In the race to represent the new Congressional District 33, which was drawn to give minorities in the area more control in deciding their U.S. representative, Democratic runoff rivals Domingo Garcia and Marc Veasey have conflicting opinions on how they view the district.
Garcia, a former state representative who co-chaired the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, said that while he has reached out to every community in the district, he sees CD-33 as a “Latino opportunity district,” in which Hispanic residents could effectively choose who to put in office if they came together behind a candidate.
Veasey, a state representative, classifies the area as a “coalition style” district in which no one minority group would dominate the vote. Rather, for minorities to dictate the results of the district, voting groups would need to be drawn from Hispanic, black and other minority constituents.
“I knew that no one, single race was going to carry the district,” said Veasey, who was the top vote-getter in the May 29 primary. “You need to be able to get votes from all over the district.”
Garcia and Veasey will face off in the July 31 Democratic runoff for CD-33. Beyond the racial makeup of the district, both candidates have natural geographic bases in the district, which spans Dallas and Tarrant counties. Garcia, of Dallas, garnered the most primary votes in Dallas County. Veasey, of Fort Worth, led the way in Tarrant County. Both are hoping to encourage their initial supporters to return to the polls and to widen their reach to find success in the runoff.
“We’re focused just on mobilizing our base, which is Dallas County, increasing that margin and doing extra efforts to do outreach in Tarrant County," Garcia said. "We've still got six weeks to go."
According to the 2010 census data, the district’s voting age population – 469,456 people – is 61.3 percent Hispanic and 17.8 percent black, but these statistics do not take voting eligibility requirements such as citizenship into account, nor do they reflect voter turnout.
Endorsements have been numerous in the CD-33 showdown, but they don’t all line up by race. Several Hispanic lawmakers — including state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas; state Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas; and Dallas County Constable Beth Villarreal — announced their support for Veasey last week, while black leaders such as former CD-33 candidate and Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks; state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas; and Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins are among those backing Garcia.
“You see — on both sides of the candidacy — you see blacks and browns supporting each other,” Alonzo said. “In comparing the two candidates, I used the platform, what they’ve done, the work, their history.” Anchia similarly said that he chose to support Veasey not because of issues related to ethnicity but because he believed Veasey to be the best person in the race.
The Mexican American Legislative Caucus does not endorse candidates, but 20 of 38 other members in addition to Alonzo (including four of five executive board members) have endorsed Veasey. None have endorsed Garcia.
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, who serves as chairman of the MALC and has endorsed neither candidate, agreed with Veasey that no minority voting group has an advantage in the district. But Fischer explained that even if it were a Latino opportunity district, this would not guarantee that a Latino candidate would win.
“It’s not necessarily that Latinos have to represent Latinos,” he said. “The word opportunity means something and that is that they have the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.”
In addition to Hicks, who finished third in the May primary, other primary candidates making endorsements include Kyev Tatum, a minister from Fort Worth, who has endorsed Garcia; and Steve Salazar, a former Dallas City Councilman, and J.R. Molina, a lawyer in Tarrant County, who have thrown their support behind Veasey.
The winner of the Democratic runoff will face Republican Chuck Bradley in the November general election.
Within the district, both Veasey and Garcia have outlined plans for increased job creation among other platform issues.
Garcia said he plans to steer banks to be more “forthcoming” in helping businesses grow, saying small businesses can stimulate job creation.
Since the first runoff debate, Garcia was criticized for comments he made surrounding the F-35 fighter — a military jet produced by the Fort Worth manufacturer Lockheed Martin — in which he classified the plane as “unproven, untested” and suggested the need to explore military alternatives such as the F-16. Garcia explained that he believes examining such an option could help protect the jobs of the workers, “as opposed to putting them all in one basket,” if budget cuts are proposed.
He has also received scrutiny for critiquing the management of employers such as General Motors, which has a plant in Arlington, and Fort Worth-based American Airlines.
Veasey, who said he would support F-35 construction despite the talk of potential cuts, said he has gained momentum as a result of Garcia’s earlier comments: “People around here — it doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor, black, white or Hispanic — people pay very close attention when announcements are made by large employers like that,” he said, noting that many voters with whom he had spoken expressed concern over local jobs. “We have to fight hard to always keep those jobs.”
Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said it was expected that the race would include a runoff because 11 Democratic candidates were running in the primary.
Asked whether race will factor into the election, Jillson said, “Well, all elections come down to race."
He added, "There is a lot of racial voting all over the country, particularly in Texas.”