District 29 Goes Green, Again

District 29 will again go without a Hispanic representative in Congress. Adrian Garcia, a former "front-runner" in Houston's mayoral race who ultimately came in third last November, appears to have come up short in his long-shot bid to win the Democratic nomination for the seat, one that has been held by fellow Democrat Representative Gene Green since the district was created in the early 1990s.

While Green — hell, everyone — was caught off-guard by Garcia's last-minute crack at the district, the Associated Press called the race for Green early on Tuesday night. Early vote totals showed Green trouncing Garcia with some 63 percent of the vote ahead of Tuesday's primary. 

Garcia threw his hat into the ring to run against his old friend Green for the Democratic nomination for District 29 in December. Green dubbed the move, which was made just hours before the end of the filing deadline, a "Hail Mary" by Garcia.

State lawmakers carved out the so-called minority “opportunity district” in 1991 in reaction to the area’s booming Latino population. It was thought that Houston Latinos would be able to elect one of their own to Congress. But things didn't work out that way.

Instead, in 1992 Green won the seat, and he has held it ever since. Before Garcia decided to run, Green hadn't faced a serious primary challenger since the 1990s.  

When first announcing his candidacy, the former Harris County sheriff didn't even go out of his way to spell out any real differences between what Green has been doing and what Garcia would have done. (Possibly because there's very little difference, as we've previously noted.) Initially, Garcia's main reason for running was that District 29 is 78 percent Hispanic, Green is Anglo and Garcia is, well, not.

Over the course of the campaign, Garcia's camp tried out a few arguments against Green. Garcia first tried to say Green has been weak on gun laws, a tactic that met with middling results. (After all, this is Texas, the state where you can now open-carry on college campuses.) When that didn't work, Garcia argued that Green has done a lousy job on environmental issues in the district, which is alongside the Houston Ship Channel and has been dealing with industrial pollution for decades. This approach didn't take hold either. Garcia made his most intriguing argument when he said Green hasn't done a good job representing the district's Hispanic population, a contention that dovetailed nicely with the one clear difference between the two politicians: their ethnicity.  

In the end, this whole primary battle ended up being over whether voters wanted a white politician who allies say has been good for the Latino community, or whether it was finally time for the district to fulfill its promise of giving metro Houston a Hispanic congressional rep. 

No telling what Garcia will run for next. 
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray