March 1, 2011
By JAY ROOT
The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas — Explosive minority growth in Texas has turned a handful of once solidly Republican congressional seats into bastions of ethnic diversity, putting added pressure on GOP leaders to shore up their districts with white voters who traditionally favor the party.
Look no further than the seat held by the once mighty U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Sugar Land. As currently drawn, his District 22 — now in the hands of U.S. Rep. Pete Olson and anchored in fast-growing Fort Bend County near Houston — was 61 percent white in 2000, according to figures provided by the Texas Legislative Council. Today, with the new 2010 Census numbers, it's 45.5 percent white. The numbers of blacks, Hispanics and Asians all rose sharply.
There's a similar story in the district held by the top Texas Republican fundraiser and organizer in Congress — U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee. In 2000, the district was 50.1 percent white. Now it's a majority minority district, with more than 42 percent of them Hispanic and 9 percent black.
Hispanics have a generally younger population and are less likely to be eligible to vote, but the sheer numbers and future voting strength have not gone unnoticed.
"The Republicans do have to react," said Cal Jillson, political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "I think they will first look at that Pete Sessions district and move him a little bit north, and take some Anglos out of ... the adjoining districts to make him safe." . . .
Jillson, the political scientist, said the "saving grace" for Republicans is that Hispanics turn out in far fewer numbers than their white counterparts. While whites made up about 45 percent of the population in 2010, they accounted for about 68 percent of the turnout; Hispanics, with 38 percent of the population, accounted for about 20 percent of the vote, he said.
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