Saturday, July 7, 2012

Veasey emerges as clear leader in District 33 runoff race - Fort Worth Star Telegram

North Texas will get another representative in Congress after the November general election, thanks to phenomenal growth over the last decade and the creation of a new congressional district that straddles the Dallas/Tarrant county line.

Although some believed the region deserved at least two of the state's four additional districts based on the 2010 Census, the Legislature saw fit to create only one -- which makes it even more important that this opportunity not be squandered. The very best representative must be selected.After an intense court battle and consideration of several redistricting maps, the new Congressional District 33 was drawn to be a "minority opportunity" seat and one likely to be filled by a candidate who could draw on a coalition of various ethnic groups in order to be elected.The Democratic primary race drew a diverse field of 11 candidates, including six from Dallas County and five with Tarrant County roots; five current or former elected office holders; six Hispanics, three African-Americans and two Anglos; and two women. The district, which goes from the Fort Worth Stockyards to Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood, is 61 percent Hispanic, although Latinos make up only 39 percent of the voting-age residents compared to 25 percent for blacks.Well-known Dallas attorney and political activist Domingo Garcia, who felt the new map was a distinct advantage for him, considered himself the front-runner in the race from the beginning. In the May Democratic primary, however, Garcia came in a distant second (25 percent to 37 percent) to state Rep. Marc Veasey of Tarrant County despite having spent $600,000 of his own money. The two ended up in a runoff set for July 31.The candidates had said they didn't want the election to be divisive between Dallas and Tarrant counties or blacks and Hispanics -- that each wanted to be a unifying force. But the campaigns relied on the strength of their bases: the cities they were from and their ethnicities.Since the May 29 primary, the campaign has taken on a new dynamic, becoming more negative and more personal, primarily from Garcia. He has shown he has a severe case of "foot-in-mouth" disease and that he doesn't have the temperament or the coalition-building skills to be a solid, constructive leader.Garcia early on attacked three of Tarrant County's largest employers by announcing opposition to the F-35 fighter jet built by Lockheed Martin, calling American Airlines' management "reprehensible" and saying he had no confidence in General Motors. Those were statements many thought the lawyer would walk back after reflection or at least do a better job of explaining. He did neither, as Veasey staunchly defended the companies and their workers.Attempting to insult Veasey by calling him an "errand boy" for big business, Garcia offended many of his would-be constituents by referring to an African-American man as a "boy," a statement for which he has refused to apologize.And in the past few days, trying to distinguish his accomplishments in poor Dallas neighborhoods from the work done by Tarrant County leaders like Veasey, Garcia said the Poly and Stop Six neighborhoods in Fort Worth "look like ghettos." No resident likes their community described in pejorative terms.Meanwhile, Veasey has been busy racking up more support from a variety of people in his hometown of Fort Worth, in Dallas and in Washington, D.C.Several well-known Hispanic leaders in Dallas, including state Reps. Rafael Anchia and Roberto Alonzo and former Dallas City Councilman and District 33 opponent Steve Salazar, have given Veasey their support.U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and several other members of Congress have gotten behind Veasey as well.Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost of Dallas ably proved one doesn't have to live in Tarrant County to represent it well. This go-round, though, the best candidate is homegrown.The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Marc Veasey in the Congressional District 33 runoff.

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