Election 2016

Gene Green Battles Left-Flank Attack By Adrian Garcia In Texas 29th Congressional District Primary

Green is running for a thirteenth term representing eastern Greater Houston. His rival, the former Harris County sheriff, is going after the incumbent’s record on fighting poverty and gun violence.

Gene Green at rally
Rep. Gene Green addresses campaign rally at Harris County AFL-CIO headquarters. Left to right: U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela (TX-34), Green, State Sen. Sylvia Garcia (District 6), U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34)

Texas’ 29th Congressional District was designed to give Houston’s Hispanic population a voice in Washington. Gene Green has represented the 29th since it was drawn up in the early ’90s. He’s now facing a primary challenge for the Democratic nomination from former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

On a bright Sunday morning, more than 100 volunteers crowded the AFL-CIO’s Harris County Headquarters, just off Telephone Road. Most wore green t-shirts. They were gearing up to canvas the neighborhood in support of Congressman Gene Green.

Angelica Garcia is a volunteer with the campaign. “Every time when in my work, like, community organizer, I need to make a call for some type of help for the people in the community, he respond to us. He help to us, making calls or going with us to resolve the problem,” she said.

Green’s campaign focuses on his experience. He said he knows the issues important to his voters, and he has a history of delivering what they want.

“Job fairs, we do twice a year,” Green said. “Community cleanups. Citizenship Day, since 1994 I’ve helped our staff and volunteers have helped thousands of people who are legal residents become citizens of our country.”

But Green hasn’t faced a serious primary challenge in twenty years, and Adrian Garcia is shaping up to be a formidable opponent. That’s not just because he’s in a position to split the Hispanic vote in this majority-Latino district. He’s also trying to outflank Green on his left.

Just ahead of the Green block walk, a knot of roughly a dozen demonstrators gathered outside the union hall to hammer the point.

“Children are going home hungry,” said Conchita Reyes, a Garcia volunteer and community activist, born and raised in the 29th district. “Poverty is just unbelievable in that area, and the environment, the homes, are in disarray, and he knows this. He was from Imperial Valley, and he moved out of that area, and now he’s in a nice, comfy home, but Imperial Valley is under gun war.”

Garcia’s campaign headquarters stands just a few blocks to the east, on the other side of the Gulf Freeway. I spoke with him at a rally to kick off the start of early voting. The former sheriff is convinced Green is vulnerable – over the district’s poor high school graduation rate, environmental damage, and especially gun violence.

Adrian Garcia
Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia addresses rally at his campaign headquarters

“This incumbent has an A rating by the NRA,” Garcia said, “and he has voted against child safety locks, voted against closing the gun show loophole, and voted against taking cop-killer bullets off the streets, voting against the Brady Bill that kept 2 million guns from getting into the wrong hands. You know, I’ve been a career law enforcement officer. I support the Second Amendment, but we can be good for gun safety.”

An independent analysis by PolitiFact Texas finds Green’s voting record on guns is more complex than Garcia suggests. Green did vote against the Brady Bill, requiring mandatory federal background checks on firearm purchases. But he voted for a 2005 measure to require child safety locks, after opposing an earlier bill. He also supports President Obama’s recent executive action on gun safety.

Asked about Garcia’s argument that Green isn’t progressive enough, the congressman said it’s Garcia who is out of step with the voters. “I know the district,” he said. “I come home every weekend. I work the district. And the district is not that [far to the] left. Jobs is the number one issue on every poll I’ve ever seen.”

On that point, Green is convinced he can stand on his record. The 29th Congressional District includes most of the region’s refineries and petrochemical plants. Those facilities are still adding jobs, even as low oil prices are forcing many other Houston businesses to lay workers off.

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Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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