A federal court in Washington, D.C. today rejected plans to use new political maps drawn by the GOP-led Legislature for the 2012 elections, throwing doubt into the future of countless campaigns.
The court ruled that a trial will be needed on whether to approve the state House, state Senate and Congressional maps signed by Gov. Rick Perry this summer. Since a trial can't be completed by Nov. 28, the date candidates are supposed to start filing for next year's primaries, a San Antonio-based federal court is expected to draw interim maps to be used for next year's elections.
The ruling leaves countless Republican and Democratic candidates unsure of what district they will be running in next year. Several candidates reached Tuesday could not say for certain whether they would end up running in the race they had planned on.
In the state Senate, District 10 currently represented by Democrat Wendy Davis of Fort Worth is a focus of the federal litigation. Republicans believe Davis is vulnerable under the map that was passed earlier this year.
"We don’t know how the court will ultimately re-draw the maps, but we know that the state’s unfair map will not be in place for the 2012 election," Davis said.
State Reps. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth and Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills are both vying for the Republican nomination to challenge Davis.
"I'm running for SD10, regardless of where boundaries are located," Shelton said.
Hancock noted that the Department of Justice has called the House and Congressional maps discriminatory but did not formally object to the senate map, suggesting that the district may not change significantly.
"We’re another step in the process. Our plans haven’t changed," Hancock said.
State Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, kicked off his campaign earlier this year to run for state Senate District 9, currently held by Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, who is resigning.
"If the districts stay the way they are now, I'm running for state senate," Anderson said. "Obviously if the districts change significantly...I would have to reevaluate."
It's not just Republicans that may be left scrambling. Former state Reps. Chris Turner and Paula Pierson, both Democrats, are currently running to represent District 101, a new state house district Tarrant County gained because of population growth. Neither Democrat ruled out running in a different district, including one with an incumbent running for another term, depending on how the interim map is drawn.
"At the moment, nothing has changed," Turner said. "We’re running a strong campaign for the Texas House in the new district, 101."
Pierson too said she was ready to run.
“I want to go back to Austin. I want to do something about education,” Pierson said, adding that she also wants to work on economic and criminal justice issues.
It's a different story in the congressional races, where candidates aren't required to live in the district they are hoping to represent. That could mean fewer candidates choosing to switch to different races.
Congressional candidate Grant Stinchfield, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, for U.S. House District 24, said he's ready to run against Marchant no matter what the district looks like. The court's decision means he likely will somewhat change his campaigning strategy, which has involved going door-to-door in the newer parts of the district, he said.
"What I'll probably do now is focus on the middle of the district, the heart of the district, and do most of our door-knocking there," he said. "This whole thing is politics at play."
Frank Kuchar, a Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, for the District 6 seat, said he 's still focused on running against Barton.
"It's disappointing that the process is so politicized and is drug out to the wire," Kuchar said. "It poses such uncertainty and upheavals in campaigns for both incumbents and more so for challengers that the ultimate losers in all of this are the people."
-Aman Batheja and Anna Tinsley