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Democrats Make Last Stand in Texas Runoffs

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Edward A. Ornelas/San Antonio Express-News/ZUMApress.com
Former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (above) and state Rep. Pete Gallego are enmeshed in a runoff for the Democratic nomination for the 23rd district.

This new district, a product of Texas’ gain in House seats because of population growth as determined by the 2010 census, was drawn specifically to be a majority  minority seat. The two Democratic runoff candidates reflect their local interests.

Garcia has spent the past 20 years at the center of Dallas politics, and as a result he has been a regular presence on the local news in a media market that includes Fort Worth.

Veasey, an African-American Fort Worth native, came up professionally in city politics. He is a former aide to ex-Rep. Martin Frost (D) and has the backing of much of the Fort Worth business and political establishment. Veasey beat Garcia by about 12 points in the primary, but it was nowhere near enough to avoid a runoff.

A glance at Federal Election Commission reports from the second quarter shows donations based on regional favoritism.

Garcia, a successful and prominent personal injury attorney, has largely self-funded his campaign with $1.28 million in personal loans, but many of the names on his report have Dallas addresses. Prominent residents of Fort Worth, a wealthy city with an economy based in oil and natural gas, have banded behind Veasey.

Even reliable Republican billionaire donor Ed Bass, who is based in Fort Worth, has donated to Veasey.

“This is a sad [race], because whoever wins or loses this race, the rift is going to be there for 10 or 20 years,” an unaligned Texas political operative said.

The candidates have shown some crossover appeal, with Dallas-based Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) endorsing Veasey and Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, who finished third in the primary, backing Garcia. But the geography of the district inherently pits the two cities against each other.

The rivalry was further exacerbated when Garcia called areas of Fort Worth “ghettos” and did not express support for Fort Worth’s economic lifelines, such as Lockheed Martin.  

“Domingo Garcia ... played right into the hands of the Dallas-Fort Worth rivalry,” said Frost, who is backing Veasey.

Fort Worth political players take umbrage at the comments and conversations about Garcia, which nearly always include one word: “divisive.”

“Well, I guess divisiveness is in the eye of the beholder,” Garcia general consultant Colin Strother said. He noted that context of the “ghetto” comments was lost, and he stressed Garcia’s track record of breaking through racial glass ceilings.

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