2012 elections under new boundaries – Sonal Bhuchar out?
By Elsa Maxey
New redistricting maps for the Texas House and Senate have been issued by a panel of federal judges, but they await final approval from a Washington, D.C. court. They are the ones that give the Fort Bend area another House of Representative—for a total of four instead of three. The three offices with their corresponding districts are held by State Reps. Charlie Howard (26), who is not seeking reelection, Ron Reynolds (27), and Dr. John Zerwas (28).
The maps were issued last week, and “they are all we have to work with right now,” said Gary Gillen, local area political consultant who is also a Richmond City Commissioner.
The resulting new district in Fort Bend County impacting the other geographic boundaries came about as a result of equalizing population after the U.S. 2010 census was published. But, the new district lines will not actually change until January 2013, according to Gillen. “Candidates for these districts will run in the Republican and Democratic primary elections in March 2012,” he said, and the winners will face off in the November 2012 elections. Those elected in November will then take office in January 2013. It is important to note that “your State Representative today will continue to serve in the current District until January 2013,” he also said.
For voters in Sugar Land, the lines of the future District 26 in which State Rep. Howard serves shifted a bit north to include Mission Bend while losing part of First Colony south of US 59, reports Gillen. In District 27, State Rep. Reynolds will inherit the Sugar Creek area. “Sugar Creek has been a reliably Republican area for many years,” said Gillen, and “their votes will be diluted by the heavily Democrat, about 60%, District, if the court eventually confirms this plan.” But State Rep. Reynolds who serves in that district said the changes, which he estimates to be about a 2,000 person increase, “renders little effect on the ethnic composition of the district and on the political voting trends of the constituency base,” which he also said will still be representative of Fort Bend’s ethnic and political diversity. He expects it to grow and intends on serving the district in the future.
Because of the county’s growth, State Rep. Reynolds said District 27 was forced to shed much of the western portion, namely Richmond and Rosenberg. The district will now be comprised of most of Missouri City, all of Stafford, Meadows Place and small portions of Sugar Land, he said, explaining that the latest map eliminates Barrington Place in the northwest part of the district, and adds Sugar Creek and Arcola along with a greater portion of Fresno.
District 28, held by State Rep. Dr. Zerwas, who Gillen said is favored to win, will follow the Grand Parkway from Katy, south to River Park and River Park West, including much of Cinco Ranch, Pecan Grove, Richmond and Rosenberg.
A new District, 30, will include most of southern Fort Bend County and all of Wharton and Austin Counties. Gillen reports that Lee Duggan,III and Craig Le Tulle of Fort Bend County along with Phil Stevenson of Wharton County are all campaigning for that office.
The filing period to run for legislative office starts on Nov. 28 and runs until Dec. 15. On the basis of that, “we really don’t know who the candidates would have been under the maps adopted by the Legislature,” said Gillen. But, he does not think that Sonal Bhuchar, who had announced publicly to run in District 26, will be able to do so for that office given the latest maps. He said that leaves Sugar Land Mayor Pro-Tem Jacquie Chaumette as the best known candidate running for that office, and said that she has a huge lead because she has been campaigning for this seat for months. Over the weekend, Bhuchar told the “Star”, “Even as we await the final approval on the redistricting lines by the courts, I am looking forward to earning the nomination and representing the citizens of House District 26.” She said, “the district lines may have changed a little, but the concerns and issues are the same and I know I have the experience to address them.”
On the Texas Senate side, there are 31 members. Of those serving populations in Fort Bend County, Gillen said Sen. Rodney Ellis (13) will end up with a piece of Harris County added to his district, Sen. Glenn Hegar’s district (18) changes a little, and Sen. Joan Huffman, whose district went from Fort Bend County to Port Arthur has ended up with a smaller geographic area that does not go to Galveston County.
“The lines do seem to join areas of like interests,” said Gillen. They “also give Sugar Land a larger role in the new District 30 with areas such as Commonwealth, Avalon and Brazos Landing included in it.”