In Texas, Hispanic Star and New District Threaten Doggett – NYTimes.com

In Texas, Hispanic Star and New District Threaten Doggett – NYTimes.com.

Hispanic Star and New District Threaten Doggett

Caleb Bryant Miller/The Texas Tribune

Redistricting provides an opportunity for Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of San Antonio, to move up to Washington.

Representative Lloyd Doggett, the nine-term, liberal Austin congressman, foiled Republicans’ efforts to redistrict him out of office in 2003 and intends to do it again in 2012, living “in a Winnebago, if that’s what it takes,” to vie for a newly-drawn district that encompasses San Antonio’s most Democratic and Hispanic neighborhoods and spreads up to southern Travis County.

The Texas Tribune

Expanded coverage of Texas is produced by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit news organization. To join the conversation about this article, go to texastribune.org.

 
Harry Cabluck/Associated Press

Representative Lloyd Doggett is endangered, again.

The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature drew him a bad map again this year, and getting through March’s Democratic primary could be a doozy. At a minimum, Mr. Doggett will face State Representative Joaquin Castro, a 36-year-old Hispanic who is a rising star in his party and has politics in his DNA — his identical twin brother, Julián, is San Antonio’s mayor. They grew up in one of the San Antonio neighborhoods central to the new district.

“If you’re going by the numbers, I would say Castro is the heavy favorite,” said Harold Cook, a Democratic political consultant based in Austin. “But if there’s any Anglo candidate, any Austin candidate, who can win this race, it’s Doggett.”

While Mr. Castro is not the only prominent Latino Democrat to eye the seat — in the last month, several of his colleagues in the San Antonio delegation have attested to considering it — the consensus appears to have gelled around him.

“I think we’ve all learned in the past the mistakes of everyone ganging up on each other,” Mr. Castro said in an interview at an East Austin Mexican restaurant, in his first public confirmation that he is running for the seat.

In a phone interview from Washington, Mr. Doggett said he thinks the new Congressional map is unconstitutional, and expressed confidence that the courts will redraw it. In the meantime, he is gearing up for a run in the new 35th Congressional District — the only way “for a Democrat to win from my hometown.”

“My campaign is going to be more about the Republican power structure and their determination to have Democrats fight Democrats” than about Mr. Castro, Mr. Doggett said.

While Mr. Castro agrees that the redistricting map presents serious legal problems, he thinks the new district, with its largely Hispanic, largely Democratic base, will survive a court challenge. He sees it as a “blessing in disguise for two cities that really complement each other, that are intertwined.”

The Legislature’s Republican majority has tackled Congressional redistricting — the post-census restructuring of Texas’ United States House seats — in the special session, drawing a map that largely keeps Republicans safe, while adding four new districts to account for the state’s booming population.

The map redraws Mr. Doggett’s current district, the 25th, in a way that almost assures he could not be re-elected. And it alters the 23rd district, which Mr. Castro considered running in before redistricting, in a way favorable to Representative Francisco Canseco of San Antonio, the Republican incumbent. But the map includes a new 35th district spanning from South Austin to eastern Bexar County — territory that voted 60 percent for Barack Obama in 2008 — laying the foundation for a dog-eat-dog Democratic primary.

Mr. Castro is expected to have the upper hand with the new district’s base. He and his brother were born to activist parents in San Antonio, raised in the city and educated in its public schools. They have been active in politics since returning from Stanford University and Harvard Law: Mr. Castro, a lawyer, was first elected to the Texas House in 2002; his twin and law partner served on the San Antonio City Council and was elected mayor in 2009.

In the House, Mr. Castro has advocated for higher-education affordability and opposed large budget cuts to public schools and health care; this session he helped restore millions of dollars in financing to them. But he has been stymied by a Republican majority that has left little room for up-and-coming Democrats.

“To say it’s taken no toll would be insincere,” Mr. Castro said.

Mr. Doggett has faced similar challenges, such as Republicans’ repeated efforts to unseat him. A former Texas Supreme Court justice and state senator, he was elected to Texas’ 10th Congressional District in 1995, held his seat until 2003, when Tom DeLay, then House majority leader, came to Austin to help Republican lawmakers redistrict him out of it. Undeterred, Mr. Doggett jumped to the 25th district, which he has held ever since.

eramshaw@texastribune.org

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