The Texas Legislature wrapped up redistricting for the state in October. After every decennial census, the state is required to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state representation to account for population changes.
After 25 years of representing The Woodlands area, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, announced in April he will be retiring at the end of his term next year. However, his 8th Congressional District will no longer represent The Woodlands community. Following redistricting, the region will now primarily fall under the 2nd District, held by Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, with the 8th District being redrawn west and north of the area.
JJ Hollie, director of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, said the immediate effects of redistricting will be felt after Brady’s precinct is no longer representing the area.
“We are losing a great representative that has been in Congress for a lot of years that has been very pro-business,” Hollie said. “That is a huge blow to us with that amount of history and his caring for the community.”
At the state level, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, will cover more of area on the west, with Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, losing some representation, according to the new redistricting maps. Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, lost around 30,000 constituents on the west side of his district to Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Montgomery.
Meanwhile, Montgomery and Harris counties also approved new commissioner precinct maps following the census’s release. Few changes are set for Montgomery County precincts, but the Harris County portion of the region will get a new commissioner following a contentious redistricting vote that has led to a lawsuit.
Despite changes across the region, Hollie said the chamber is not overly worried about district lines due to the nature of The Woodlands being in both Harris and Montgomery counties.
“Whoever represents us, we just have an open door and an active dialogue with them so we can affect positive change on economic policy and doing things that are going to be good for our business areas,” Hollie said.
Brady said he has been through several redistricting processes during his career due to population growth in the region.
Census data indicates prior to redistricting, the 8th District had a population of around 916,386, and the 2nd District had a population of 766,987. Following the redistricting, the 8th District will have a population of 766,987, and the 2nd District will have a population of 814,704.“They are all incredibly difficult,” he said of redistricting. “I love the communities in my current district and would love to see it stay just as it is. ... My congressional district is one of the fastest-growing districts in the nation, and we were overpopulated. We knew the lines had to be adjusted.”
With the redrawn districts, Brady said The Woodlands area will be united under one district with the neighboring Kingwood, Humble and Lake Houston areas.
“These communities have long been a part of the 8th District together,” Brady said. “This brings back communities under a different district.”During his tenure as the 8th District representative, Brady said the district has changed with each redistricting process. He has represented 18 different counties in his time in office.
Brady said he believes the new changes to the district map are good for The Woodlands area. He said the region will remain largely Republican and get better congressional representation as the area will make up around 15% of voters in the new 2nd District compared to the 12% of the 8th District it makes up now.
Brady added Crenshaw was recently added to the energy and commerce committee in Congress.
“It is a crucial position for protecting Texas energy jobs as well as dealing with health care issues,” Brady said. “Those are important for The Woodlands area, and it is important to have that kind of rising voice on a crucial committee.”
Crenshaw said he is meeting with local leaders in The Woodlands area, and when Congress is out of session, he will work his way through the district. Crenshaw said it has been a privilege to serve alongside Brady in Congress, and he is looking forward to meeting his new constituents.
“While we represented different districts, I believe the interests of our constituents, as with most Texans, are the same,” Crenshaw said.
Hollie said the chamber has worked with Crenshaw and his staff before, and he believes he will be a good fit.
“Anybody who represents us in The Woodlands and Montgomery County ... we want to open the door to them and have discussions with them about policy,” Hollie said. “I think we will see that out of Crenshaw’s office.”
At the state level, Creighton and Toth both expressed their disappointment with the new district lines.
“I was discouraged that Montgomery County was not kept whole. As I explained on the Senate floor, Montgomery, Magnolia, The Woodlands and Woodforest are distinctly communities of interest and should remain intact, but because of rapid population growth, there were changes to our district,” Creighton said. Toth said his disappointment has to do with both Creighton’s district being broken up and the way congressional maps were drawn.
“We had one of the best senators in the state of Texas in Brandon Creighton, and to carve up his district the way they did it, ... I do not think that was a good thing for us or for Brandon,” Toth said. “It is going to be difficult now to know if I work with Sen. [Paul] Bettencourt or Sen. [Lois] Kolkhorst—and they have massively huge areas—or Brandon. I do not think this is a good thing.”
However, Creighton said there were some benefits to come with redistricting, such as Texas getting two additional congressional seats and two more electoral votes due to the population growth the state saw over the past decade. The state grew by 16% since 2010, according to census data.
“Of that growth, Senate District 4 has seen some of the most significant in the state, and to balance the 31 Senate districts, parts of the district shifted, but for the most part, District 4 will remain intact,” Creighton said. “Additionally, the newly created 38th Congressional District is drawn into parts of [District] 4, increasing our representation in Washington, D.C.”
Creighton added the addition of Bettencourt and Kolkhorst also brings additional representation to the area with the finance and transportation committees, Creighton said.
Toth said while he did not want to give up any of the roughly 30,000 people in his district, it is part of the process, and the area will have more representation in the Texas House.
County commissioner precincts
Montgomery County commissioners approved a redistricting plan Nov. 9 that kept commissioner precinct boundaries largely in the same places with few changes in The Woodlands, which is primarily represented by Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack. Aided by an analysis from law firm Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta, commissioners moved a voting precinct from the most populated commissioner precinct—Precinct 4, represented by James Metts—to the least populated—Precinct 1, represented by Robert Walker.
Metts and Walker described the changes as “relatively minor.” Walker said the county’s growth in the past decade was “absolutely a good thing.”
The boundary change will move residents in southeast Conroe to Precinct 1. Precinct 1’s population is 149,614; Precinct 2’s population is 156,549; Precinct 3’s population is 156,138; and Precinct 4’s population is 158,142.
Meanwhile, the portion of The Woodlands area located in Harris County, which includes the Village of Creekside Park, will have a new county commissioner in Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey. In a 3-2 vote, commissioners selected a new boundary map Oct. 28.
The two court Republicans—Ramsey and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle—have criticized the plan, which swapped portions of each of their precincts, including the portion of Precinct 4 in The Woodlands.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a redistricting that’s moved 2.3 million people. That’s what we’re talking about here,” Ramsey said.
Commissioners agreed Nov. 9 to complete the transition by March 31. However, Cagle and Ramsey joined a lawsuit against the county Nov. 16, which alleges the map violates voters’ right to vote by forcing constituents in the new Precinct 4 to vote for a new commissioner in 2022 when Cagle’s term is up. The lawsuit asks the Harris County District Court to draw an interim map for the 2022 commissioner elections while also applying for an injunction to block the map from taking effect.
A court hearing was held over a request for a temporary restraining order preventing Harris County from implementing the Ellis map on Nov. 29, but the attempt was not successful, Cagle said. An order asking the courts for a temporary injunction is slated for Dec. 13, as of press time. Cagle said the goal is to get the case before the Texas Supreme Court by early January.
Emily Lincke contributed to this report.
Updated 10 a.m. Dec. 16
A graphic in the print edition was updated to correctly show Valoree Swanson as the representative for Texas House District 150.
4:11 p.m. Dec. 15
Editor's note: The text was updated to show that the percentage amount for state growth since 2010 was 16%. This number did not appear in the print edition.