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Inside Texas Politics: As redistricting begins, here's what Republicans and Democrats are expecting

This week on Inside Texas Politics, host Jason Whitely spoke with a Texas Republican and a Democrat about their expectations for the redistricting.

DALLAS — Monday in Austin begins the rare exercise of redistricting, as Texas legislators return for another special session.

This week on Inside Texas Politics, host Jason Whitely spoke with a Texas Republican and a Democrat about their expectations for the redistricting and a preview of political warfare that's sure to come.

Sen. Royce West: There will be litigation

Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, says if you just look at the numbers in terms of population growth here in Texas over the last decade, the redistricting process should be relatively easy because most of the growth in Texas was fueled by ethnic minorities.

“And from that vantage point, we should be seeing more and more districts where you have African-Americans, Latinos and other ethnic groups being either the dominant force in the district or being a significant force in an opportunity district,” Senator West said on Inside Politics.

But the Democrat quickly followed that statement up with a forceful “however,” reminding everyone that Republicans control the process. That why it’s widely expected they will draw politically advantageous maps. First elected to the Texas Senate in November 1992, Senator West should know, having gone through the process a few times.

“There will be litigation,” he said.

During the third special session, lawmakers will have to redraw the political maps for Congress, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate. Even the state Board of Education’s maps will get new boundaries.

Senator West says there has always been back and forth in terms of the Senate seats.

“I know that there are rumors that Republicans are going to try to get another state Senate seat. So the question becomes where will that be?” the Democrat openly mused. “It would appear as though that they would try to make headway down in south Texas given the 2020 election results.”

The GOP made significant strides in the Rio Grande Valley during the last Presidential election, making many races more competitive, surprising and concerning Democrats. Senator West sees that area of the state as the primary battleground during the current redistricting cycle.

Lawmakers will also have to deal with two new Congressional seats when redrawing those maps, the result of Texas’ population growth.

“In terms of the Congressional seats, both of those should be Democratic Congressional seats given the increase in the population. But the Republicans are not going to just lay down and allow Democrats to have those two Congressional seats without a fight in the courts.”

RELATED: Gov. Greg Abbott announces date, agenda for third special session

Republican says voters, not lawmakers, will decide who wins redistricting battle

With redistricting the front and center issue during the third special session, expect the drama and political warfare to continue in Austin.

Texas will gain two new Congressional seats as the result of its population growth over the last decade. And even though Republicans control the process and it is widely assumed both districts will be drawn to benefit Republican candidates, Representative James White, R-Woodville, says voters have the ultimate say as to whether both benefit the GOP.

“The ultimate answer to your question is November 2022. It’s what the people will choose, not necessarily what people on committees or on the House floor,” the Republican said on Inside Texas Politics. “The people will choose, ultimately, who continues to serve them in the Texas legislature.”

This will be Representative White’s second redistricting cycle. And because he remembers 2011, he cautions against assumptions.

“We started the session with 101 Republicans, a so-called super majority,” he said. “I think we dropped 7, 8, 9 seats in 2012.”

And the Republican also points to 2018, a mid-term election that used the GOP controlled map drawn in 2011, with some alterations in 2012 and 2014.

“The Democrats picked up a number of seats in the House and the Senate,” Rep. White said.

During the third special session, lawmakers will have to redraw the political maps for Congress, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate. Even the state Board of Education’s maps will get new boundaries.

Lawmakers will have 30-days to accomplish all of that. Will they have time to tackle anything else on the five-item agenda?

“I think it’s highly probable. What I found out there in Austin since 2011, we can really do what we want to do if we want to do it,” said the Republican,

RELATED: Here’s why Texas’s next political battle over redistricting matters to you

Statewide headlines

Ross Ramsey, the co-founder and executive editor of the Texas Tribune, joined the show for an update on the biggest headlines in Texas politics.

The most important issue in the legislature: Are Republicans going to run over Democrats, or do they have any chance of getting something out of redistricting? 

Also, we've watched for years as courts have tried to sort out the failures of the state foster care system. A federal judge had enough the other day. What happens next?

After devastating winter, El Paso now leads Texas in vaccinations

As the dangerous delta variant rips through Texas, El Paso has, so far, avoided the worst of the surge. And the city’s Mayor says the difference maker is their vaccination rate. 74.7% of all El Pasoans aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated. That’s the best rate in the state, he says. And one key group has an even better vaccination rate.

“One of our biggest focuses was 65 and over. And we can tell you that today, 97.2% have the first vaccine 65 and over. And 88.9% of our citizens who are 65 and over are fully vaccinated,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said on Inside Texas Politics.

Ten months ago, Leeser said, El Paso was the worst city in the nation in terms of COVID-19 infections. Late last year, the city was one of most active hot spots for the disease in the entire country.

Leeser said they were able to turn the situation around after public and private sector leaders in the city and the county came together to develop a community plan. A big part of that was a new COVID-19 dashboard launched to provide up-to-date information for residents.

Reporter Roundtable

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey and Bud Kennedy with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram joined Berna Dean Steptoe, WFAA’s political producer, for a reporter roundtable. They discussed Attorney General Ken Paxton's primary opponents, and what the failed recall effort against California Gov. Gavin Newsom has to do with the Texas abortion law.