U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett Shifts Emphasis To Latino Voters

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Dogget (D-Austin) has been serving the people of the State of Texas in some capacity or another for most of his life. As a congressman since 1995, he has represented mostly the Austin area, although with redistricting these boundaries have changed somewhat. The current redistricting snafu has forced Doggett to, at once file for Congressional District 25 (Austin), while he actively campaigns in Congressional District 35 (running from the Austin area to San Antonio.)

We spoke to Doggett this week to ask him about his campaign, what he has learned about Texas’ burgeoning Latino voting population, as well as how long he plans to stay in office.

As part of Doggett’s San Antonio campaign for the 35th —  about half the district lies in San Antonio, squiggling down from the Austin area — the congressman was in town Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. March, the largest in the country. While drumming up support from a mostly Latino constituency there, he told us that, from the beginning, he said he’d ultimately file in the district where he would have the largest number of his previous constituents. Referring to the “Perrymandered” maps which have created a ruckus resulting in redistricting a Supreme Court case, Doggett told NewsTaco that this “unprecedented” overreach on the part of Republicans in Texas to deny Latino voters the chance to elect candidates of their choice is disconcerting. He’s not just concerned as a candidate, he said, but as someone who believes in the Voting Rights Act.

That said, Doggett’s ability to be elected to this district hinges on whether or not he can recruit Latino voter support.

Thus, he happily told us that he met with his former rival for the 35th — Joaquín Castro, who is now running for the 20th —  as well as his brother, the mayor of San Antonio Julián Castro, and their mother Rosie Castro recently when they were in Austin. Doggett has also been visiting with other politicos in San Antonio, and told us of his long history of involvement in issues affecting Latinos in Texas:

  • For two years he represented a district with a higher percentage of Latinos than the 35th
  • As a young state senator, he worked on behalf of of farmworkers’ movement in Texas
  • On the state Supreme Court he wrote opinions important to education in San Antonio
  • He was a four-time sponsor of the DREAM Act
  • He is committed to immigration reform
  • As San Antonio is a military city, he is focusing on promoting military bases
  • He highlighted his work in central Texas with the group AVANCE and early childhood education
  • As well as higher education tax credits

“In the last many months I learned a lot of things,” he said in reference to a question about the racial divisions that stirred up when Castro and he (both Democrats) were fighting it out for the 35th. On the one hand, Doggett told us that he had support from a group called Latinos for Lloyd, and that his involvement with Latinos reflects, “a lifetime of working on issues that reflect common values.” He told NewsTaco that, meeting new people and groups, helped him learn a lot about parts of the new district, enough to help them refocus his priorities on how to best serve the needs of people in South Texas.

On the other hand, he didn’t really address the racial divisions that came to the surface recently. When voters in central Texas were faced with a choice between a young Latino that represented the future of Texas and an older white man who had been in power for decades, all sorts of things came to the surface. What Doggett did say was that Castro ran a “vigorous” race that appealed to many people, “What I would say is that some of that division is related to the fact that Joaquín Castro is a very attractive candidate, rather than it necessarily reflects something negative about me, it may reflect something positive about him.”

In pushing for the Latino vote in San Antonio and the I-35 corridor connecting that city to Austin, Doggett says he will continue to work seven days a week, and hope that the Supreme Court manages to protect the Voting Rights Act as it comes to a decision about the final electoral districts.

When asked about his plans for the future, Doggett told us that he is taking it “two years at a time,” but that it is probable he will seek reelection in 2014, albeit he is currently focused on 2012. “I don’t plan to die in Washington, but I would like to continue serving while I think I can make a difference,” he told us. He added that if the Supreme Court approves the most recent electoral maps, Texas’ congressional Democratic delegation would grow substantially, and potentially include three new Latino Congress members, and enable him to more effectively address the needs of his district — whether that district will be in Austin or San Antonio, however, is yet to be seen.

[Courtesy Photo]

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