Party-switching: GOP House supermajority reached

South Steps' post reminded me that I'd meant to post on Ritter's switch and Peņa's* possible switch.

The 100 Republican mark is mostly psychological. Yes, 100 votes are needed for constitutional amendments and to tap the Rainy Day fund, but historically this hasn't been a big deal.

First, Ritter has confirmed that he is switching, giving the Texas House GOP 100 members. Why did he do it? Here's the Austin Chronicle's take:

[Ritter] also told KFDM news that in the last decade his district went "from a solid Democratic district to a solid Republican district."

Hmm. Time for some fact checking. In the last election:
1: Jefferson county returned two Democratic state reps, Ritter and his neighbor Joe Deshotel.
2: Jefferson voters broke 50.47% for Gov. Rick Perry, 48.15% for Bill White. So White actually performed better there than he did statewide, where he only got 42.28%.
3: According to the Jefferson County Clerk, there were more straight-ticket voting Democrats than Republicans.

The AusChron take is technically correct (there's a reason Ritter didn't even have an R opponent), yet totally misses the point: no one has a re-election district right now. What happened in Ritter's old district doesn't matter, because redistricting is going to happen before 2012.

I haven't delved into the maps too much at this point, but it is pretty clearly that Ritter had a good reason to switch. He's a white Democrat in an area that is less Democrat than it used to be and which isn't rapidly growing. Frankly, it's not quite clear that switching parties will be enough for Ritter to survive.

Current rumor is that House Republicans won't be able to draw a map that will be able to pass. With 99 Republicans in the House, it's pretty difficult to draw a map with 99 Republican districts to match those folks. Whether Texas House and Senate go to the LRB or they pass their own maps, there will be some difficult decisions to be made, so Ritter will be under a microscope. Still, switching parties at least gives him a chance at survival; his political career was almost definitely over if he didn't switch.

As for Peņa, it's awfully hard to believe that he is planning on running for re-election if he switches parties. Surely he knows his area better than I, but it's highly unlikely that Texas House re-election is his motivation if he switches. Despite that, his switch would certainly be a coup for the Texas GOP, and he's seemed to be headed more that way over the past several months, not just since the election.

* Note to journalists: stop substituting Pena for Peņa. Pena means something along the lines of pain, punishment or embarrassment. Peņa can have several meanings, but usually it means something more like group of friends.

Posted by Evan @ 12/13/10 02:41 PM


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