By CHARLOTTE AGUILAR
U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas District 2) is “coming back” to represent Inner Loop Houston, as he puts it — his district redrawn in new maps released by federal judges Tuesday to include Montrose, Rice University, the Museum District and the Texas Medical Center, and parts of the Washington Avenue-Memorial Park area, The Heights, and a sliver of River Oaks.
In doing so, Poe loses the expansive rural parts of his district in Liberty and Jefferson counties, to have his entire constituency in Harris County.
The move of District 2 to inside the Loop takes that portion out of U.S. Rep. John Culberson’s District 7. Bellaire and West University remain in Culberson’s district, but communities east of Kirby Drive will now be represented by Poe.
“I’m not unfamiliar with the area,” an upbeat Poe told the Examiners Tuesday evening. “After all, I did represent it for 22 years.” Poe was referring to his celebrated tenure as an elected Harris County criminal judge, when he gained international notoriety for his tough law-and-order courtroom that heard more than 20,000 cases, and for his very public punishments of some convicted criminals.
Known as “Poetic Justice” to admirers and “shame-based punishment” to detractors, his sentences including making sex offenders put signs on their homes identifying their crimes even after they served their time, and murderers to keep pictures of their victims visible on their cell walls. That gained him coverage on Oprah, 60 Minutes and an admiring column from Ann Landers, as well as the attention of international media, fascinated by such sights as a convicted robber carrying an apologetic sign in front of a business he’d victimized.
The Houston Press noted in 1999: “There are 59 district judges in Harris County, whose names show up on the ballot every four years. The typical Houstonian would be hard-pressed to name any of them. But if there is one name he or she could come up with, it would be Ted Poe.”
Earlier, as a prosecutor — eventually chief prosecutor — in the Harris County D.A.’s Office for eight years, Poe never lost a case, and many expected him to seek the D.A.’s job. Instead, he made a run for Congress, elected in 2004.
His time on the bench “made me a good listener,” Poe said, and his first order of business will be to “start listening to voters” in the added parts of his district. Some of that addition mirrors the so-called “hipstrict” — the recently redrawn Houston City Council District C, represented by Ellen Cohen — dubbed that for its gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered and arts communities and eclectic commercial areas that celebrate small, independent businesses.
“I’ll be a representative for the area and an advocate for the area in Washington,” he said. “I’m looking forward to representing it again.”
In moving into Poe’s district, Inner Loop communities are trading one conservative representative for another better known and more powerful one. Poe, 63, sits on the foreign affairs and judiciary committees in the House. He’s also one of the leading advocates for immigration reform on Capitol Hill.
The website for his Congressional District describes Poe as “a leading voice for Texans standing up for conservative principles, reducing the size of the federal government and promoting constitutional and individual liberties.”
Completion of the maps by federal judges in San Antonio will take Texas’ primary election off hold and allow it to go forward on May 29. Tuesday’s maps included the Congressional and state House seats. The court had already approved state Senate redistricting earlier in February.
To see the Congressional maps, go to http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/?PlanHeader=PLANc235
Editor Vanesa Brashier of the Examiners’ sister newspaper, The Cleveland Advocate, contributed to this story.