texas U.S. House seat

Susan Wright, widow of late U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, will face State. Rep. Jake Ellzey

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ARLINGTON, Texas (CFP) — Susan Wright, the widow of the late Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, claimed first place Saturday in a special election to fill his Texas’s 6th U.S. House District seat and will now face fellow Republican State Rep. Jake Ellzey in a runoff.

Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez finished just 354 votes behind Ellzey, narrowly missing a chance to set up her party to flip a suburban district in metro Dallas-Fort Worth that Donald Trump carried by just 3 points in November.

Michael Wood — a businessman and former Marine Corps officer who ran openly in the race as an anti-Trump Republican and charged that the GOP has devolved into a “cult of personality” — finished ninth in the 23-person field, showing the limits of that strategy in pro-Trump Texas.

Susan Wright and Jake Ellzey

In a low-turnout Saturday special election with a crowded field, Wright came in first with 15,052 votes (19%), with Ellzey coming in second with 10,851 (14%) and Sanchez in third with 10,497 (13%).

The final day of the contest was rocked by a robocall made in the district accusing Wright of murdering her husband, who died in February from COVID-19 while being treated for cancer. Her campaign contacted the FBI to investigate.

The runoff will be something of a rematch of the Republican runoff for the seat in 2018, when Ron Wright defeated Ellzey to represent the district, which includes Arlington and parts of Tarrant County, along with Ellis and Navarro counties to the south.

Susan Wright has been endorsed by Donald Trump. Ellzey has the support of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who will set the date for the runoff.

Sanchez had been the Democratic nominee against Ron Wright in 2018, a race chronicled in the Showtime documentary “Surge.” But this time around, she was unable to coalesce enough of the Democratic vote to win a spot in the all-party contest, with the second and third-place Democrats in the field — Shawn Lassiter and Lydia Bean — winning nearly 10,000 votes between them.

The race — the second special election for a Republican-held seat since Trump’s loss in November — drew national attention due to a number of colorful candidates who entered the wide-open contest.

Dan Rodimer, a former professional wrestler who was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for a House seat in the Las Vegas area in 2020, parachuted into Texas to try again, airing an ad in which he carried an assault rifle and vowed to “strip power” from President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a stance that raised eyebrows in the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

He finished in 11th place.

Sery Kim, a Korean-American who served in the Small Business Administration under Trump, drew criticism when she said during a forum that she did not want Chinese immigrants in the United States “at all” and blamed them for bringing  COVID-19 into the United States.

She won just 888 votes and finished 16th.

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