Lati­nos line up to chal­lenge for Green’s seat

77 per­cent of 29th District is His­panic, but rep­re­sen­ta­tion hasn’t re­flected that

Houston Chronicle - - CITY | STATE - By Re­becca El­liott

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.

Adrian Gar­cia

Sylvia Gar­cia

Al­varado

Walle

Green

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