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Associated Press

Dems: Population Rise Will Foil GOP

By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer

March 13, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON - The leader of the Democrats' redistricting efforts says the surge in the number of Hispanics counted during Census 2000 will help counter Republican efforts to add House seats in states with big population increases.

Hispanics generally vote Democratic, and six of the eight states to gain House seats from census-prompted redistricting have seen significant increases in Hispanic populations, said Texas Rep. Martin Frost (news - bio - voting record). He chairs of IMPAC 2000, the group heading the Democrats' redistricting campaign.

The six are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

Martin called Hispanic growth in the six states dramatic. ``In Texas, with 6.6 million Hispanics, it seems to me it would be somewhat difficult for the Legislature to draw a seat that is not Hispanic,'' Frost said Tuesday.

In the other two states, Georgia and North Carolina, Democrats control the redistricting process because they hold the governor's office and own majorities in the legislatures.

``We think if we do our work that we can break even on redistricting. Some people have said that we might pick up a couple of seats,'' Frost said.

Republicans dismissed Frost's rosy outlook as political spin, pointing out that Republicans made significant gains in capturing the Latino vote in last year's election.

``Republicans are in a very strong position heading into redistricting, stronger than we have ever been before,'' said Steven Schmidt, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman.

Republicans still say they can gain at least 10 seats.

Redistricting, the states' once-a-decade legislative task to conform political districts to new census numbers, always evokes strong partisan feelings. With control of the House at stake in 2002, both political parties are setting aside millions of dollars for legal challenges certain to occur.

Courts have effectively prohibited concentrating minorities in one district so as to prevent dilution of the influence of their vote in adjoining districts, which Frost said will be a plus for Democrats.

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