When Tom DeLay gerrymandered Austin, he cracked it and split its liberal voting based among lots of rural-based districts. The Texas Republicans are trying another tactic-- from cracking to packing. They've created a super-Democratic district-- perhaps the bluest district in the country!-- that keeps as many Democrats as possible out of 6 Republican districts, rendering them safely red; the ultimate in incumbent protection:
TX-10- Michael McCaul
TX-17- Pete Sessions
TX-21- Chip Roy
TX-25- Roger Williams
TX-27- Michael Cloud
TX-31- John Carter
There will be two very blue Austin districts now, Lloyd Doggett's TX-35, which becomes bluer and more Hispanic and has frightened Doggett into trying to pull a switcheroo, and the new super-blue district (TX-37) that Doggett will try to claim, though not one square inch is in his current district and in which he does not reside. The district is much more progressive than Doggett and deserves a real activist on the cutting edge. Biden would have carried the proposed CD-35 by 45 percentage points last year, while he would have won the proposed CD-37 by 53 points.
Today Julie Oliver (a real activist on the cutting edge) announced she's forming an exploratory committee for the TX-37 race. The preferred candidate for Doggett's abandoned district is Austin City Councilman Gregorio Casar. Doggett has a massive war chest ($5.4 million) which he has hoarded and, disgracefully, never used for movement organizing. He takes corporate money including from-- especially from-- health care interests even though he's the chair of the subcommittee that's supposed to be regulating them. He's 75 years old and he's been in Congress for way too long-- almost 3 decades-- and for him it's now all about careerism and desperation to hold onto a cushy, prestigious job. He should retire and make room for someone with more energy and commitment.
Texas progressives tell me this is a major fork-in-the-road moment. If Doggett claims TX-37, he's going to sit on it and continue to quietly play ball in the Democratic Caucus and hope he somehow becomes Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. (Of course, Richie Neal is younger than Doggett and just headed off a progressive challenger in 2020 with no similar challenge coming this year. Doggett might be waiting for that chairmanship forever.) In the meantime Lloyd will continue to be a conservative drag on the progressive caucus. Just look at his press announcement today, when he advertised that he's firmly in the "Paygo" wing of the party, alongside Pelosi, the Blue Dogs and the New Dems.
“I'm very much a pay as you go Democrat,” Doggett said. “I believe in meeting the needs in terms of social services and education, but I don't believe in continuing to borrow indefinitely to pay for those services.”
This is the kind of left-punching garbage that throws poor people under the bus and prevents real investments in social programs like Medicare for All, universal childcare, student loan relief and more. Meanwhile, Austin progressives see in Julie Oliver a person who will not only be an open advocate and organizer for key social programs, but she will also use the office to project Austin power across the state.
"This could be our Barbara Lee district," one leading progressive in Austin tells me. "Our Andy Levin or Cori Bush district. A place in Texas where you have a true progressive who tells the stories of working people, poor people, people who are marginalized and dispossessed by the corrupt political system. If we are going to incubate a new generation of Texas Democrats who are going to take power from the Greg Abbott's of the world, we need someone who will fight for us, not just for themselves. Lloyd Doggett is more concerned with protecting his $25M in real estate investments than taking risks to fight for social change. He's not the right guy for this moment. We're facing voter suppression, a ban on abortions, failing electric infrastructure, climate change storms, attacks on trans kids. This isn't the moment for empty symbolism. We need real leaders."
This is the statement Julie released yesterday:
Despite the Republican attempts to use the redistricting process to dilute the growth of communities of color, young people, and women in the state of Texas, the city of Austin is likely to have a new congressional district that will unite our community behind the kinds of progressive policies that drive lasting change.
Austin deserves a choice. And more than ever, the state of Texas and the city of Austin deserve a new generation of progressive leaders who will deliver results for working families, fight back against the far-right extremism of our statewide lawmakers, and unite our community behind a more prosperous vision for our future.
Greg Abbott and Republicans in the Texas legislature have launched an all-out assault on reproductive rights, voting rights, and our public school curriculum, while ignoring the effects of climate change and neglecting our broken power grid to pay off their lobbyist donors. Texas needs leaders in Congress who recognize the tremendous challenges that working families are facing, and who will fight tooth-and-nail every day to ensure they aren't left behind.
Having grown up in a poor, working-class family that struggled to put food on the table, I know that far too many Austin families aren't getting the housing, health care, and job opportunities they need to thrive. As a longtime Austin resident, an expert in healthcare finance and advocacy, and a stalwart champion for progressive causes, I look forward to considering how I can best serve these families and my community.