February 19, 2011 | National Journal Hotline on Call | Original Article

Census Quick Cuts: Hispanic Growth All Over

The Census Bureau rolled out state-level data for four more states this week. One thing they have in common is a burgeoning Hispanic population. That growth will complicate the redistricting process in both Republicans' biggest prize, Texas, and in the Democrats' best redistricting opportunity, Illinois.

-- Texas is a majority-minority state for the first time in a redistricting period, which could complicate Republicans' hopes for a partisan gerrymander - - and make the state competitive for Democrats in future years. Whites now account for just 45 percent of the state's population, down from 52 percent a decade ago. The Hispanic population is now 38 percent of the total population - - growing by 42 percent -- while the African-American population grew slightly and is now 12 percent of the total population.

The state gained four congressional seats in reapportionment, largely due to minority growth. Republicans in control of redistricting this time around may struggle to do better than break even, and will likely have to add two Hispanic districts to the map, one in the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio and the other near Houston.

The new data also suggests that Texas Republicans will need to effectively compete for the Hispanic vote in the future to win statewide contests. As more Latinos turn 18, become citizens, and register to vote, Texas could become a swing state sooner rather than later if Republicans don't make additional inroads with the Hispanic electorate.

-- Illinois also saw huge Latino growth: Hispanics now outnumber African Americans in President Obama's home state, the largest state where Democrats have complete control over the redistricting process. Only the suburban collar counties around Chicago grew substantially.

Democrats plan to exploit their political advantage -- control of both legislative chambers and the governor's office -- to draw the maximum number of congressional districts favorable to their party while undercutting Republicans, especially several just-elected freshmen in Chicago-area swing districts. To keep as many city-based districts as possible, despite Chicago's loss of 200,000 people over the last decade, Democratic map-makers will need to grow them out into the suburbs, pushing other suburban districts further out.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky's safely Democratic district just to the north of the city could be moved a bit north or west to accommodate some of this growth; Rep. Dan Lipinski, who has faced primary challenges from the left, might not mind trading some of his liberal and Hispanic city precincts for more blue-collar, exurban whites. Such a plan would have the additional benefit, from Democrats' point of view, of destabilizing vulnerable, first-term suburban Republican Reps. Joe Walsh, Robert Dold, Randy Hultgren, and Adam Kinzinger. And the district they're losing? Expect that to come from downstate, where Democrats may pair two or even three Republican representatives in one district.

-- South Dakota grew by 7.9% in the last decade to 814,000, enough for just one U.S. House seat. Much of the state's growth came in and around Sioux Falls in the east - the town itself grew by nearly a quarter, while nearby Lincoln County grew by 86%. This area, the home of credit card companies including Citibank, has continued to expand, and now makes up more than a quarter of the state's population.

The other growth area has been in the southwest part of the state, an area that includes the highly impoverished (and strongly Democratic) Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation as well as Rapid City. The state is getting less white overall: the Hispanic and African American populations, while still small, doubled, and the Asian population nearly did as well. The white population grew more slowly, and dropped from 88% to 85% of the total population.

-- Oklahoma's population grew by 8.7% and the state maintained its five congressional seats. The state, which for a half century has been a Republican stronghold at the national level, has trended even more Republican in the last few years - it was one of the few in the country to give more support to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 than George W. Bush in 2004.

Oklahoma City and the surrounding counties have seen a population boom due to the defense industry, gas and oil, and while Tulsa itself lost population, its suburbs grew quickly. On the other hand, the conservative Democratic southeast part of the state, Little Dixie, didn't grow much. There are now more Hispanics than Native Americans or African Americans in the state - the Latino population grew by 85% and now represents 8.9% of the total population.

Nearly one third of Oklahoma's population today is nonwhite. The state's congressional delegation has four Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren, who according to National Journal's 2009 Vote Ratings, is the most conservative Democrat left in the House. But Republicans are likely content to shore up their four seats than trying to go for the clean sweep.