County’s House districts all over map with ruling

Since his decision last April to run for Texas House District 3
in Montgomery County, Cecil Bell has put 11,000 miles on a new
pickup traveling the county to meet potential constituents.

Now that a federal court in San Antonio has redrawn the
districts the Texas Legislature redrew in April, Bell – a Magnolia
resident who sits on the Magnolia Independent School District Board
of Trustees – will be traveling even more of the county to shake

Not only has the district changed its shape and grown in size,
it’s now known by a new name – Texas House District 136.

“I don’t know why the court was compelled to change it,” Bell
said. “It just puts me to work in a broader area.”

The redrawing of the district also will have an impact on the
campaign of Bob Bagley, a Montgomery County Hospital District board
member who recently announced he would run against Bell in the
March Republican primary.

With the new map in place, “I would have to move out of the
district to run,” Bagley said. “I will probably drop out of the
race and stay on the hospital district board.”

If the final map is drawn before candidate filings end in
December, “There’s still a possibility but we just have to wait and
see,” Bagley said.

The federal court on Thursday issued temporary political maps
for the 2012 election in Texas that some say will give Democrats a
greater chance of winning seats in the Legislature. The maps,
redrawn for both the Texas House and Senate, have to be given final
court approval and will remain in place until there is a resolution
to two lawsuits filed over the Legislature’s proposals.

The court also is expected to release a proposal for new
congressional districts.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Friday filed objections to
each of the federal court’s interim plans for the Texas House and

When District 3 was originally drawn for Montgomery County by
the Legislature, it covered all of Waller County and Southwest
Montgomery County, narrowed down as it went through Conroe and them
opened up again to encompass a sizeable portion of East Montgomery

Now, District 136 will still encompass all of Waller County and
Southwest Montgomery County, but it will continue heading north to
cover virtually all of West Montgomery County and part of Northeast
Montgomery County.

With that change, many residents of Lake Conroe – including
heavily Republican Bentwater, Walden and April Sound – and
Montgomery will lose their representation by Rep. Brandon
Creighton, R-Conroe, who holds District 16.

“I’m shocked and devastated,” Creighton said Monday. I lost the
western shoreline of Lake Conroe and the northern communities. To
lose April Sound, Bentwater and Walden …I’m devastated.”

The new map disrupts planning for the city of Conroe, which has
been fulfilling a plan to annex Lake Conroe over several years,
Creighton said.

“To divide Conroe and Lake Conroe is amazing and arbitrary,” he
said. “The San Antonio court made quick changes so the election
cycle could proceed. We’ll have to expect these changes for this

Democrats and minorities have complained that the maps drawn by
the Republican-controlled Legislature from electing their choice of
candidate. The legal fight centers around a requirement in the 1965
federal Voting Rights Act that certain states with a history of
discrimination, including Texas, be granted “preclearance” before
changes in voting practices can be enacted.

But until Thursday’s redrawing of the maps, there had been no
indication that the San Antonio judges would touch Montgomery
County or several other heavily Republican counties.

The court also redrew maps for Williamson, Collin and Fort Bend
Counties, which are politically similar to Montgomery County.

“Montgomery County’s the most flagrant,” Creighton said. “If
we’re clear on minority voting, there’s no legal justification for

“A court’s job is to apply the law, not to make policy,” Abbott
wrote in his objection to court’s interim House map. “A federal
court lacks the constitutional authority to interfere with the
expressed will of the state Legislature unless it is compelled to
remedy a specific identifiable violation of law.”

The three-judge panel, however, was split Thursday in a 2-1
vote, which Creighton said is an “opening” for the Surpreme

With Conroe’s plans for water and transportation, among other
issues, “To be severed away from the lake makes no sense,”
Creighton said.

The new map essentially looks the same for Rep. Rob Eissler,
R-The Woodlands, but adds a couple of precincts in Porter and New
Caney, said Dr. Walter Wilkerson, chair of the Montgomery County
Republican Party.

Creighton’s district is “a little less Republican” but District
136 is “more Republican the way it’s drawn now” because of its
incorporation of the Lake Conroe communities, Wilkerson said.

He feels both districts would elect Republicans.

“When you consider all the lake areas,” he said “I don’t see how
in the world any Democrat could win (District 136.)

“There’s no Democrat that’s going to beat Brandon.”

But, like Abbott and Creighton, Wilkerson is unhappy with the
federal court’s decision.

“I’m fed up with these courts. This is a bunch of baloney,” he
said. “Now we’re waiting on the district court in Washington.

“Even if they change it just a little bit, everyone has to
refile and run again.”