The Texas Congressional Delegation Doesn’t Reflect the State’s Diversity. Will the Election Change That?
Maria Recia, Austin American-Statesman, October 21, 2020
The Texas congressional delegation long hasn’t reflected the demographic diversity of the state. Currently, Anglos occupy roughly two-thirds of the Texas seats in the U.S. House, while Anglos make up 41% of the Texas population. Latinos, on the other hand are severely underrepresented, with 19% of seats and comprising 40% of the population.
This year, amid a national reckoning of systemic racism in all aspects of American life, candidates of color are running in 24 of the state’s 36 congressional districts, including 10 districts where both Democrat and Republican are nonwhite.
Yet when the dust settles from the election, now two weeks away, the state’s delegation is expected to remain mostly white.
There are 13 people of color representing Texas in the U.S. House — six Blacks and seven Latinos. Eleven of them are running for reelection and none are expected to lose their seats, according to national political forecasters. Two are retiring: U.S. Reps. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, and Will Hurd, R-Helotes.
The two candidates running to replace Flores — Republican Pete Sessions and Democrat Rick Kennedy — are white. Running to replace Hurd, who is the only Black Republican in the House: Republican Tony Gonzales and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who is of Filipino descent.
No white incumbent facing a challenger of color is expected to lose — including U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who faces Republican Jenny Garcia Sharon — because their districts were drawn to favor one party or the other. But some might face close races. And a few open seats that are occupied by retiring white representatives have drawn candidates of color and are up for grabs.
Diverse representation brings diverse points of view and can benefit a district, as well as the political process, said Luis Fraga, professor of political science at Notre Dame University and the director of the Institute for Latino Studies.
“Representatives of color make more ethnic-specific policy proposals,” he said.
He said research shows they also respond more quickly to constituents and speak out more often on issues that are symbolic to their communities, such as Hispanic Heritage Month.
Hurd, in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press in 2019, summed up how he sees the political landscape.
“Just look at my state of Texas, ruby red Texas. It’s actually purple,” he said. “Just because we don’t have a statewide elected Democrat, doesn’t mean that we aren’t purple. And I’ve been telling people if we want to keep a Republican Party in Texas, the Republican Party in Texas needs to start looking like Texas.”