Sunday, July 22, 2012

Domingo Garcia is known as a scrappy fighter who says he gets things done - Fort Worth Star Telegram

Domingo Garcia

Hometown: Dallas

Birthplace: Midland

Occupation: Lawyer

Family: Married to wife Elba since 1987; the two have two sons: Joaquin, 26, and Fernando, 21

Education: Bachelor's degree, University of North Texas, 1980; law degree, Texas Southern University, 1983; master's degree in international relations from El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City, 1982

Work: He established the law offices of Domingo Garcia P.C. in 1984

Political experience: He served on the Dallas City Council in 1991-95 (serving as its first Latino mayor pro tem in 1993) and represented Dallas in the Texas House in 1996-2002. He lost bids to become Dallas mayor in 1995 and 2002, and lost bids for state representative in 1986, 1990 and 2002. He was elected to the Democratic National Committee in 1988, where he served eight years.

FORT WORTH -- Domingo Garcia remembers days growing up when there wasn't enough food to feed his whole family.

As the oldest of seven children born to a Mexican immigrant father and an Apache mother from West Texas, he often went without."I was hungry," he said during a recent interview at a north-side restaurant. "I remember going three, four days without eating when I was younger. Whatever we'd get, I'd have to give to the younger ones."A drive to succeed started with those less-than-humble beginnings.Garcia, 54, built a lucrative law practice in Dallas, served on the Dallas City Council and in the Texas House, and now wants to represent the new 33rd Congressional District.Through the years, he became known as a scrappy fighter willing to face any opponent he believed to be in the wrong, though some of those fights made him more than his share of political enemies and led to a series of political setbacks."I have always stood up for what I believe in," Garcia said. "If I think I'm right, I won't back down."Sometimes you've got to break a couple of eggs to make an omelet," he said. "And the chickens get mad."Garcia faces state Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth in a July 31 runoff election.Growing upGarcia's father immigrated from Mexico as an undocumented worker at age 17. He picked cotton in West Texas, met his wife at a West Texas ranch and moved to Midland, where he began doing construction work.Domingo Garcia and his family moved to Dallas when he was in the third grade, and his entrepreneur side began showing: He built a shoeshine box and went into neighborhoods shining shoes for lunch money, about $10 to $20 a week.During the school year, he delivered papers. In the summer, he worked in construction, ultimately helping draft bids and fill out paperwork in English for his father, who had attended school only through the first grade.His taste for politics was nurtured by the politically prominent Medrano family in Dallas, which lived blocks away. The family was led by civil-rights activist Pancho Medrano, who marched with legendary leaders Dr. Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez, stood with farmworkers and helped bring many minority workers into unions."When I was 11, 12 years old, I was putting up yard signs because of them," Garcia said. "You grow up around politics and it interests you."Garcia became the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college, paying his own way. After graduating from the University of North Texas, he earned a law degree from Texas Southern University and met the woman he would marry, Elba, while studying in Mexico one summer.After graduating from law school in 1983, he opened a law practice, earning $136,000 in his first year, mostly through criminal court appointments because he was one of the few bilingual attorneys in Dallas. He and Elba married in 1984, and by the mid-'80s he launched his first bid for public office, trying to unseat state Rep. Steve Wolens of Dallas.He lost.Moving onIn 1988, Garcia was elected to the Democratic National Committee and served eight years. In 1991, he was elected to the Dallas council; two years later, he became the city's first Latino mayor pro tem. He served on the council until 1995, when he unsuccessfully ran for Dallas mayor.In 1996, he ran for the Texas House and won, ousting Rep. Roberto Alonzo, a former friend, business partner and godfather to one of his children. "There have been hard feelings," Garcia said.He served there, winning re-election in 1998 and 2000, until 2002, when he lost bids for Dallas mayor and re-election to the House.Garcia touts accomplishments during his time on the council and in the House, but others recall his way of doing business, particularly criticizing the Democratic House speaker and other members of his party."Nobody wants to be around him," Texas Monthly magazine wrote at the end of his term, referring to him as a "one-man leper colony." "He set out to make himself the most despised member of the House and it is about the only thing of note he has accomplished in his three terms."Garcia said he was elected to get the job done."Did I offend some people in the process? Yes," he said. "But I got things accomplished. There are times to compromise and there are times to stand your ground."Next stepsAfter getting out of office, Garcia focused on legal work, winning large settlements for some clients.In 2007, he achieved more than $23 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients.He became more involved in civil-rights protests, leading a huge 2006 immigration march in Dallas, and supporting his wife as she was elected to the Dallas council and the Dallas County Commissioners Court. He even had time to hunt and to maintain a home garden.Last year, Garcia helped lead the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, fighting GOP-drawn congressional districts and helping draft a "fair" congressional map.In the end, he believed that one of the districts the court redrew would be a good fit for him, he said.Garcia has put more than $1.2 million of his own money into this race.He drew a line in the sand with Veasey, criticizing him for gaining support from top Democrats and saying he will be beholden to big donors. He called Veasey, an African-American man, an "errand boy" for the establishment, identified a Republican vote Veasey cast in 1996 and said Fort Worth's Stop Six and Poly neighborhoods "look like ghettos" partly because officials representing those areas are more concerned about money than their constituents' best interests.Garcia said Fort Worth needs improvements including economic development on the north and south sides.And he said local officials must abandon the frequently used term "The Fort Worth Way," which has been described as the way people treat one another and work together for the city."The 'Fort Worth Way' appears to be that everyone knows their place," Garcia said. "That has to change."Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610Twitter: @annatinsley

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