U.S. House District 36: Old and New Names
The Texas primaries are May 29. Redistricting has divided Travis County into five Congressional districts, and longtime Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, has a new district and a new race.
The redrawn congressional map made his original district virtually unwinnable for a Democrat, so he’s campaigning in a district that runs from southeast Travis County down to northeast Bexar County.
In 2004, after years of representing a district in Travis County, Doggett was re-elected in a newly drawn district that ran from Austin to the Mexican border. He had a new map and new district in 2006. Six years later and he’s running in yet another district for re-election.
“That was the whole idea of Gov. Perry, was to shift me to as many people as possible who had never dealt with me before,” Doggett said. “And to deny as many of my neighbors an opportunity to participate in this election.”
Most of the new district and its voters are new to Doggett. Travis County only makes up 30 percent of the district’s population. That means San Antonio voters, specifically Hispanics in San Antonio, can put their stamp on this election.
Enter Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Sylvia Romo. She’s hoping support in her hometown will help elect her and expand the diversity of the U.S. House.
“Out of 435 U.S. representatives there’s only 76 women,” Romo said. “Out of 435 there’s only 26 Latinos, out of 435 there’s only 42 African-Americans, out of 435 there’s only seven Latinas.”
But in this unusual primary, with election day right after Memorial Day and voter turnout predicted to be low, she knows she’ll need help from Austin too. And has made several trips to town to tell voters that even though she’s from San Antonio she understands and can help the people of East Austin.
“You go to East Austin and I feel like I’m in San Antonio,” she said. “Quite a bit, the population mirrors San Antonio. So their needs are going to be pretty much the same.”
Doggett is playing the same game in reverse. He’s making sure to tell his supporters in Austin it’s a close race. And he’s letting the voters in Bexar know he’s ready and able to help.
“The issues that I’ve been most involved with in the past, like education, like protecting retirement security, those are issues that transcend any lines,” he said.
The third Democrat in the race, Maria Alvarado, was the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006. She hopes that her military background and work with the Veterans Administration will appeal to the military families in San Antonio.
Alvarado wants to increase access to healthcare for vets in South Texas. There’s one VA hospital between San Antonio and Brownsville.
“So we have veterans who have to travel this distance,” Alvarado said. “They’re handicapped, they have to travel, they’re really sick. Then there’s a matter if there’s any money to pay them to compensate them for their travel. In the course of care there’s just so many things.”
Alvarado, who lives in Austin, acknowledges the demographic makeup of the district, and knows it was created to allow minorities to select the candidate of their choice. But she won’t say that disqualifies Doggett.
“I don’t know [if it needs to be a] Hispanic necessarily,” she said. “It was an opportunity for a new voice, and that’s what I am. As far as my other opponent, well, she’s from San Antonio and probably more aware of what’s going on in Bexar County but not in my neighborhood either.”
The winner of the Democratic primary will face a Republican, a Libertarian and a Green candidate in the fall.