Convention: Lone Star Lamentations

Jessica Taylor August 28, 2012 · 8:56 PM EDT

TAMPA, Fla. – It was supposed to be Rep. Quico Canseco’s shining moment. As he addressed RNC delegates Tuesday afternoon, the freshman Republican broke into Spanish, telling a warm GOP crowd that with Romney, “we can do better.”

But as soon as he stepped off the stage, Canseco was greeted with some potentially grim news – a three-judge federal court panel struck down the GOP legislature’s map, declaring that it failed to meet Voting Rights Act standards, particularly in protecting Hispanic voters.

The court’s decision has no impact on Canseco’s 2012 reelection hopes. The state’s elections will proceed under an interim map, drawn by the courts, that makes his race with state Rep. Pete Gallego (D) the only competitive race in Texas.

Canseco finds himself in a tough race under any map, and we currently rate the race as Toss Up/Tilt Republican. But Democrats got a boost when Gallego emerged from the runoff and not former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who Canseco defeated in 2010.

Still, Texas Democrats are very encouraged by the court’s decision, though state Attorney General Gregg Abbott has said he’ll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The state now has a good chance to strengthen the district for Democrats,” said Texas Democratic consultant Matt Angle. “The clock is ticking for [Canseco] no matter what.” While the Republican-controlled legislature will again draw the new map, Democrats expect there’s no way around making the 23rd more competitive in order to comply with the court’s ruling.

The rejection of the Republican-drawn congressional map is déjà vu for many in the Lone Star State, who saw their elections conducted under three different maps over the last decade. While the state picked up four new seats in redistricting thanks to Hispanic growth, only two of the new seats favored Democrats.

It’s not just Canseco’s district that will likely be affected, either. Expect Travis County to come under scrutiny in a future map too, and several Austin-area seats will likely be redrawn, possibly restoring Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s seat after the congressman was forced to run in (and won his primary) in a solidly Democratic 35th district that stretched from the state capital to San Antonio. New solidly GOP seats, particularly the 25th, likely to be won by former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, are prime targets.

“This opens up the door for starting over from square one,” said one Texas Republican strategist, admitting that Canseco’s district would continue to come under intense scrutiny during further deliberations.