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WASHINGTON — Lizzie Pannill Fletcher‘s political profession turned into one thing of a trophy to Washington Democrats in 2018 after she received the Houston-based seventh Congressional District — lengthy a bastion of Texas Republican management.
The seat used to be as soon as held by way of the overdue President George H.W. Bush, and one among Fletcher’s maximum outstanding constituents is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. TX-7 used to be designed to be a secure Republican stronghold, however the 46-year-old former trial legal professional snatched it away 3 years in the past. And whilst a lot of her classmates from the 2018 Democratic wave misplaced reelection in 2020, she hung on in opposition to an impressive Republican opponent.
Any day now, she’ll learn the way intent Texas Republicans are on taking the seat again.
The Texas Legislature is poised to unveil its proposed maps for brand new Texas Congressional districts, and a few be expecting they are going to redraw the seventh Congressional District in some way that dooms Fletcher’s probabilities of profitable there once more.
Fletcher is easily conscious she is in political purgatory.
“I’ve all the time recognized that that is simply a part of the method and … there’s such a lot taking place right here, that possibly it’s just right that it’s now not my center of attention,” she stated in an interview. “It’s on my radar that my task is to constitute my constituents and definitely listening to what I’ve heard, figuring out what I do know, I do really feel a duty to take a look at to offer protection to the district and to offer protection to them.”
All through two phrases within the U.S. Area, Fletcher has been a quite overshadowed presence, a quietly dependable celebration member some of the boisterous pack of Democrats who took again the chamber in 2018.
She is a robust fundraiser — gathering extra money this cycle than some other Texas Democratic member. She does now not create complications for celebration management and avoids the bombast of contemporary social media politicking.
However redistricting is a blood recreation, and Republicans this time round have a good freer hand to carve up the state for partisan benefit after the U.S. Ideally suited Courtroom’s 2013 choice gutting key provisions of federal regulations that secure citizens of colour.
No Texas Democrat is extra ceaselessly cited as a most probably sufferer of the redistricting pen than Fletcher. Whether or not or now not Republicans take an competitive posture towards her may set the degree for the following decade within the Texas congressional delegation.
A lot of the animus towards her within the Republican guide elegance is rooted in geography: Fletcher represents a seat that used to be by no means supposed to be aggressive, let on my own held by way of a Democrat.
Two of the former congress individuals elected there are Republican legends: the elder Bush and previous Area Tactics and Method Committee Chairman Invoice Archer. Fletcher does now not run from that historical past.
She’s loosely involved with the Bush camp, and when she met this week with one among her interns from the College of Texas who is a part of a program named for Archer, Fletcher used to be fast to show that he as soon as represented the district.
Whilst some Republicans take umbrage with this, she is a creature of her place of birth.
Reared within the Afton Oaks community all over the 1980s oil bust, she attended town’s maximum elite non-public college. She left the state for her undergraduate stage and regulation college however returned in 2006 to paintings for Vinson & Elkins, probably the most politically stressed corporations on the town. Previous to her run, she used to be a spouse at Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing regulation company.
Now, because the congresswoman, she has two grown stepchildren and lives along with her legal professional husband close to the realm the place she grew up.
She got here to this political position in early 2017. Fletcher joined the wave of political neophytes who ran for Congress in a backlash to the election of former President Donald Trump. She in the end defeated U.S. Rep. John Culberson, an established Republican who had most commonly confronted nominal Democratic combatants up to now.
Her first election used to be so the most important to nationwide Democrats that they despatched one among their best surrogates — the overdue U.S. Rep. John Lewis — to marketing campaign along with her at African American worship products and services the weekend earlier than the election.
That day nonetheless imbues her Washington place of business, the place she presentations a number of framed pictures of herself with Lewis from that point and every other from a pre-pandemic 2020 march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma the place many years previous the civil rights icon used to be just about crushed to loss of life by way of police.
Houston iconography additionally abounds — coasters with one of the most native space codes, 713 — and her older sister’s paintings celebrating town. There are two framed maps of the seventh Congressional District — which incorporates a lot of west Houston and its suburbs.
What that district will appear to be after the Legislature is completed drawing new maps is now probably the most debated questions in Texas politics, and the merciful situations for Fletcher are restricted.
It’s an open secret that Area GOP management needs to raise her 2020 rival, retired veteran Wesley Hunt. And after Republicans held directly to the Legislature ultimate 12 months, hypothesis started about how to attract maps in some way that may make it unattainable for her — and U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a Dallas Democrat additionally elected in 2018— to win reelection.
For the reason that Area Democrats have best an eight-vote margin, it used to be simple to peer early this 12 months how the street to a majority for Republicans should move via Texas — and thru Fletcher’s district.
“While you’re having a look on the giant image … You without a doubt have heard other folks announcing there may be an effort to take again the Area via redistricting,” she stated.
“I don’t assume it’s a good suggestion to take again the Area by way of now not letting other folks vote,” she stated, referencing the just lately handed state voter get right of entry to invoice. “I additionally don’t assume it’s just right to take again the Area by way of dismantling districts which can be successfully acting for his or her constituents.”
There’s additionally a frustration in GOP circles that Fletcher has a Teflon protect. She has a tendency to vote along with her celebration however is perceived in the neighborhood as a reasonable. They argue she is susceptible at the district’s major financial sector — fossil fuels. The seventh Congressional District has lengthy been house to most of the nice oil barons. It’s a fee that may convey flashes of delicate ire to Fletcher’s typically cheerful disposition.
Already, a Republican staff aligned with nationwide GOP leaders known as American Motion Community has made a small tv purchase tying her to U.S. Area Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The Area GOP marketing campaign committee could also be keeping track of Fletcher.
“Texans are paying extra for gasoline and groceries as a result of Lizzie Fletcher helps to keep supporting Democrats’ socialist spending sprees,” stated Nationwide Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Torunn Sinclair. “It’s going to value her reelection.”
However 8 state and nationwide Republican operatives with direct ties to the Texas delegation warned in interviews that an competitive effort to unseat Fletcher may endanger the Republican incumbents who encompass her district: U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul of Austin, Dan Crenshaw of Houston and Troy Nehls of Richmond.
Traditionally, the Legislature listens to the sitting Congressional Republicans after they redraw maps, and McCaul, as a senior Republican, is serving as some degree particular person between the state lawmakers and his GOP colleagues.
Whilst early main points of the brand new districts stay carefully held, some Republican assets stated they sense survival instincts are atmosphere in some of the federal Republicans. Which means, few are serious about the perception of pulling conservative citizens from within reach Republican incumbents’ districts to take out Fletcher.
As a substitute, the map drawers may make a decision to depart Fletcher on my own and siphon Republicans from her district to reinforce the long-term reelection probabilities of Republicans in neighboring districts.
However that would possibly harm Fletcher otherwise: Her district may finally end up together with many new Democratic citizens unfamiliar along with her, leaving her at risk of a number one problem from a longtime Houston Democrat.
Whilst incumbents around the nation carried a little of hysteria across the Capitol this week, Fletcher’s destiny stays the point of interest in Texas.
Through all appearances, Fletcher likes serving in Congress. She has a coveted seat at the U.S. Area and Power Committee, which has oversight of the oil and gasoline trade, and he or she’s begun branching out on nationwide tv to talk about a key factor she ran on as a candidate: abortion rights.
But when the maps convey dangerous information her method, she could have some tricky possible choices to make.
“I don’t know that I’ve concept via my procedure,” she stated, describing how she is going to kind out her political long run. “However I’m normally maximum keen on ensuring that my constituents get the illustration they deserve.”
“At this level, all choices are at the desk,” she stated.
When requested if that incorporated retirement, she laughed: “I’m too younger to retire, proper?”
However there may be an alternative choice.
The 2018 wave used to be consequential in Texas partially as it gave Democrats a farm group for the primary time in many years. Fletcher may run for a unique place of business.
“If I feel I’ve one thing to supply, or if I feel I will be able to give a contribution … I’ve to kick the tires for a very long time earlier than I believe assured that I will be able to do a task right here, however I feel I’ve accomplished a just right task right here,” she stated.
As for the psychology of this ordinary, once-in-a-decade political dance, she stated the sheer quantity of law earlier than the congress this week — an abortion invoice, a possible govt shutdown, Area Democratic efforts to persuade the Senate to soak up a vote casting invoice — has saved her too busy to stay.
“I will be able to’t keep watch over the whole thing, so I’m in a lovely just right position, and I’m going to peer what my choices are and make my selections,” she stated. “It’s now not a lot of a procedure.”
“However you understand, I’m going to peer what my choices are, and I have a tendency to be lovely analytical, and so I’m positive I’ll assume for a very long time, and we’ll see.”
“You by no means know, proper?”
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