Black, Brown, and Seeing Red
Not since Dallas’ John Wiley Price dubbed Fort Worth the “Aunt Jemima capital of the world” has a politician from the Far East pissed off people in Cowtown so badly. Dallas attorney and politician Domingo Garcia is seeking a seat in Congress and needs help from Tarrant County voters to get it. But thus far, his mouth has been his worst enemy.
A new congressional district anywhere is a rare political gem. In North Texas, the newly created District 33, designed to increase minority representation for Texas in Washington, D.C., is not only pitting Hispanic and black politicos against one another but is also rubbing raw the old but lately dormant Fort Worth vs. Dallas enmity. Not surprising, then, that observers are predicting a tight race between an African-American and a Hispanic, a Tarrant County hopeful and one from Dallas. That is, Garcia and State Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.
Thus far, Garcia has insulted three of Tarrant County’s major employers and angered hundreds of workers and their unions. He called the African-American Veasey an “errand boy,” drawing rebuke from Tarrant County Democrats, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and others. At a forum attended mostly by middle-aged white women, he bragged about his relationships with the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and said they were coming to North Texas to support him. And another Hispanic in the race, longtime Fort Worth Justice of the Peace Manuel Valdez, says Garcia reneged on a promise to support him.
In a few weeks of campaigning, Garcia has upset whites, blacks, Hispanics, labor, and his own political party. Even his hometown paper didn’t endorse him.
Garcia’s antics, some political musical-chair moves, and racially charged developments involving the Fort Worth school board have combined to produce a campaign season here that’s been more confusing — and interesting — than trying to figure out what’s happening to Facebook. Some observers think that the end result could be an awakening of Hispanic electoral power in this county strong enough to scare entrenched Anglo business leaders.
Latinos dominate District 33, but traditionally their turnout at the polls has been low. However, concerns over the controversial ouster of Juan Rangel, first Hispanic president of the Fort Worth school board, might send more Hispanics than usual to vote in the Democratic primary on May 29. District 33 was designed as a Democratic stronghold, and the winner of that primary should waltz through the general election in November.
Heavy Hispanic turnout could affect not only the District 33 race, but also the District 90 Texas House election, where school board member Carlos Vasquez is challenging Rep. Lon Burnam for the seat he’s held since 1997.
The impending election has already had an impact on Fort Worth leadership. Kathleen Hicks, one of two African-Americans serving on the nine-person city council, will vacate her seat to run for Congress. Her Eastside district has traditionally elected African-Americans to the council. Now, Kelly Allen Gray, a black woman seeking to replace Hicks, finds herself in a tough runoff against Ramon Romero.
If Romero wins, the city council will include two Latinos and one African-American, a shift that actually would be in line with the changing demographics in the district and the city as a whole.
It’s all enough to make smart people talk in circles while seeking the straight line of truth.
“Ethnicity should not be a factor at all,” said Fernando Florez, a community organizer and chairman of a United Hispanic Council committee that tackled redistricting for the Fort Worth City Council and the school board.
Then, he knowingly contradicted himself.
“What we have today is a large Hispanic population,” he said. “Our culture is different [from Anglo culture] in a lot of ways. Being different and being a majority Hispanic congressional district makes it almost necessary to have a Hispanic representative for this area.”
Race, theoretically, has no place in choosing those who make the laws that govern all the people. Florez understands that. And yet…