The Political Geography of Hurricane Harvey

Efforts at recovery from the impact of Hurricane Harvey continue amidst what appears to be a commitment from the federal government to provide $7.85 billion for what is being called the first “tranche” of relief funding. Even amidst Donald Trump’s triangulation efforts between Congressional Democrats and Republicans and the approach of another, probably more destructive hurricane headed for the U.S. mainland, we are still in a moment of relative consensus on the fact that government, mainly the federal government, will need to spend a lot of money to help people and infrastructure in the affected areas. (Later in the day, reports had the Senate passing a package with additional $7.4billion for community block grants.)

Inevitably, however, politics will return to discussions of how much money to spend, where it comes from, how it’s distributed, and who gets how much (some might simply call this politics). In thinking about that eventuality, we’ve produced some maps that combine the counties designated as disaster areas by Governor Greg Abbott with district boundaries for the Texas House and Senate, as well as the party affiliation of the legislators and members in those areas. (This meant jamming a lot in these maps and we’re not cartographers – we’re happy to receive suggestions and corrections – and if you would like to use any of the maps, feel free to download and distribute.) (And also, read on, there's more after the maps.)

State Map of Texas with Disaster Declared Counties Highlighted

Disaster Declared Counties

Declared Disaster Counties with Senate District Overlay

Harris County with Senate District Overlay

Bexar County with Senate District Overlay

Declared Disaster Counties with House District Overlay

Harris County with House District Overlay

Bexar County with House District Overlay

The current consensus on the ground in Texas, stretching all the way from Governor Greg Abbott to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, is that the federal government will step up, as it usually does, and that there is not much of a rationale for a special session. After coolly laying out four things to “keep in mind” about the need for a special session to tap the Emergency Stabilization Fund, Eva DeLuna Castro of CPPP argues:

The next time lawmakers convene for a legislative session [in January 2019], they will review how much agencies like the Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Education Agency and others have paid out unexpectedly due to Harvey. If General Revenue is not available, then lawmakers could use the ESF – as intended – to help backfill funding for those agencies to prevent sudden and drastic cuts to critical services for Texans.

This doesn’t seem to address the possibility that agency responses to Harvey could exhaust available agency resources to the extent that additional appropriations would be required. While there doesn’t appear to be widespread concern about immediate funding as of this writing, per Jonathan Silver's coverage in the Austin American Statesman, concerns that money was tight were expressed by some agency personnel and some legislators at today's House Urban Affairs Committee meeting, convened by committee chair Carol Alvarado of Houston. There was also discussion that the amount of federal support promised in the last week could be reduced given the probably impact of Hurricane Irma.

But should Castro’s scenario play out, the politics around this spending will take place more than a year after the surge of Texas pride and solidarity that surrounded the aftermath of the storm. There will already be a significant amount of deferred expenses awaiting the 86th Legislature when they convene in January, 2019, and any additional funds that need to be appropriated on the front end of the regular budget process will likely be subject to debate about the particulars. As the maps above and table below show, the counties declared disaster zones encompass a wide swath of the legislature: 64 house members (37 Republicans and 27 Democrats) and 17 senators (9 Republicans and 8 Democrats) have all or part of their districts in the disaster areas. If all or most of them hold together despite the significant party polarization present in the legislature, they would form large, if non-majority, blocs in any contestation of spending related to post-Harvey reconstruction and related efforts to make agencies whole.


Texas House Members Representing Counties Declared a Disaster by Governor Abbott
Member Party District First Elected Counties Represented
Cecil Bell Jr. R 3 2012 Montgomery, Waller
Chris Paddie R 9 2012 Cass, Harrison, Marion, Panola, Sabine, Shelby
Leighton Schubert R 13 2014 Austin, Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, Grimes, Lavaca, Washington
John Raney R 14 2010 Brazos
Mark Keough R 15 2012 Montgomery
Will Metcalf R 16 2014 Montgomery
John Cyrier R 16 2014 Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes, Lee
Ernest Bailes R 18 2016 Liberty, San Jacinto, Walker
James White R 19 2010 Hardin, Jasper, Newton, Polk, Tyler
Dade Phelan R 21 2014 Jefferson, Orange
Joe Deshotel D 22 1998 Jefferson
Wayne Faircloth R 23 2014 Chambers, Galveston
Greg Bonnen R 24 2012 Galveston
Dennis Bonnen R 25 1996 Brazoria, Matagorda
Rick Miller R 26 2012 Fort Bend
Ron Reynolds D 27 2010 Fort Bend
John M. Zerwas R 28 2006 Fort Bend
Ed Thompson R 29 2012 Brazoria
Geanie Morrison R 30 1998 Aransas, Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Refugio
Ryan Guillen R 31 2002 Atacosa, Brooks, Duval, Jim Hogg, Kenedy, La Sallae, Live Oak, McMullen, Starr, Willacy
Todd Hunter R 32 2008 (1989-1997) Nueces
Abel Herrero D 34 2012 Nueces
Rene Oliveira D 37 1981 Cameron
Eddie Lucio III D 38 2006 Cameron
J.M. Lozano R 43 2010 Bee, Jim Wells, Kleberg, San Patricio
John Kuempel R 44 2010 Guadalupe, Wilson
Andrew Murr R 53 2014 Bandera, Crockett, Edwards, Kerr, Kimble, Llano, Mason, Medina, Menard, Real, Schleicher, Sutton
Trent Ashby R 57 2012 Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine, Trinity
Kyle Biedermann R 73 2016 Comal, Gillespie, Kendall
Phil Stephenson R 85 2012 Fort Bend, Jackson, Wharton
Diana Arevalo D 116 2016 Bexar
Philip Cortez D 117 2016 Bexar
Tomas Uresti D 118 2016 Bexar
Roland Gutierrez D 119 2008 Bexar
Barbara Gervin-Hawkins D 120 2016 Bexar
Joe Straus R 121 2005 Bexar
Lyle Larson R 122 2010 Bexar
Diego Bernal D 123 2014 Bexar
Ina Minjarez D 124 2015 Bexar
Justin Rodriguez D 125 2012 Bexar
Kevin Roberts R 126 2016 Harris
Dan Huberty R 127 2010 Harris
Briscoe Cain R 128 2016 Harris
Dennis Paul R 129 2014 Harris
Tom Oliverson R 130 2016 Harris
Alma Allen D 131 2004 Harris
Mike Schofield R 132 2014 Harris
Jim Murphy R 133 2010 Harris
Sarah Davis R 134 2010 Harris
Gary Elkins R 135 1994 Harris
Gene Wu D 137 2012 Harris
Dwayne Bohac R 138 2002 Harris
Jarvis Johnson D 139 2016 Harris
Armando Walle D 140 2008 Harris
Senfronia Thompson D 141 1972 Harris
Harold Dutton Jr. D 142 1984 Harris
Ana Hernandez D 143 2005 Harris
Mary Ann Perez D 144 2016 Harris
Carol Alvarado D 145 2008 Harris
Shawn Thierry D 146 2016 Harris
Garnet Coleman D 147 1991 Harris
Jessica Christina Farrar D 148 1994 Harris
Hubert Vo D 149 2004 Harris
Valoree Swanson D 150 2016 Harris


Texas Senate Members Representing Counties Declared a Disaster by Governor Abbott
Member Party District First Elected
Robert Nichols R 3 2006
Brandon Creighton R 4 2014
Charles Schwertner R 5 2012
Sylvia Garcia D 6 2012
Paul Bettencourt R 7 2014
Larry Taylor R 11 2012
Borris Miles D 13 2016
Kirk Watson D 14 2006
John Whitmire D 14 1982
Joan Huffman R 17 2014
Lois W. Kolkhorst R 18 2014
Judith Zaffirini D 21 1986
Juan 'Chuy' Hinojosa D 20 2002
Dawn Buckingham R 24 2016
Donna Campbell R 25 2012
José Menéndez D 26 2014
Eddie Lucio D 27 1990