Redistricting group led by Eric Holder to invest $250K in Texas House races

Empty House chamber from the gallery on July 28, 2017.  The House adjourned until Monday, July 31st at 2:00PM. 
Empty House chamber from the gallery on July 28, 2017.  The House adjourned until Monday, July 31st at 2:00PM. 
Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, is making a quarter-million-dollar investment in Texas to help Democrats here flip a number of state House seats in November.

The money represents one of the largest single contributions that the House Democratic Campaign Committee has ever received, according to its chair, El Paso state Rep. César Blanco, who said the investment “puts us in a stronger position to pick up more seats in the House.”

House Democrats, who currently control 55 out of the 150 seats in the lower chamber, are heading toward November targeting the 11 GOP-held districts — most of them traditionally Republican — that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, with an emphasis on the Dallas area. They are also looking at several Republican-controlled districts across the state where Clinton came close to winning.

Blanco said the value of growing the Democratic caucus by even just five members could increase its influence in the race to replace outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. A larger caucus could also have implications for inter-chamber relations next year.

“The bigger consequence is making sure that some of the extreme agendas coming from the Senate — there’s a backstop to that,” Blanco said. “We saw many times Speaker Straus stand up to that.”

“Picking up more seats,” Blanco added, “sends a message to more Republicans that what we saw last session is not what the people of Texas want.”

In announcing the donation, Holder said the money could strengthen Texas Democrats’ hand as they enter the next round of redistricting. Shortly before the last period of redistricting, Republicans secured a supermajority that allowed them to have full control over the process.

“In 2011, Republicans in Texas passed some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country,” Holder said in a statement. “The National Democratic Redistricting Committee is committed to working in Texas to achieve fair maps and this investment will help Democrats make gains in the state legislature ahead of redistricting in 2021.”

The $250,000 will come the form of a direct donation to the House Democratic Campaign Committee PAC, which had roughly $147,000 cash on hand at the end of June. House Republicans have something of a counterpart in the Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Committee, though they are also aided by a universe of big-spending political action committees like the Associated Republicans of Texas.

The announcement of the $250,000 investment comes as Holder visits Austin on Friday to speak at the Texas Tribune Festival and participate in a forum on redistricting with Dallas state Rep. Eric Johnson, the sole Democrat running for speaker.



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