Redistricting is coming and, State Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton says, there’s little doubt it’s going to affect local governmental boundaries.
District 85, Stephenson’s district, was drawn to encompass Wharton, Jackson and the western portion of Fort Bend County based on 2010 census data.
Stephenson, a CPA and former Wharton County Junior College trustee, is the only person to hold the office under its current boundaries. He was first elected in 2012.
Previously, Wharton County was part of House District 28, held at the last redistricting by Dr. John Zerwas, now the executive vice chancellor for health affairs for the University of Texas.
“Wharton and Jackson counties should be the base (of House District 85),” Stephenson told the Leader-News Monday, adding that population growth in Fort Bend County will likely cause changes there.
Fort Bend County’s population was estimated at 811,688 in 2019, up almost 300,000 from the 2010 census count.
Four state representatives serve the county. Stephenson’s District 85 extends over Needville, the southern half of Rosenberg, sections of the Richmond area and out to U.S. 59 and Hwy. 99 as well as Royal Lake Estates and Thompsons before legging over to snag Arcola. The rest of Fort Bend County has been carved into House District 27 representing the far southeast portions of the county including Stafford and Missouri City; District 26 covering the remaining section of Richmond and over through Sugar Land; and District 28 covering northern Fort Bend County.
“I’m the only one that’s not just Fort Bend County,” Stephenson said, adding he expects districts to be redrawn with each representative covering slightly less than 200,000 people on average.
Wharton County’s 2019 Census estimate put 41,556 people here, up less than 1 percent from the 2010 Census, while Jackson County’s estimated 14,760 population in 2019 marked an almost 5 percent increase.
“I’m not sure what we will do. They may make Fort Bend a smaller area (the section Stephenson represents and then give Matagorda County to me. Brazoria (County) is growing like weeds,” he said.
Brazoria County’s population is estimated at 374,264, according to the 2019 data compiled by the Census, up 19.5 percent from 313,166 at the 2010 census.
“I could pick up some of Colorado (County) ...(or) Matagorda, Jackson and Colorado (counties with Wharton as the base),” Stephenson said.
With a strong Republican base south of I-10, Stephenson said he could work with any of them, adding he’s previously had clients in all the areas. “Redistricting is going to be an interesting battle,” the state representative told the Leader-News.
All Census data needed to move forward with redistricting will not be available until the end of September. With the Democrats’ walkout from the state legislature, even more delays are possible.
In 2012, redistricting delays and court challenges pushed primaries back twice: from March into April and then into late May.