Latinos line up to challenge for Green’s seat
77 percent of 29th District is Hispanic, but representation hasn’t reflected that
Gene Green’s retirement opens the door for Harris County to send its first Latino representative to Congress, a milestone that has been a long time coming in a region that is more than 40 percent Hispanic.
In fact, Green’s 29th Congressional District was drawn in 1991 to reflect the area’s Hispanic population but never has elected a Latino representative.
Interest in succeeding the longtime Democrat already is fierce.
State Sen. Sylvia Garcia and state Rep. Armando Walle threw their hats in the ring Tuesday to represent the district that covers much of eastern Houston and part of Pasadena.
State Rep. Carol Alvarado is considering running, and former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has asked the county party for filing paperwork.
“I hope that whoever is running realizes this is a very, very, very important opportunity for the Latino community to get not only descriptive representation, but also substantive representation,” University of Houston political scientist Jeronimo Cortina said. “What we don’t know yet is how the primary is going to be dealt with. It could be ugly, but it also could be very amicable.”
Cortina’s colleague Brandon Rottinghaus
echoed that sentiment.
“The seat’s going to be won by a Latino one way or another,” he said, adding, “It is kind of a black eye for the city and the county that the number of elected Latinos is fairly low compared to other places to where there are a similar number of voting age Latinos.”
Harris County was 42 percent Hispanic as of last year, according to the U.S. Census, as was 77 percent of Green’s district.
Sylvia Garcia, 67, last ran for the seat in 1992 but failed to make the runoff that Green ultimately won. The former city controller later secured a place on the Harris County Commissioners Court, lost that post in 2010, and two years later beat Alvarado in a special election for her current Texas Senate seat.
She cited President Donald Trump as a motivator for seeking the District 29 seat.
“I want to continue fighting for working families, quality education for Texas children, access to health care for all, and immigration reform,” Sylvia Garcia said in a news release. “We need a champion for the people in Washington to stand up against Trump and fight for what matters.”
Walle, a former Green staffer serving his fifth term in the Texas House, said he hopes to expand health care access and job opportunities if elected.
“He has a long track record, and we just want to build upon that,” said Walle, 39. “At the end of the day, this is a historic opportunity for our community.”
Adrian Garcia, 56, tried last year to oust Green after an unsuccessful Houston mayoral bid — a controversial decision among local Democrats — but fell to the longtime congressman by 19 percentage points.
Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lillie Schechter said the former sheriff requested filing paperwork Monday, and one local television station reported he planned to run again.
Garcia did not return multiple requests for comment, however.
Alvarado, for her part, said in a statement Tuesday that she was “humbled by the encouragement” she had received, but did not commit to a bid.
“I will continue to visit with key stakeholders in our community and will be making an announcement on my candidacy in the coming days,” said Alvarado, 50.
She, like Walle, is serving her fifth term in the Texas House, following a stint on Houston City Council.
No Republicans have filed yet to run for Green’s seat, Harris County Republican Party spokesman Vlad Davidiuk said.