From Texas Political Almanac
Who & Where
The 1990 Census led to the awarding of three new Congressional districts to the State of Texas. In the case of Harris County, this led to the creation of a new Hispanic-opportunity district. Given the diffusion of Houston's Hispanic population, creating a district that should have been ripe to elect Harris County's first Hispanic member of Congress posed a challenge to map-makers. Indeed, the first version of the district's boundaries was instrumental in the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v Vera, which struck down the initial boundaries as unconstitutional. After a new version of the district had been drawn, a district with 60% Total Population and 54% Voting Age Population resulted. Sixteen years later, the district [which is 66% Hispanic] is still represented by same Anglo Democrat who won the initial election contest, Gene Green.
Like many Hispanic districts, voter turnout is difficult to fit into standard frames of understanding. Conventional wisdom typically asserts that Hispanic voters turn out at rates below Anglo and African-American voters. But a more accurate narrative in the aftermath of the 1997-2007 immigration boom would suggest that non-citizen populations account for much of the difficulty in translating population strength to electoral strength. Harris County's Hispanic population is comprised of a majority (53%) non-citizen Hispanics - both legal and undocumented; Hispanic population centers tend to be younger, leading to Voting Age Population Hispanics being lower than overall population; and less wealthy voters turn out to vote at lower levels than wealthier voters. The net result for the 29th District is that it contains the lowest number of Registered Voters among Texas Congressional Districts, and generally ranks lowest in terms of overall votes cast within the district. The district's voting universe is still generally considered to be plurality-Hispanic, if not majority-Hispanic.
The task of capturing Hispanic population centers within one congressional district in Harris County fundamentally involves connecting the northside Hispanic communities between Interstates 45 and U.S. Highway 59 with Houston's East End communities, while passing over various African-American communities intended for the 18th District. There is also significant Hispanic population growth in southeast Houston and in the northwestern Spring Branch neighborhood.
The most notable geographic feature in the district is the Houston Ship Channel, which neighbors the East End communities and includes many working-class Anglo and Hispanic communities where the incumbent's pro-union and pro-oil & gas record plays well.
After Gene Green's first election to Congress in 1992, Harris County could be viewed as having one more-or-less intentional moderate Anglo Democratic district (the old 25th) and one accidental one (Green's 29th). With the 25th erased into the annals of history by Tom DeLay, Green's popularity in the 29th should be viewed anew. Green manages to perform 10-20 points better than downballot Democrats in the rare elections where is contested. While there have been several Democrats who have similar popularity in districts that might otherwise be represented by a Republican, Green's popularity and electoral success is somewhat masked by the fact that the 29th has never been viewed as a swing district.
Green's 1993 vote against NAFTA earned him a competitive rematch with his 1992 primary opponent, former Houston City Council member Ben Reyes. Green managed to narrowly win both matchups, but has seen only marginal opposition since then. Green's reliably pro-union views (dating back to his time as a State Representative) have been cause for the Houston Chronicle to endorse his primary opponent in both early contests, but won him critical backing from local unions in a district with a significant number of union households. Green is also something of a throwback to the era where Anglo Texas Democrats were supportive of the oil & gas industry and extending Second Amendment rights. This tends to make Democratic activists outside of Green's district more uncomfortable with him than many of the older and working-class voters within the district.
The 29th District should be held by Gene Green for as long as he wants it. However, the bulk of Green's old State Senate district is now represented by an Hispanic (Sylvia Garcia or Carol Alvarado, pending the outcome of a runoff election), and the bulk of his former State Representative district has more recently elected an Hispanic (Armando Walle) in a contested primary against the previous Anglo Democrat incumbent (Kevin Bailey - a Green protege). There were minimal efforts by local Hispanic leaders to seek a second Hispanic Congressional District in the Houston area after the 2010 Census. The plans that were put forth essentially left the most heavily-Hispanic precincts in the 29th part of a new district that extended into the southeast part of the county, leaving Green to defend a more marginal, Democratic-friendly district that would have been a coalition district consisting among Hispanics and Anglo Dems. The new district would not have been a majority Hispanic district in terms of Citizen Voting Age Population, however. Map-makers in the legislature and judiciary did not see fit to create such a district. But demographics may ultimately force the issue by 2020 if Republican mapmakers need to carve out unfriendly voters from Republican districts. In the meantime, that leaves a lengthy line of opportunistic Hispanic elected officials waiting behind the 65 year old Green for the right to represent the 29th. Green's popularity has, thus far, proven enough to hold off serious competition.
Population & Demographics
|Total Pop.||18+ Pop.||CVAP|
2012 Election Analysis
239,552 Registered Voters
132,645 Spanish-Surnamed Registered Voters
117,349 Total Ballots
|Contest||Rep. Candidate||R-%||Dem. Candidate||D-%|
|U.S. President||Mitt Romney||33.0%||Barack Obama||65.9%|
|U.S. Senate||Ted Cruz||34.5%||Paul Sadler||63.3%|
|U.S. Congress||Gene Green||90.0%|
|RR Commish||Christi Craddick||31.4%||Dale Henry||65.1%|
|Supreme Court||Nathan Hecht||29.8%||Michele Petty||67.0%|
|Crt. of Criminal Appeals||Sharon Keller||31.4%||Keith Hampton||66.7%|
2010 Election Analysis
243,760 Registered Voters
126,819 Spanish-Surnamed Registered Voters
70,900 Total Ballots
|Contest||Rep. Candidate||R-%||Dem. Candidate||D-%|
|Governor||Rick Perry||31.5%||Bill White||66.8%|
|Lt. Governor||David Dewhurst||35.6%||Linda Chavez-Thompson||61.4%|
|Attorney General||Greg Abbott||39.7%||Barbara Radnofsky||58.7%|
|Land Commish||Jerry Patterson||35.1%||Hector Uribe||63.2%|
|Ag. Commish||Todd Staples||35.3%||Hank Gilbert||62.4%|
|RR Commish||David Porter||34.9%||Jeff Weems||61.8%|
|Supreme Court||Debra Lehrmann||35.0%||Jim Sharp||63.3%|
|Supreme Court||Paul Green||35.4%||Bill Moody||62.9%|
|Supreme Court||Eva Guzman||38.7%||Blake Bailey||59.2%|
|Crt. of Criminal Appeals||Michael Keasler||35.5%||Keith Hampton||62.6%|
- Plan C235 - Congressional District 29 - plan under which 2012 elections were held
- Plan C220 - Congressional District 29 - San Antonio court's original interim plan
- Plan C185 - Congressional District 29 - plan passed by 82nd legislature
- Congressional District 29 - 2003 Map - Election History (2002-2010) and District Map
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