Republican State Representative Aaron Pena lied about his involvement with a redistricting plan that swaps his Democratic district out for a conservative seat, according to Texas Democrats.
“We have a Republican member of the redistricting committee caught lying about his role in the drawing of a district so blatantly discriminatory that it could be used in textbooks to illustrate gerrymandering,” said Anthony Gutierrez, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party. “Simply put, Pena would not have lied if he had not done something wrong.”
Pena was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat. After being elected to his fifth term, he announced he was switching to the Republican Party.
Minority and Democratic groups had filed a lawsuit over redistricting maps approved by the Republican-led Texas legislature in the spring. They claimed the redistricting maps were racially discriminatory because they split up growing Hispanic and black communities, making it easier for conservatives to win seats. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that the redistricting plan was illegal.
Pena had repeatedly denied accusations that he was directly involved in the drafting of the redistricting map. His new district covers less than 2 percent of his old district.
But during the redistricting trial a House Redistricting Committee Counsel, Ryan Downton, testified that he worked with Pena on the district lines. Downton said Pena would identify specific neighborhoods that he believed were favorable to him so that he would include those in Pena's district.
“After learning of Ryan Downton’s sworn testimony, it is now evident Aaron was not truthful on the House Floor," Rep. Armando Martinez (D) stated. "Aaron was elected as a Democrat to represent his constituents in Austin. He switched parties after he was elected, which was not fair to the people who elected him. Now, Aaron not only refused to speak the truth when asked if he was involved with the drawing of his district, he gerrymandered specific neighborhoods to favor him."