Election 2016

Green And Garcia Compete In The Primary Election For Texas’ 29th Congressional District

The incumbent Congressman campaigns on his seniority in the House of Representatives, while the former Harris County Sheriff says he wants to be a stronger voice for Latinos.

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U.S. Congressman Gene Green (left) and Jose Borjon (right), Director of Communications for Green's campaign
U.S. Congressman Gene Green (left) and Jose Borjon (right), Director of Communications for Green’s campaign, review campaign materials in their Houston office. Green hopes voters will value his experience and seniority in the House of Representatives.

Some Houston residents were a bit surprised when former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia announced his challenge to Congressman Gene Green for the upcoming Democratic primary of March 1st.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Green and Garcia are campaigning in Texas’ 29th Congressional District, where 76 percent of the residents are Hispanic, although the percentage of Hispanic registered voters is lower. According to the most recent data, it is 53 percent.

A big part of the 29th District is located in Houston's East End.

It's there and in other neighborhoods where Garcia is trying to win by telling voters he is also Latino.

However, that doesn't sound too convincing to Cenobio Morales, who is originally from Mexico.

Adrian Garcia poses in front of the house where he grew up, in the North section of Houston.
Adrian Garcia poses in front of the house where he grew up, in the North section of Houston. The former Houston City Council member and Harris County Sheriff hopes the fact he is Latino, same as the majority of the residents of the 29th Congressional District, will help him in the Democratic primary.

At age 77, Morales has lived in Houston for 50 years and he says the "I look like you" argument by Garcia isn't what will make the difference when he votes.

"It wouldn't be the most important thing. I feel sometimes your own people don't cooperate," explains Morales.

To a great extent, Green is campaigning on his seniority in the House of Representatives.

He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Health.

Patsy Canales, a 45 year-old Houston resident who works in the service sector, says she values Green's experience, but also thinks Garcia would be highly motivated as a freshman in Congress.

"Sometimes it’s good to bring somebody new, you know, to the system," Canales notes.

Green is taking the race very seriously. This is the first time he's had an opponent in the Democratic primary since 1996.

That year, he was challenged by then Houston City Council member Felix Fraga.

Asked about whether this race is the most difficult he's faced, the Congressman has no doubts.

"The former Sheriff has name ID, he was county wide elected official, just recently ran for Mayor. So he has a lot of name ID," he said.

Garcia joined the 29th District race right after losing the Mayor's election in Houston and just before the deadline to file as a candidate.

The fact he was asked questions on some issues related to both local and national politics during the mayoral campaign is one of the factors that made him run for Congress.

"Things like immigration were coming up, for the mayor’s race, things like municipal ID cards were being posed to the possible mayor of Houston, things like education, what is the mayor gonna do about education? Things like affordable housing," Garcia recalls.

One of the reasons political experts consider this race so interesting is that the 29th is what they call a Latino opportunity district.

That means that it was designed to make it easier for Latino politicians to win elections given that the majority of the district's population is Hispanic. But that hasn't happened yet.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, underlines there are no Latino elected officials from the Houston area in the House of Representatives.

For that reason, Rottinghaus thinks the possibility of our city sending a Hispanic to Congress makes the race between Green and Garcia appealing even to a national audience.

A big part of Garcia's strategy is not so much criticizing Green, but rather trying to relate more to voters, especially Hispanics.

"I want them to have the opportunity and the prosperity that I’ve been able to have, and not let them try to figure it out the hard way, like my family did," summarizes the former sheriff.

However, Green downplays the Latino factor and says he is hopeful that his work of more than 20 years in Capitol Hill shows "that a non-Hispanic who grew up in the neighborhood" can represent the district.

Dominique M. Garcia is also running in the Democratic primary election, while Julio Garza and Robert Schafranek are also running, but they are doing it as Republicans.

Early voting starts on February 16th.

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