Sunday, August 12, 2012

Garcia not slinking away after District 33 loss - Fort Worth Star Telegram

FORT WORTH -- Domingo Garcia isn't through with Tarrant County.

Garcia spent months battling state Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth to be the Democratic Party's nominee for the newly drawn Texas 33rd Congressional District. The Dallas resident set up a campaign office at the Mercado on Fort Worth's north side, blanketed neighborhoods with campaign signs and aggressively sought Tarrant supporters.Even though he lost the primary runoff, Garcia is not ready to abandon his new stomping grounds.He said he plans to open a law office in Fort Worth within the next month or so, and he hopes to help register 20,000 new Hispanic voters in Tarrant County during the next two years, prompting speculation that he is already preparing another bid for the 33rd District seat in 2014."I'm pitching a tent in Tarrant County," he said. "As for 2014, I'm leaving all my options open."Veasey won the Democratic Party's runoff election for the 33rd -- which stretches from Fort Worth's Stockyards to Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood -- with 52.7 percent of the 20,412 votes that were cast, state records show."When you lose an election by 1,000 votes ... that's pretty close," Garcia said.Veasey now faces Republican Chuck Bradley, Green Party candidate Ed Lindsay and Independent candidates Robert J. Devine and Lance "Occupy" Donohue in November.That's where Veasey said his focus is right now -- the general election."Focusing on the 2012 election is the most important thing," he said. "We can always talk about 2014, 2016, 2018 or 2020 when they get here."A split districtThe 33rd District, one of four new districts Texas picked up because of population growth, was drawn to give minority voters a chance to elect a candidate.More of the district's 698,488 residents live in Dallas County than Tarrant, but there are more registered voters in Tarrant County.The overall ethnic breakdown of the district is 101,378 white residents, 120,323 black residents and 463,087 Hispanic residents, but not all of those residents are old enough to vote.The actual voting pool in the district contains 86,478 white residents, 83,671 black residents, 287,568 Hispanic residents and more than 10,000 classified as "other," according to the Texas Legislative Council."I want to make sure the Hispanic community has a chance to choose the candidate of their choice, which did not happen in this election," Garcia said.District 33 has long been labeled a Democratic-leaning seat by pundits. In 2008, President Barack Obama would have won 69 percent of the vote if the district had existed.But Bradley, the Republican in the race, said he's not convinced at all that the district belongs to the Democrats."If I continue to work hard, I think we will have a very close election -- maybe 48-52 in either direction," said Bradley, 65, a retired Fort Worth businessman who won the GOP nomination for the seat in May and has been campaigning for more than a year.He said he offers residents in the district an alternative -- a conservative voice -- and his grassroots campaign is focusing on door-to-door campaigning throughout the district."We are hearing our favorables are high in our precincts," Bradley said. "A lot of people who are distressed are very concerned about stagnant wages, high employment ... [and], quite frankly, it's not a good time to be a Democrat."I'm the conservative approach. I'm the one who wants less taxes and less government," he said. "The Affordable Health Care Act is a tax, and as far as I'm concerned, it will destroy Medicare for seniors."More voters in TarrantIn the July 31 primary runoff, election results show that Garcia won Dallas County with 70 percent of the vote in both early voting and election day turnout. Veasey held essentially the same margin of victory in Tarrant County -- but more voters in Tarrant County cast ballots.But Garcia made inroads into Tarrant County, as Veasey did in Dallas County.In the May 29 primary, Garcia drew 13.72 percent in the Tarrant County portion of the 11-way Democratic race, compared with the 31.54 percent he picked up from Tarrant County in the July runoff."We have a very strong base in Dallas. What's lacking is that base in Tarrant County," Garcia said. "The Hispanic community has a lot of room to grow."In May, Veasey earned 48.5 percent in Tarrant County and 17.02 percent in Dallas County; in July, the numbers grew to 68.45 percent in Tarrant County and 29.92 percent in Dallas County.Growing involvementGarcia said the Fort Worth office he plans to set up in the coming weeks, likely on the north side, will come with a community organizer, as most of his other law offices do.In addition to that, he will move forward with his goal to register 20,000 Hispanic voters in Tarrant County in the next two years, likely by working with a group such as the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project."One of my goals will be to turn Tarrant County blue," he said. "We want to work with local leaders to develop the Democratic base and start electing Democrats countywide in the next two to four years."Political observers note that the district's population, largely Hispanic, appears to benefit Garcia, who was co-chairman of the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, which helped shape it."That district was built with Domingo in mind," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "He swung and missed. I think he knows he gets three strikes, so he'll probably try to have another shot at that seat."Whether he is successful in a future bid or not, the work he plans to embark upon to boost Hispanic political participation and overall turnout in elections is the right thing, Jillson said."This is something that needs to be done to increase Hispanic activization for the Democratic Party of Texas," he said.Focus on NovemberVeasey, long billed as a coalition builder and a team player, is also looking ahead -- to November, when he hopes to be elected to Congress.He hasn't heard from Garcia since the election wrapped up. In contrast, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz heard from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst once election results showed that Cruz was the victor.But Veasey has been busy reaching out to thank supporters for their help. And he took a few days off for a family vacation.Now he has the general election in his sights."My goal right now is to focus on getting elected in November and help Democrats like [Fort Worth state Sen.] Wendy Davis and Democrats in Dallas get re-elected," he said. "We have some very important state representative races in Dallas this cycle. My goal is to help people running this fall."As for any plans Garcia may have for seeking this office again in two years, "2014 is a long way away," Veasey said."Right now, my eye is on November," he said. "We have some really important races, and we need to pull together to elect these Democrats."That appears to be a goal Garcia is echoing."I'm leaving all my options open for 2014," he said. "In the meantime, I'm supporting the Democratic ticket in November."Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610Twitter: @annatinsley

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