Rep. Talarico blames ‘racist gerrymandering’ for causing move to new House district

Texas Politics
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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hours after the Texas House passed their state House map early Wednesday morning, Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, announced on Twitter that he will seek reelection in a different district after voting lines put him at a disadvantage in his current one.

Talarico said he would move to north Austin to run in House District 50. He is hoping to replace Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, who recently announced she would leave the Legislature as she considers whether to run for mayor of Austin.

“The Republican majority in the Texas House decided to draw me out of my district into a heavy Republican district, in northern Williamson County, a district that votes for Republicans by 14 points,” said Rep. Talarico.

Talarico believes his unwillingness to back down to Republicans is a big factor in the new voting lines that favor a GOP candidate in House District 52. 

“I asked them hard questions. I passed progressive legislation in this building. And that’s why they want to get rid of me,” said Talarico.

But Talarico says he’s not mad about the end result – him being drawn out. 

“I know that’s politics, and I’m a Democrat, and Republicans want to get rid of me.” 

Instead, he’s pointing fingers at Republicans’ tactics, which he called “racist gerrymandering.” 

“They did it by dividing communities of color in the district that I represent, the people that I swore a sacred oath to protect and to represent here in this building.”

Republicans have been accused throughout the redistricting process of manipulating district lines to dilute the voting power of Black and Latinx communities. According to the 2020 census, people of color make up 95% of Texas’ population growth. Democrats say the maps drawn by Republicans don’t represent that growth. 

Redistricting Committee Chair Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, pushed back on Democrats’ criticisms. He emphasized that the Redistricting Committee heavily relied on input from legislative members to draw the lines. He also pointed out that the map adds two new predominately Latinx districts and one new predominately Black district. 

“In 2010, we had 35 majority Hispanic districts. Under our 2020 census numbers benchmark, we had 36, HB one that is before you, adds two for a total of 38. Under our 2020 census numbers, the benchmark plan, we had only one African American majority district, HB one now adds one for a total of two.”

Although some have questioned whether he’s the right person to represent District 50, an area of Austin that is becoming increasingly diverse, Talarico believes his familiarity with the district and previous experience makes him the best person for the job. 

“The district I’m moving back into is where I grew up. It’s the community that raised me, it’s where I went to elementary school. It’s where I went to church. It’s where my mom and I lived when it was just the two of us and a little, little apartment in northeast Austin.”

Talarico may not be the only Democrat running in House District 50. Pflugerville City Council Member Rudy Metayer announced that he formed an exploratory committee to weigh a possible run in next year’s Democratic primary.

The primary election for House District 50 is set for March 1, 2022. That date could change, depending on the redistricting process. The general election is set for Nov. 8, 2022. 

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