State Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Burleson, was betting a lawsuit over Texas Senate District 10’s new lines would give her a fighting chance to win a second term. But the latest decision from three federal judges to not block the reconfigured map likely means that the seat will flip red.
Her Republican contenders never waited on the lawsuit. State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and Arlington lawyer Warren Norred are actively campaigning for the Republican primary nomination for the seat and drawing big local and statewide names to support them.
With the backing of officials such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Rick Perry, King, widely considered Powell’s main challenger, has raised over $57,000 just between Jan. 1 and Jan. 20, 2022, according to campaign finance reports. Norred raised $2,960 during that same period of time. In comparison, Powell raised nearly $30,000 between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2021. Her campaign finance report for 2022 is not available.
The ongoing litigation over redistricting changes to Texas Senate District 10 is not the first time the seat’s lines have been challenged in court. In 2011 and 2013, the district’s newly drawn lines were challenged by then-Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, on the same accusation — the new lines cracked communities of color apart to ensure a Republican win for that district.
Plaintiffs could appeal the recent decision to the U.S Supreme Court. Until then, the redistricted map will remain in place for the March 1 primaries.
“It would have been really extraordinary for the court to have granted that injunction (to delay the primary until the lawsuit was settled),” said Rebecca Deen, interim associate dean of the college of liberal arts and associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Another trial is expected later this year for a series of challenges to the new maps for the state House and Senate, the State Board of Education and congressional districts.
Meet the Candidates
Democrat incumbent to face Republican state legislator, Arlington lawyer in Texas Senate District 10 race
Texas Senate District 10 is one of many closely watched races this upcoming primary election after lawmakers expanded its boundaries to include several rural counties. District 10 used to include most of south Fort Worth up to the northeast part of Tarrant County with cities like Colleyville, Southlake and Bedford.…
“(This Senate district) has been one that both Democrats and Republicans have fought over, and that’s in part because of the changing demographics in Tarrant County,” Deen said. “This has been a place where the two political parties in North Texas have fought it out.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that partisan gerrymandering is legal while racial gerrymandering is not. The difference between both can be a blurry line. On Feb. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated an Alabama congressional map that was previously found to dilute the power of Black voters, with concurring justices arguing that changing election proceedings so close to the start of an election could lead to disruptions.
In an interview with the Fort Worth Report, Powell expressed disappointment with the rulings on Alabama and the denied injunction out of El Paso. She’s still hopeful. Powell is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
“The fight isn’t over,” the incumbent said. “This is a fight worth having. Minority voices across the state of Texas and certainly in this district deserve to be heard at the ballot box.”
The senator and her team are currently waiting for the federal court’s written decision on the injunction before determining their next step.
“We feel like this is obvious racial gerrymandering, and I think the evidence is clear,” she said. “I do believe that, at the end of the day, we will prevail.”
However, GOP opponents said District 10 was drawn based on political affiliation rather than to disenfranchise voters of color. Although the newly drawn map is “not a natural way” to draw the district lines, the accusations that the new district lines suppress minority turnout is inaccurate, Norred said.
“What Democrats argue is, if you’ve diminished a Democrat vote, that is diminishing a minority vote. Of course, that’s fundamentally racist,” Norred said. “You can’t simply say every Black and Latino is a Democrat.”
King did not respond to the Report’s multiple requests for an interview.
District 10 used to include most of south Fort Worth up to the northeast part of Tarrant County, including cities like Colleyville, Southlake and Bedford. Now it is a predominantly Republican district following the addition of several rural, mostly white counties to the south and west of Fort Worth. Johnson, Parker, Palo Pinto, Stephens, Shackelford, Callahan and Brown counties are now part of the district.
Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair Allison Campolo said although officials shouldn’t assume political affiliation based on a voter’s race or background, it can be easy to predict the political leanings of a community.
“That does mean that (elected officials) can generally look at a neighborhood or a section of Tarrant County, based on who lives there and generally try to draw maps into their favor,” she said.
Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Rick Barnes did not respond to the Report’s request for an interview.
While a final decision relating to the lawsuit remains to be seen, Powell and her challengers have been fundraising. Over $781,000 has been raised in total for the contested seat by all three candidates.
Major donors and supporters of King include tobacco company Altria, energy company Exelon Corp. and supply chain company McLane. Among his individual donors is Hillwood Chairman Ross Perot Jr., who contributed $25,000 to King’s campaign on Jan. 7, 2022.
Powell’s donors include the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas PAC, which endorses King, and several engineering and architectural groups.
The lawsuit’s outcome could affect the November election. If they stand, the redrawn maps will impact elections for the foreseeable future, said Carlos Rovelo, professor of history and government at Tarrant County College.
“What’s happening in Senate District 10 is part of the bigger picture,” Rovelo said. “If those maps stand in court, that pretty much will define who will be winning (over the next 10 years).”
Fort Worth Report fellow Sandra Sadek may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.