Though Veasey and Garcia clearly have the most name recognition and the strongest campaign organizations, nine other Democrats are also scrambling for a runoff spot, hoping for an upset. With that many candidates, it’s no surprise that total spending in the race has already topped $3.5 million.
A previously unknown dental mogul from Dallas named David Alameel dug deep into his bank account to plaster his white-toothed smile on billboards and campaign signs throughout the district, especially along the I-30 corridor between Fort Worth and Dallas. He’s a military veteran and former farm worker in California and describes himself as a “self-made successful businessman” who has spent 25 years as a political activist.
So far, Alameel has received just $3,000 in donations, but he has spent $2.6 million of his own money. That’s more than twice the combined spending of the race’s 10 other candidates. But Alameel’s not alone in spending a lot of his own money on the race: Garcia loaned his campaign a not-too-shabby $600,000.
As a Texas House incumbent with plenty of constituents already in the newly formed district, Veasey has raised the most money with the widest range of sources. He’s pulled in $300,000 over the last few months without lending his own money to the campaign. Garcia has received less than half that amount — $127,000. Most of Garcia’s donations came from Dallas law firms and their attorneys.
In the most recent campaign finance report, for April 1 through May 9, Veasey’s largest contributors were political action committees. More than half of the $36,000 he received from PACs in that period came from the political muscle of labor unions, including the United Automotive Workers, Communications Workers for America, United Transportation Union, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. In the same time period, Garcia received just $5,000 from such groups.
Garcia’s generous loan to his own campaign has allowed him to outspend his primary opponent. He’s spent $486,000 compared to Veasey’s $200,000 on the race. The last round of campaign finance reports show Garcia holding onto a quarter-million dollars, while Veasey has about $100,000 left in campaign coffers.
The other eight Democrats haven’t gotten nearly as much support, financial or otherwise. However, Fort Worth candidate the Rev. Kyev Tatum, a black minister, on Tuesday received the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Fort Worth and Dallas have kept each other at arm’s length over the decades, but in District 33, one person must represent both cities. Garcia has a long political history: He’s served on the Democratic National Committee, the Dallas City Council, and in the Texas House. In the 1990s he became the first Latino mayor pro tem in Dallas. He prides himself on understanding both Latino and African-American communities.
“I was born on the wrong side of the tracks in Midland,” he said at a public forum. “I learned English from an African-American kid. We were the only Hispanic household in an African-American neighborhood. My first album I ever bought was Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 when I was about 10 years old.”
He’s been a civil rights activist for years and worked alongside many African-American leaders, such as Joseph Lowery, a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr. Lowery’s endorsement prompted Garcia to do a little bragging at a candidate forum at a Tarrant County women’s club earlier this month.
Garcia enthusiastically recounted Jackson and Sharpton’s pledges to support him. The crowd sat in silence. Racially tinged pulpit politics appeal to plenty of Americans, but elderly white folk aren’t usually among them.
That miscalculation was nothing, however, compared to Garcia’s comments at a May 9 forum attended by more than 100 Tarrant County Democrats.