Why I Am Now Even More Dogged for Doggett

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By John-Michael Vincent Cortez

I am a young, Latino elected official – and I want to see more Latinos, especially young ones, in elected office at all levels of government. Not only is an increase in Latino representation warranted given our demographic reality, but it is also generally in the best interest of having a government that substantively represents the communities it serves. However, in the case of the newly created Congressional District 35, I argue that Hispanic community interests could not be more substantively and effectively represented than they are currently by Congressman Lloyd Doggett. For this, and many other reasons, if this travesty of Republican gerrymandering is to stand, I firmly believe Congressman Doggett is the best candidate to represent CD35 in Washington.

Despite my strong support of Doggett, until very recently, I did not begrudge Joaquin Castro for his efforts to take advantage of this terrible situation created by another Republican power grab by announcing his intent to run in CD35. However, I am now terribly disappointed by recent reports of Castro's involvement along side the very Republicans who have essentially disenfranchised me, my neighbors, and many communities all the way down to Bexar County. As a result, my support of Doggett is firmer still, and I hope you will join me.

I always found it odd that Castro and many of his supporters were justifying his challenge to Congressman Doggett by claiming that he would be more effective than Lloyd, because Castro knew best how to get along with Republicans. Well, most folks I know want someone who will stand up to Republican extremism, not go along with it.  However, I previously felt that Castro's claims to be strongly opposed to the GOP congressional map were believable – no committed Democrat could justifiably support this plan that illegally divides communities across Texas.  However, we now know that this purported opposition was only superficial, as Castro worked hand-in-hand with Republicans to draw the most favorable district for himself, no matter how many of us were harmed.  

At the recent trial in Federal Court in San Antonio, Republicans actually used Castro's involvement as part of their defense against Democratic claims that this redistricting plan is illegal.  Republicans essentially said: “Hey, it was not Republicans alone who drew this map to which you Democrats are objecting, we were just following the advice of Democratic State Rep. Castro (and his friend, Redistricting Committee Vice Chair Rep. Mike Villareal).” Castro wanted this crooked District carving up neighborhoods in San Antonio, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Lockhart and Austin.  Then he asked that this area be carved up a little more to add what he thought would be even more favorable additional territory in San Antonio along with symbolic locations like the Alamo.  

Why are parts of San Marcos, Kyle and Lockhart consigned to Tea Party Republican Lamar Smith or Blake Farenthold? Why are the people of East Austin and the Eastside of San Antonio and Harlandale split up to weaken the strength of their voices?  Because the only community of interest Castro seemed to care about was his own interest when he reached out to GOP map drawers to draw himself into Congress.  One small step forward for Castro, but one lamentable step backwards for our Hispanic communities generally.  The effect of moving more strongly democratic precincts into the proposed CD35 has caused great harm across Bexar County.  Castro actually agreed to the removal of longtime Rep. Charlie Gonzalez's home and district office as well as the core of downtown San Antonio from his district, replacing that area with more conservative neighborhoods.  This makes the district of the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus considerably less Hispanic.  The long list of grievances with Castro's configuration of Rep. Gonzalez's district has been covered in two different stories, published in the San Antonio News Express on October 8 ( Article1 & Article2 ).  The precincts that Rep. Gonzalez says he wants restored to his district by the Federal Court are the very ones Castro supported removing.

And what about working with other Democrats to regain the Congress?  Castro was willing to remove some of the strongest southside Democratic precincts from the district of Rep. Quico Canseco (Freshman Republican who defeated Congressman Ciro Rodriquez last year).  That helps protect Conseco and makes it more difficult for a Democrat to defeat him.  This seat is critical if Democrats are to win back the US House of Representatives next year.  

And there are more news reports showing how Castro collaborated with Republicans in support of the Perrymandering congressional map now being challenged in court.

In a fawning profile in his hometown paper, the San Antonio Express News, dated October 5, (http://www.mysanantonio.com/default/article/Rep-Castro-looks-to-leap-to-bigger-stage-2198786.php) reports that Castro worked with Republicans Lyle Larson and redistricting committee chairman Burt Solomon (author of the anti-immigrant “Sanctuary Cities” bill) to move precincts from other nearby districts to the new 35th district.  Here's an excerpt from the article:

“Before Democratic state Rep. Joaquín Castro of San Antonio declared he would run in a contested new congressional district that stretches like Silly Putty from downtown to Austin, he placed a strategic call to a member of the rival party in control of its shifting boundaries.  State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, knew Castro as an ideologically distant yet collegial member of the House. Castro “asked me to help with the (redistricting) chairman, Burt Solomons, in dealing with adding some Hispanic precincts,” Larson said, “so it's more likely that the person who wins the district would come from Bexar County.”

Again, probably a great move for Castro, but what about the communities that have been split up to serve his ambitions and Republican interests?

Perhaps the most troubling part of this whole affair is that Castro seems to have misrepresented his involvement in this unseemly process:  On July 27, 2011 Castro told an audience of Travis County Democratic leaders:

“I know that congressional districts have been a very sore spot, especially Travis County, because of the way the districts were cut up. And I want you guys to know I agree with you on that.  I voted against all the Republican redistricting.  I voted with Dawnna Dukes to keep Travis County in just two parts, rather than have it be divided into five.” (Source: Travis County Democratic Party County Executive Committee Meeting Speech)

Despite his vote, Castro failed to disclose that he had worked with Republicans to develop their map, designing a district for himself, improving Republican Canseco's district, and tearing apart communities represented by Rep. Charlie Gonzalez.

I really want to see more Latinos in Congress, but in attempting to custom-make himself a district, Castro has done tremendous damage to the communities he claims to represent, and the political party to which he belongs.

Newly-minted Republican Aaron Pena is not the only State Representative to misrepresent his role in redistricting.  Perhaps we should treat them both the same.



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  1. agreed
    Working with the Republicans would be improtant if they didn't chop off every olive branch that gets held out to them (I heard someone say that the other day in the context of President Obama, it applies here, too). What we really need here & now is someone who'll stand up to them. Lloyd Dogget has a record of standing up to them. Keeping him in office says to Republicans that we will stand up for ourselves & our neighbors.

  2. ProgressiveInTexas on

    Look at is financing Castro…
    Democrats only need to look at who is financing Castro to know that Castro will not be a progressive voice in Washington.  The announcement for his August Fund Raiser listed the following listed as sponsors:

    Gene Dawson – Principal of Pape-Dawson Engineering

    Sam Dawson – Principal of Pape-Dawson Engineering

    Carl Raba – Principal of Raba-Kistner Engineering

    Bill Kaufman – President of Kaufman & Killen, Inc.

    H. Bartell Zachary – Zachary Construction.

    A check of the Federal Elections Filings in August showed that these 5 have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican National Committee, George W. Bush, John McCain, Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, John Cornyn, Republican Governors PAC and Republican Candidates in other States. NOT ONE CENT went to the DNC or Obama.  

    For the Record:

    Pape-Dawson Engineering is the largest single recipient of Engineering Contracts from The City of San Antonio and San Antonio Water Systems.

    The Kaufman & Killen web site states: “The firm represents clients before the City of San Antonio, San Antonio Water System, Edwards Underground Water District and other area governmental entities.”

    Zachary is Cintra's partner in Perry's Land Heist known as SH130; Raba-Kistner is a major consultant in the scam.

    My question to Joaquin is this:  If you were running against Canseco or Smith, would these Republicans be as eager to finance your campaign?

    I think not.

    • typically
      almost without exception, SA business folk give to SA candidates of both stripes.

      and, LD has plenty of money (particularly PAC $) that one could assail as “not D”.

      so, is your contention that LD has some stated policy to refuse contributions from non-Dems?

      but, as we've all seen in most races, the only person that criticizes the source of funds is the one not getting it.

  3. Really?
    Is this the best the Doggett campaign can do? Try to paint the 12th most liberal member of the Texas House as a Republican sympathizer? I guess they don't remember Ardmore, or taking down Tom Craddick. I guess they haven't seen that Castro has a 100% voting record with every major progressive group.

    They also failed to mention that MALDEF originally proposed the new 35th congressional district, not Republicans.

    And since when do we Democrats spread Republican “testimony” as truth?

    I think this line of attack is weak and plays right into the Republican hand. I expect more from Doggett.

  4. I hear the shrill of the shill…
    Enough anonymous BS. Fair disclosure of who you are and who you work for – all of you.  

    • haha
      good luck with that!!

      unless my memory is failing me, the author of the post is a former LD staffer…but even he doesn't disclose that.

      i am no one and work for no one involved in this match-up.

      unique to the discussion? i'm a constituent currently, and under the new map.

  5. Waiting for maps
    I think a lot of us are waiting for the new maps (or interim maps) to come out discussing the candidates in the race. Personally I don't think it productive to start campaigning for or against two very good Democrats who may not end up in the same race. Instead, I think some, including myself, are focusing on the issue of redistricting in general and letting the media kind of follow the situation.

    While I respect JMVC's position regarding Castro and Doggett, I think there's much, much more to the redistricting situation than is stated in this piece. It seems the poster is trying to smear a person based on the redistricting process rather than look at the records of the candidates. “Tremendous damage?” Can we say drama? I think there has been changes to the areas but “tremendous damage?”

    I would prefer we not have the situation we have and have written about the need for a redistricting commission that has been proposed by Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) and Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) before (Redistricting – there is another way). Yes, I mentioned a Republican in the BOR in a positive manner. However, if you look at the blog post you'll see how these commissions are having a positive effect across the country for both parties. They make sense and that's why 11 states have adopted them for the redistricting process.

    When the maps finally come out I think you'll see the commentary on the races start to ramp up when we know what's really at stake. Until then, I'd prefer not to get too mucky on the race.

    • I would have agreed with you about “two good candidates”
      Until it came out that Castro was working with Republicans on redistricting, lending them legitimacy and helping to disfranchise several groups for his own self serving ends.

      • Give more details on this
        Castro basically was working to make sure Bexar County was represented adequately and properly and to help create a new Hispanic Opportunity District. In case you need some help, the Republicans essentially controlled the House. You have to work with them to make things happen. I guess trying to create a Hispanic Opportunity District is low on your priority. The bottom line is Doggett supporters are trying to make this like a conspiracy when, in reality, it was working to help build opportunities for Hispanics in Texas.

        I'm sorry but your claim of disenfranchisement claim is weak on this account. You're following the Doggett campaign lines too much. I guess even before the new maps come out some people want to roll in the mud.

        The reality is that if the new district was going to be designed as a Hispanic Opportunity District it needed to have the downtown area. That's all Castro and Rep. Villarreal did in working with the Republicans on the matter. BTW, tell me who he was supposed to work with regarding redistricting? The DPS officers working in the Capitol?

        Actually if you read my entry you'll find that I would prefer support for a redistricting commission proposed by, OMG, a Republican. Are you saying we should work with Wentworth on that? Help me out here on this stuff.

        • He explicitly wanted more Bexar vs. Travis
          “In court, Downton testified that Castro and Villarreal wanted the new district “sufficiently weighted toward Bexar County, as opposed to Travis County.””

          Are you telling me there couldn't have been a Hispanic Opportunity District anchored in Travis County?

          If Castro wants to drive a knife into our back by working with Republicans to keep Austin from being able to elect a single representative of our own, that's not something I'm inclined to overlook.

          And yes I agree that we should have a redistricting commission.

          • Well, if you are in Bexar County
            that may be something you go after.  And in the same manner, I would expect a Travis County rep. to work on behalf of Travis County.

            Bottom line — local reps. look after their own areas.  After all, those are the people who elected them.

            The new district was going to be bad regardless.  It was going to hurt Doggett regardless.  Don't blame Castro for the GOP's desires.  

      • so, by your logic
        when it comes out that LD also worked with the repubs…you'll no longer consider him a “good candidate”??

  6. Separate the two questions
    Castro's involvement in drawing a district for himself is quite damning. as is his hypocrisy in pretending to have fought against the gerrymander that he helped engineer.

    On the other hand, the money argument doesn't hold much water with me. Yes, a bunch of GOP folks are happy to fund Castro to get rid of their nemesis Doggett, but that doesn't mean that Castro isn't actually progressive. (Do you actually expect him to turn down the contributions?!) It just means that he (and the GOP donors) are happy to make deals with their most-of-the-time enemies to win the current battle. That's the nature of politics.

    Elections are about issues and character. On the issues, Castro has a strong record, and nothing in this post changes that.  On character, he's a heck of a lot weaker than we thought he was.  

    • really?
      have you ever followed the redistricting process for one second?? every member with a brain cell works their district lines as much as they can. show me one that doesn't and i'll show you the first person we should kick out for not caring.

      and, if you'll look objectively at JC's story and legislative record, you'll find that he's passed his character tests.

      that remark is beneath you.

  7. calmate
    everyone on both sides should simmer down just a bit. of course both LD and JC talked to repubs about their districts.

    if both LD and JC were NOT working with everyone who would answer the phone to get their respective districts tuned to give their hometowns the best shot, i would be shocked.

    of course, when the republicans are in charge of the US House and every single aspect of state government, you'll have to go to them.

    i'll guarantee you that LD and/or his staff had communication with repubs at the state and federal level to work on his district. (I know he negotiated with them extensively in 06).

    and, for the record: if LD truly, truly prioritized minority representation (not that he doesn't care…just refuses to prioritize) then he would be supporting the addition of new Hispanic-opportunity districts during the legal process. instead, he has tried to rally other members (including Hispanic members) to abandon redistricting damages that would result in new H-O districts and instead save his. frankly, that is extraordinarily disappointing and makes me a little sad.

    and again, this is NOT LD's district…it is a new district.

    JMVC: you compare JC to Pena? that is either a testament to complete and utter ignorance of both men, or the strength of your bias. as someone who knows both, the comparison is wholly inappropriate and inaccurate.

  8. Cortez used to be an employee of Doggett.

    So is BOR now allowing former employees of candidates to do hatchet jobs on their old bosses opponents?

    Actually, I'm a former Doggett staffer as well.  However,if given the chance I'd do a hatchet job on  Lloyd Doggett.

    • short answer

      anyone is entitled to write just about anything.

      disclosure is incumbent on the author.

      as far as i know, the only time disclosure is “required” is if they are currently an employee or consultant.

  9. Questions

    Do you think you should make it clear that you used to be on Rep. Doggett's payroll?

    Did Rep. Doggett's campaign ask you to make this post or did you do it on your own?

    • busted
      as i referenced in one of my posts in this diary…

      if he says he didn't have any communication with the campaign i'll laugh for a month!  

  10. As a constituent of the district …
    I'm glad the work was done. I'm not sure if John Michael lives in the new district. I do. I read his statement “what about the communities that have been split up to serve his ambitions and Republican interests?” Personally, while I wish the district was more compact, the areas John Michael is calling out needed to be moved to create more compactness in Bexar County, to create a true community of interest.

    Serving Republican interests? Let's be clear. Helping create a Hispanic Opportunity District and also creating a better community of interest in a Democratic district does very little to serve their interests. But it's easy to claim conspiracy when you support the opponent and try to distort the facts.

    John Michael seems to be doing mores disservice to the party by trying to create his own little “grassy knoll” in this race. I'm still trying to figure out how a brand new district designed to be a Hispanic Opportunity District all of a sudden was assigned to Doggett, who doesn't even live in the district. I guess the voter's will has nothing to do with this race.

    BTW, John Michael, do you live in the district? If so, welcome neighbor. It'll be good to meet you as a fellow constituent.

  11. Time to close this out
    It's pretty obvious the Doggett folks are working from a hack position to try to discredit Castro for sticking up for Bexar County and doing what any good legislator does – work as best he/she can within the system for constituents. The district is a Hispanic Opportunity District. Doggett has every much an opportunity to win this as Castro, on their merits. Apparently Doggett's folks don't think that's enough. So be it.

    With regards to the money, that's the most ludicrous position I've ever seen, especially since we've pointed out that Doggett took money from Republican donors also. I noticed that side of the argument went silent all of a sudden. Castro's donors are Bexar County business people who believe in him and support him. Not uncommon in Bexar County. Heck, Zachry supported Ciro Rodriguez, as I pointed out.

    I think I and several others have provided rational rebuttals on the matter without dropping into the mud. There's really no reason to and hopefully Doggett doesn't support that type of campaigning. Granted, you can't stop your volunteers but let's hope the entire campaign isn't going to look like this.

    The maps still have yet to be finalized and a lot could change. Time to stick with the merits of the candidates and get out of this mud, or dust if you consider how dry it's been here in TX. Oh, that we could only have mud.

  12. this should get this post Bumped
    Maybe John-Michael, Madame Breaux, Mr. Beaux and Timothy can answer 1 simple question:

    How is Castro contacting map drawers compare to LD sitting down at the table in 2006 with Smith, Bonilla & Cuellar and negotiating the boundaries of his district?

    He and his staff specifically negotiated one-on-one with Lamar Smith & Henry Bonilla (republicans) to make changes to his district.

    How is this different?

    (giddy with excitement…can't wait for this)

    • 2006?!
      What does 2006 have to do with anything?  The last redistricting was in 2003. The current one is in 2011. The only thing happening in 2006 were the court-ordered changes.  

      • forgot to mention LSadun
        in my list of apologists.

        does collaboration matter or not?????

        there was a court-ordered redistricting in 06 (news flash).

        the court accepted the plan AGREED to and NEGOTIATED by Smith, Doggett, Bonilla & Cuellar.

        have you lost all intellectual integrity over this match-up?

        if this is all about principles and values, be principled and answer the question.

        (i knew the responses would be awesomepants…just didn't know how good!)

    • Who has said that working on redistricting in general is inherently bad?
      The problem is that Castro claimed to have no part in dividing Travis county so that we wouldn't have any district to call our own, but then it turns out that he advocated minimizing Travis's presence in the only Democratic district.

  13. This could all be for naught
    Well, Michael Li put out the information on the latest proposals by the interest groups, Cuellar and Canseco and they are, pardon the pun, all over the map. I did my take on them at my blog (and a diary entry here that may be promoted).

    Some are REALLY interesting. DFW gets gerrymandered to high heaven (one district is only five blocks wide at one point).

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