Sights in downtown Austin on a weekday morning: panhandlers, bike riders, wearers of skinny jeans, man buns, beards, tattoos—and the J.J. Pickle Federal Building, named after Austin’s longtime congressman, Doggett’s predecessor. Doggett’s district office is on the ninth floor of the Pickle, a boxy structure with rows of windows on all sides recessed behind columns of concrete. Two security officers guard the front entrance. You can’t get past them without stating your purpose, emptying your pockets, turning over a photo ID, and removing your belt and shoes—a more taxing process than entering the U.S. Capitol.
Doggett doesn’t work in his ninth-floor office. When I entered, the office manager and three interns sitting at four plain desks stared at me with expressionless faces from behind their computer screens. I asked how the district has changed over the years and what that means for people who live there. They wouldn’t answer even basic questions and referred me to the Washington office, which had not responded to my previous inquiries. I asked the office manager for a map of the district. She said, “I think there’s one online”—there are no maps on Doggett’s website, but the Texas Tribune provides a detailed one.
Other district offices are equally unhelpful. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, like Doggett, represents a sliver of Austin. Yet, he doesn’t have real estate downtown. Smith’s district office in Austin sits off I-35 in a shared office with no security. Smith rents a small space on the first floor along with Martinez Tax Services, attorney Pablo Avila, and Copeland Insurance Group. Open Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., just one person was there to greet me. Morgan McFall, a constituent services liaison for Smith, runs a hair extensions business on the side and informed me she’s not authorized to speak with reporters.
South on I-35 is Buda—population 15,000. Buda has four congressmen for its one zip code: Doggett, and Republicans Blake Farenthold, Roger Williams, and Smith. Seventeen miles further sits San Marcos, a growing Texas city of 62,000—up from 45,000 at the time of the last census. Doggett, Smith, Williams, and Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, each represent a slice. Just south is New Braunfels, another growing city of 74,000 people. Doggett, Smith, or Gonzalez could be your representative, depending on your exact address.