DALLAS — Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, spent a precious recent recess afternoon downtown, taping a debate against a political neophyte for Univision.
A translator speaks over Veasey, telling the Spanish-speaking TV audience that he is a “demócrata fuerte” — a strong Democrat. His primary rival, technology licensing attorney Tom Sanchez, speaks Spanish with ease to the viewers from the network’s skyscraper studio.
The chaotic linguistic exercise illustrates why, one week before the Lone Star State primary on March 4, Veasey must take his re-election seriously. He cannot let his candidacy get lost in translation.
The demographics of the 33rd District are stacked against Veasey, a native of Fort Worth. The district, based mostly in Dallas, is heavily Hispanic. It stretches from the historic Fort Worth Stockyards across deep pockets of poverty on the city’s east side, to the Dallas suburbs and Oak Cliff, the southwest neighborhood where Lee Harvey Oswald was taken into custody.
“I’ve worked hard to represent the entire district,” he said of his first term, in an interview in his Dallas office. “The only way any candidate, including myself, will be successful in this district is if you represent this entire district.”
The strategy to oust Veasey is clear, if not obvious. If another Democrat can mobilize enough Dallas and Hispanic voters, his re-election is in peril. And Sanchez has bet about a million dollars of his own cash that he can do it. Although polling is scarce, Veasey remains the tentative primary front-runner, and the nominee will almost certainly come to Congress in this heavily Democratic district.
Veasey has survived well-funded opposition before. His former foe, ex-state Rep. Domingo Garcia, spent more than $2 million in the Democratic primary and runoff in 2012. Garcia, a longtime Dallas politician, had far better name identification than Sanchez.
But that race also had a sharply different tone. Garcia stoked the regional rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth. This time around, Sanchez is playing up his Fort Worth connections. A resident of Irving, a Dallas suburb, Sanchez has a campaign office in the Fort Worth Stockyards, a Hispanic side of town that includes the world’s largest honky-tonk, cowboys and a daily cattle drive for the benefit of tourists. In an interview, Sanchez joked about his “thousand cousins” in Cowtown.
Veasey’s political strength lies in his organization. His east Fort Worth base is made up of politically engaged African-Americans who boosted him to victory in 2012.
Veasey grew up in an African-American neighborhood on the west side and is a known commodity among that side of town’s local Chamber of Commerce-type political elites. Those residents, long tired of Dallas’ shadow, value this House seat as their own. The congressman’s fundraising reports are loaded with donors from those wealthy Fort Worth ZIP codes outside the district.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.