Black, Brown, and Seeing Red
Three dozen union workers gathered in a hot parking lot near the General Motors plant could have been a poster for District 33’s diversity — women, men, Latinos, African-Americans, Anglos, Tarrant County folks, Dallas County folks.
All supported Veasey. Or another way to say it: They stood united in their disgust with Veasey’s top opponent.
“Domingo Garcia kind of turned his back on us at the last minute,” Local 848 union steward Michael Davis said.
Several days earlier, Garcia lit a verbal torch in front of a stunned crowd of Tarrant County Democrats. He criticized Lockheed Martin, American Airlines, and a certain automotive plant that opened in 1954 and helped transform sleepy little Arlington into a thriving city. The blowback was swift.
“Arlington would be nothing without the General Motors plant,” said former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, who was in the parking lot to stump for Veasey, his former aide. “Domingo Garcia is totally out of touch with people who live in this district.”
“Yeah!” a union worker yelled.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” said another.
The group, despite cultural differences, was united by pocketbook issues — healthcare, pension security, and job stability. Whether those issues will trump that of race in the inaugural District 33 election is the question of the day.
The new district stretches out in the kind of convoluted design that happens when people who might run for office are allowed to draw their own — and others’ — districts. Advancing in blobs and sinews from East Fort Worth to West Dallas, it looks as if the ghost of Jackson Pollock provided otherworldly consultation on its creation.
The 2010 U.S. Census revealed a large increase in Texas’ Hispanic population. The state could have ended up with as many as four new minority-majority districts, with two of them potentially situated in North Texas. But minority districts tend to vote Democratic, and the Republican-controlled Texas Senate worked to limit the new districts’ impact. After court challenges were settled, North Texas ended up with one new district.
Veasey blasted Garcia for his role in that outcome, as a redistricting commissioner.
“There was an opportunity to create two seats in North Texas, a majority Latino seat and a majority African-American seat, and he did nothing to help on that,” Veasey said. “That’s the problem with guys like Domingo. They come from that old school, that the way you get something done is to sell out to these guys [Republicans] and let them use you so you can get something out of the deal.”
Instead of a dream situation — two new districts, one each in Tarrant County and Dallas County — North Texas got one. And since that one district includes part of Dallas, Garcia got his chance to run. Two-thirds of the district’s population is Hispanic, compared to 17 percent African-American and 16 percent white.
Hispanic political strength isn’t as strong as that group’s share of the overall population would indicate, however, because many of them aren’t eligible to vote. Hispanics make up about 66 percent of the overall population, but only about 39 percent of eligible voters, compared to 32 percent for whites and 24 percent for blacks.
Garcia makes no apologies for the district’s creation, accusing Veasey and other Democrats in Austin of being “run over by the Republicans” during the redistricting battle.
“The legislature passed a plan that had four Republican districts out of the four new ones that we got,” he said. “We filed a lawsuit to challenge the Republican plan, took them all the way to the Supreme Court, and won two out of four … . Unfortunately, the voters of Fort Worth are used to losing to Republicans.”
Latino community leaders say the district needs Hispanic representation. African-American communities feel just as under-represented at home and in Washington, and Veasey has seven years’ tenure in the Texas Legislature and a strong support system. Throw in the Dallas-versus-Fort-Worth mentality, and fireworks are all but guaranteed.