Doggett-Castro primary race heats up before the Texas redistricting ink dries

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October 15, 2011

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By Jimmy Ardis

AUSTIN,Texas: While the fate of Texas's redistricting maps are still being contemplated in two federal courts, some proposed districts are already seeing contentious races brewing. One key primary battle is between incumbent US Representative Lloyd Doggett (D) and State Representative Joaquin Castro (D) over the new US Congressional District 35 - which would be Doggett's district under the proposed Republican plans. Castro aims to take advantage of district boundary changes under the proposed maps that shift the Hispanic demographics towards his home base of San Antonio and away from Doggett's Austin - if the lines don't change after making their way through federal court.

Castro, who has been a state rep in San Antonio for eight years, announced his plans in June to challenge the Democratic incumbent for the congressional seat. Doggett's cash advantage was obvious early on, but Castro was confident in his ability to fundraise and that enough offsetting factors were in his favor. One of those offsetting factors was called into question last month after testimony in federal court highlighted Castro's involvement with the GOP in redrawing Doggett's district. An Austin attorney testified last month that "he moved thousands of Bexar County Latino Democrats out of neighboring districts and into District 35 at the request of Castro and State Rep. Mike Villarreal, another San Antonio Democrat."[1]

Doggett quickly called foul play, claiming Castro was helping Republicans gerrymander so he may have a better chance in the election. Matthew Arnold, Doggett's campaign manager, commented “It’s just a clear case of a politician putting his own best interests above the best interests of those people he’s supposed to represent...Instead the only interest that is clear here is Castro’s own ambition.”[1] Castro responded to the allegations by saying “Those districts were already drawn and they were drawn by Republicans. They asked us at the last minute, essentially, about San Antonio neighborhoods and Mike and I gave some input but that was it,” Castro said. “I think even [Doggett] knows he’s being disingenuous. He’s grasping.”[1]

If the district boundaries stay in Castro's favor, this may turn out to be a very competitive primary race. With $3.1 million in the bank right out of the gate, Doggett seemed to have clear starting cash advantage. But after Castro released his third-quarter fundraising of over $500,000 last week, the financial scales looked to be tilting.[2] Commenting on his successful quarter Castro said “My fundraising total shows that folks agree that Washington is broken, and that it is time to bring a new perspective and effective leadership to the national discourse.”[2] Incumbent Doggett sees things differently. We'll to have to wait until march to see who's right.

See also