Continuously divided Republican Party appears somewhat behind Legislature’s willingness to divide Montgomery County in redistricting

Montgomery County map showing division into three Senatorial Districts as part of Senate Bill 4, which passed the Texas Senate on October 4, 2021.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Austin and Conroe, October 11 – During the redistricting process in the Third Special Session of the 87th Texas Legislature, it has become apparent that Montgomery County will suffer a substantial split among Congressional Districts and State Senatorial Districts. The Montgomery County Commissioners Court on September 28 passed a feckless resolution opposing the move, but the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 4 on a 20 to 11 vote on Monday, October 4, 2021, including the vote of Senator Brandon Creighton, Republican of Conroe, who voted in favor of the legislation.

The question is: why is Montgomery County suffering a split into three Senatorial Districts in two Congressional Districts during the 2021 redistricting process? It’s important to note that Montgomery County’s population is small enough, approximately 623,000 in the 2020 United States Census, that the County could all fit within one Senatorial District and within one Congressional District.

The answer appears to be two-fold. First, Montgomery County’s center-right voting population appeals to Congressmen and Senators who wish to keep their seats in the U.S. House and Texas Senate. Therefore, dividing that population into some existing Districts threatened from Houston’s growing Democratic population makes sense. Clearly, that’s the main reason for moving The Woodlands and south Montgomery County into Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s Second Congressional District. That’s also the reason that the Senate Redistricting Committee under the leadership of Chair Joan Huffman, Republican of Houston, adopted the plan, which splits Montgomery County into three different Senatorial Districts, which would include Senatorial District 4, which Senator Brandon Creighton (Republican of Conroe) currently represents, Senatorial District 7, which Senator Paul Bettencourt (Republican of Houston) currently represents, and District 18, which Senator Lois Kolkhorst (Republican of Brenham) currently represents. The Magnolia area and southwest Montgomery County would go into Bettencourt’s Senatorial District 7. A large central western part of Montgomery County will go into Kolkhorst’s District 18.

Creighton’s new State Senate District 4 would include all of the Montgomery County portion of what is currently Senatorial District 3, which Tyler Republican Senator Robert Nichols represents. It will also include all of the rest of Montgomery County and still extend eastward to a portion of Jefferson County, which includes Port Arthur.

Second, three sources inside the Lieutenant Governor’s office have confirmed that the Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, and Governor Greg Abbott have observed how dysfunctional the local Republican Party has been over the past four years and decided to divide the County into multiple Senatorial and Congressional Districts as a result as well as to help Houston area legislators hold onto their seats.

Governor Abbott told this newspaper in October, 2019, during a fundraiser in Austin that “splitting up Montgomery County might reduce its Republican Party’s divisive character.”

Undoubtedly, Montgomery County Republicans have shown a strong willingness to challenge policy positions of Abbott and other elected Republicans, when they fail to follow campaign promises and the Republican Party Platform. There also is a division within the Montgomery County Republican Party between so-called “grassroots conservatives,” who are rapidly losing ground, and the more moderate faction whom the grassroots refer to as “the establishment.”

Montgomery County Republican Chairman Bryan Christ didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article. Christ has worked hard to bring minorities into the Party since he won election to the Chairman position in 2018. Christ has failed to bring unity to the Party and his political consultant wife Kristin Christ’s management of very divisive political campaigns has not helped him in that position. Kristin Christ, however, has done remarkable work organizing the moderate wing of the local Republican Party, however.

On October 6, the divisiveness within the Republican Party came on full display during a County Executive Committee (comprised of all of the elected Precinct Chairs) meeting. The conservatives engineered easy passage of a resolution calling for Party unity and condemning local political groups who try to deceive Republican Primary Election voters with endorsements of one candidate over another in contested intra-party elections by using the name “Republican” on their voter guides. One such organization is the Republican Voters of Texas PAC, Kristin Christ’s organization, which regularly provides voter guides to voters approaching voting boxes with the statement to the effect “Would you like a Republican voter guide?” even though they’re endorsing candidates in contested Republican Primaries. The deception has been highly effective, as Christ has successfully defeated the more conservative Tea Party groups consistently.

Mark Frank, a Conroe Precinct Chairman and a member of the local Republican Party’s Steering Committee, spoke with The Golden Hammer last week and denied the disunity altogether. He frankly said, “I don’t consider us disunited. We are passionate. However, we are so passionate, we have lost sight of our main goals and duties as Precinct Chairs. We are here to support the Republican Party Platform and the Republican Brand. As of last night, we shot it all to heck. We are here to get Republicans elected. I believe we are United in this, but we differ on who we believe is the right candidate. We are here to energize the people to get them off the couch and to the polls. Many precinct chairs, such as Ginger Russell, Mrs. Lightfoot, John Wertz, and past precinct chairman Phil Caddy (including many more) actually take this to heart. I have been there with them, block walking precincts that were not our own to help hand flyers, knock on doors, and get people to the polls.”

Frank continued, “I believe that no matter how you look at it, we back the 10 core principles [in the Republican Party Platform]. This includes all of our awesome women’s groups, our Tea Party, RVT, Eagle Forum, and one of my personal favorites, the Hispanic Conservatives of Montgomery County. We may differ on certain issues, but at our core, we bleed the same. I choose to focus on what we have in common more than where we differ. Our views tend to be 90% in line with one another. So, for that small 10%, we should agree to disagree. We should live on for the betterment of not just our local party, but our voters, our elected officials, and our state party. The Democrats, Liberals, and these Communists are the real enemy. The sooner we wake up and see that, the more we can support one another here in MOCO and show the rest of this state and nation what being a Republican is really about!”

As for the core reason, Montgomery County will suffer the split during redistricting, The Golden Hammer‘s Publisher Kelli Cox provided the bottom line: “The Texas Legislature is splitting Montgomery County up, so more legislators can have a piece of the red pie to improve their pale pink districts.”

Despite all of the in-fighting within the Montgomery County Republican Party, Montgomery County has done a better job than most other counties in Texas in delivering strong results in general elections. As Ginger Russell told this newspaper, “We have been successful in holding back Democrats from winning elections. Montgomery County has consistently been one of the most conservative and red counties in Texas.”

 

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