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20111125_FED-HOUSEPLANH298EDINBURG — Hidalgo County gained an additional Texas House seat and most of District 41 was restored to its original boundary lines under new redistricting maps released by a federal three-judge panel in San Antonio last week.

The new maps will be used in the 2012 election cycle, said Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramon at this week’s Commissioners’ Court.

County officials boasted that the new development was anticipated after the area grew according to the 2010 U.S. Census results.

“The whole Valley was looking forward to getting another seat and we got one,” said Mike Carrera, who works with the San Antonio-based attorney hired for redistricting.

The new District 35 will include cities of Peñitas, La Joya and Sullivan City as well as Delta-area cities like Edcouch and La Villa, as well as parts of Cameron County like La Feria, Santa Rosa, Combes, Primera and a portion of Harlingen.

This will give the Rio Grande Valley a total of eight seats.

In the federal plan, District 41 Rep. Veronica Gonzales also retains her current district.

“With the much-anticipated resolution of the State's redistricting battle, we can celebrate a major victory for the Rio Grande Valley and for my current House District 41,” Gonzales said. “Under the court ordered plan approved by all judges, two Republicans and one Democrat, the Valley rightfully gains an additional Texas House seat and District 41 is largely restored to its original boundary lines.”

Gonzales said the court's proposal vindicates arguments that the Legislature denied the Valley and its minority community, which grew by about 65 percent in the last 10 years, adequate representation.

“The previous Republican-drawn maps failed to account for our region's population growth, did not allow for the creation of minority opportunity districts and wrongfully denied minorities an equal opportunity to elect their preferred candidates of choice,” she said. “Justice has prevailed as the court's proposal recognizes Texas' significant Hispanic population growth. There is strength in numbers. An additional seat in the Rio Grande Valley is an additional vote we are going to have standing together on critical issues that matter to all of our families.”

Following the news of the new maps, Edinburg businessman T.C. Betancourt announced his bid for District 40 seat with the Democratic party. District 40 now includes parts of Edinburg, Elsa and Pharr.

“I am very happy about the results of the court,” Betancourt said last week. “Justice has been served for the people of Hidalgo County and the Democratic Party. The decision has given me the opportunity to focus my campaign on a district anchored in my hometown of Edinburg.”

Republican state Rep. Aaron Peña owns homes in districts 40 and 41. On his Twitter account last week, he said he would not be running in District 40, but hasn’t made any formal announcements about his candidacy.

The first day to file for office based on the court's ruling is Nov. 28 and the final day is Dec. 15.

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