DALLAS – Three Democratic members of Congress struggled to hold on to their seats Tuesday after being forced into primary battles in unfamiliar or redrawn districts by a new, Republican congressional map.
The GOP-controlled Texas Legislature redrew the map last year in a pitched battle that led to two out-of-state walkouts by the Democrats. U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search), a Texas Republican, played a major behind-the-scenes role.
Come November, the Republicans hope to win at least 22 of Texas' 32 congressional seats, now split evenly between the parties.
During the redistricting, the Republicans targeted two incumbent Democrats, Reps. Lloyd Doggett of Austin and Chris Bell of Houston, by making their districts more Republican. But both men decided to jump to heavily Democratic districts.
Doggett, 57, waged a primary battle against former state Judge Leticia Hinojosa, a 46-year-old Mexican-American. Doggett, who is white, ran in a mostly Hispanic district — sometimes called the Fajita Strip — that stretches 350 miles from Austin to the Mexico border.
Bell, 44, a freshman member of Congress, ran in a Houston district where about 66 percent of the voters are black or Hispanic. Bell, who is white, faced two black candidates in the Democratic primary: Al Green, 56, a former Houston NAACP president, and lawyer Beverly Spencer, 55.
Another competitive Democratic race was in an overwhelmingly Hispanic district in the San Antonio area. It pitted two former friends and allies against each other: four-term Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, 57, and Henry Cuellar, a former Texas secretary of state.
Cuellar, 48, had planned to run against Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla of San Antonio. But redistricting made Bonilla's district more solidly Republican by including voters in San Antonio's well-to-do northern suburbs. So Cuellar decided to take his chances instead in Rodriguez's redrawn district, which is overwhelmingly Democratic.
President Bush's Crawford ranch was part of a district that was redrawn to include more Republican-leaning voters. Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards ran unopposed in the primary there Tuesday, but a three-way GOP battle was under way for the chance to oppose him in November.
Court battles over the redistricting pushed back the primary date from Super Tuesday a week ago, but a federal court ultimately ruled the districts legal. The Democrats appealed to the Supreme Court, which is not expected to rule before November.
Former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart has indicated he will not run.