The Dallas County Commissioners Court will soon be composed entirely of Democrats.
Incumbent Commissioner J.J. Koch, the last remaining Republican on the court, was defeated in the November 8 midterm elections by Democrat Andrew Sommerman, who captured 54% of the vote to Koch’s 46%. Koch, who held the seat for District 2, has served on the commissioners court since 2018.
Redistricting in 2021, which made District 2 significantly more Democratic, was reportedly a significant factor in the outcome of the election.
“The biggest thing was the way that the lines were drawn,” Koch said in an interview, according to The Dallas Morning News. “It just changed the composition of the district very dramatically.”
Gerrymandering refers to a process in which lines are drawn to manipulate the boundaries of districts to predetermine the outcome of elections.
Redistricting of court precincts contributed to District 2 turning blue, according to NBC 5. The old District 2 was drawn in the 2011 redistricting process to consolidate a Republican-voting segment in the county, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Koch previously opposed the new lines reducing Republican-leaning areas in his district. Democrats on the court argued that the new lines were supported by trends set by previous elections.
“It’s a piece of history, of course it is. But we knew that last year when I authored the redistricting plan. I mean, we saw this trend coming,” said Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Democrat.
After the redistricting done before the midterm election in 2021, the district map indicates a shift to the Democratic party.
Commenting on the dramatic drop in the percentage of votes — around 6% — that he captured, Koch said, “If we were talking about a race that was, you know, 2%, 3%, I could say image factored into it. This was just straight up people checking the box with a ‘D.’”
Others welcome the dramatic shift.
“It’s the first time we’ve had this sort of progressive, all welcoming, all progressive court. But we’re going to focus on representing everyone, Republicans, Independents and Democrats,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, according to NBC DFW.
Koch and Jenkins have historically been at odds with one another.
Koch filed a lawsuit against Jenkins in August 2021 over Dallas County’s COVID-19 mask mandate. Koch argued that the mandate violated a prohibition put in place by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Koch filed the lawsuit after Jenkins ordered all people in the commissioners’ courtroom to wear a mask, which led to a bailiff escorting Koch out of the court.
Sommerman defended Jenkins and Dallas County in that lawsuit.
The commissioner-elect has claimed that he intends to set partisan politics aside.
“I am not a Democrat anymore once I’m elected. Once I’m elected, I have to represent Democrats and Republicans both and make sure that my district is properly represented,” said Sommerman.