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2004 Re-districting Could Impact 2010 Showdown

July 19, 2010

Brian Preston, a spokesman for the Texas Republican party, says the GOP has a target on our congressional district in 2010. In fact, they've had a major target on it for years, even shaping the current map in a fashion to win. But that hasn't happened. For ten terms now, Chet Edwards has prevailed over his Republican challenger. But Congressman Edwards hasn't enjoyed the breathing room that some long-term congressmen have in basically getting rubber-stamped by the voters back into office. That's because of the makeup of the district, says David Wasserman, Congressional editor for the influential Cook Political Report.

The Cook Political Report has rated the District 17 race as a toss-up between the 20 year incumbent and challenger Bill Flores. 2010 seems to be shaping into a year nationally where an anti-incumbent sentiment and discontent with new programs put in place in the past 18 months by Democrat leadership threatens what have been considered even safe Democrat seats. And Republicans are hoping to pounce, says Brian Preston from the Republican headquarters in Austin.

That's a pitch the GOP is making about congressmen like Edwards nationwide. Locally, there's no doubt that Republicans are hoping that wheels set in motion years ago finally come together to give them a GOP congressman in what the Cook Political Report calls the 19th most Republican district in the country. But Preston offers a begrudging acknowledgement that Edwards won't be easy to defeat.

David Wasserman is closely following over 120 congressional races for the Cook Report, and says the 17th is one of his favorites. There's a subplot that he finds fascinating. 2010 could be shaped in part by 2004. In the 2004 re-districting, majority Republicans sensed a chance to oust a number of Democrats, and they in fact did. The old District 11, represented by Edwards was broken up. With it went Fort Hood. Edwards is well-known for his support and advocacy for the military, and a number of key constituents were taken away from him. Congressman Pete Sessions and lawmakers essentially drew up a district designed to defeat Edwards.

Ashley Cruseturner is a history professor at McLennan Community College. A longtime observer of area politics, he says 2004 was a major test for Edwards, in a race he eventually won, despite the headwind of a Texas presidential candidate whose home was in the district.

But now Republicans are hoping that seeds sown in past years will result in a Republican congressman next year.

We'll continue our look at the district and race, and see how national experts think the next three and a half months could play out. You can hear yesterday's story as well as our complete conversation with Ashley Cruseturner online at kwbu.org. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

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