Battles for Texas House waged on unfamiliar turf

Texas House Redistricting

For Donna Howard, the battle is familiar – it’s the battleground that changed.

Running for her fourth full term in the Texas House, the Austin Democrat is now campaigning in a redesigned district where more than 60 percent of the constituents are new, according to figures provided to KXAN by the Texas Legislative Council.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department – and later a three-judge panel in Washington – rejected redistricting maps drawn by a Republican-led state Legislature, saying they were discriminatory to minorities. A federal court in San Antonio drew an interim map in order for the Texas primary and runoff to proceed, as legal challenges played out.

HD48 candidates Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Robert Thomas, R-Austin.

The U.S. Supreme Court will not take up the matter before November, meaning the temporary map stays in effect for the 2012 election.

The once-a-decade redistricting process inevitably shakes up the constituencies of House, Senate, congressional and State Board of Education districts. For instance, this time around, more than a quarter of Travis County’s population now resides in a different state House district.

Howard’s District 48 changed the most. Based on numbers from the 2010 election, its makeup now includes 104,000 people – of whom 67,277 actually voted – previously represented by fellow Democrats Elliott Naishtat and Mark Strama and Republican Paul Workman.

Court-ordered interim Texas House map for Travis County

“(Most of) my district is new to the south, going almost all the way to the Hays County line,” Howard said.

In the process of trying to give each of the state’s 150 House districts an ideal 168,000 people, HD 48 lost communities like Jonestown, Lago Vista, Quail Creek. Physically, it is much smaller as it now centers on an ultra-urban area.

Howard said she hopes block walks, phone banks, mailers and television ads will help introduce her to so many new faces.  Outreach is crucial after she won by just four votes in the 2010 election.

“Trying to penetrate and talk to as many voters as possible,” she said.

Current Texas House map for Travis County

On her side, presidential elections traditionally have higher turnouts. HD 48 saw 70 percent of its voters head to the polls in 2008, opposed to the 2010 mid-term election when just 46 percent voted.

Howard is likely no stranger to these new constituents, as the new district is contained entirely in the Capitol city media market.

The newly-drawn district is younger and more Democratic. But Howard and her Republican rival Robert Thomas – a local lawyer and businessman in his first House run – know also has many undecided independents.

“Fortunately, I don’t have to drive as far to the Burnet County line as last session, but you do have to figure out a way to be able to touch all those people in that dense area,” Thomas said.

Check out voter changes in Travis County House Districts below.

House District

District Change

Population Change


Voter Change

HD46 (Dukes)

HD50 (Strama)

17,639 (10.6%)



District Total

17,639 (10.6%)


HD47 (Workman)

HD48 (Howard)

54,204 (30.9%)



HD50 (Strama)

11,899   (6.8%)



District Total

66,103 (37.7%)


HD48 (Howard)

HD47 (Workman)

89,100 (51.5%)



HD49 (Naishtat)

10,609   (6.1%)



HD50 (Strama)

4,637   (2.7%)



District Total

104,346 (60.3%)


HD49 (Naishtat)

HD48 (Howard)

38,951 (23.3%)



HD50 (Strama)

4,040   (2.4%)



District Total

42,991 (25.7%)


HD50 (Strama)

HD46 (Dukes)

12,975   (7.8%)



District Total

12,975  (7.8%)


HD51 (Rodriguez)

HD46 (Dukes)

10,718   (6.1%)



HD49 (Naishtat)

6,217   (2.5%)


District Total

16,935 (8.6%)


County Total

260,989 (25.5%)


Copyright 2014 KXAN.COM. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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