US Rep. Doggett wins, Reyes ousted in Texas races
May 30, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett won his primary Tuesday in a new congressional district drawn to reflect the state's booming Hispanic population, beating two Hispanic challengers and paving a return to Washington for one of Gov. Rick Perry's longtime Democratic thorns.
Yet another Democratic incumbent was ousted from Congress in a late stunner: Silvestre Reyes of El Paso, who was first elected in 1996. He was narrowly defeated by former city councilman Beto O'Rourke, who favors legalizing marijuana but has said he wouldn't push for that in Congress.
Reyes was the lone congressional incumbent ousted in the primary while almost all others cruised to victory, muting the chances that the face of Texas in the U.S. House would be in for a dramatic makeover this November.
Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson easily survived her first serious primary challenge in 20 years, and former House Energy Chairman Joe Barton also coasted to another Republican nomination despite fighting changes made this year to the shape and demographics of his North Texas district.
New political boundaries drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature infuriated Democrats and minority rights groups in a redistricting fight still being waged in federal court. Mapmakers changed Doggett's old Austin district to all but assure a Republican victory, which sent Doggett scrambling to a new and predominantly Hispanic district that stretches from Austin to San Antonio.
It wasn't the first time Doggett has been drawn out of his old district. Doggett trumpets his resilience — and his public sparring with Perry over federal education dollars — like a progressive badge of honor.
"We're here to say to Gov. Perry, we can pick our own members of Congress," Doggett told supporters at his Austin campaign headquarters.
Doggett's district is among four new U.S. House seats awarded to Texas because of a population surge the last decade driven by Hispanics. The number of Hispanics in Texas grew by 2.8 million in the last decade — second only to California — yet Texas hasn't elected more than six Hispanics to Congress since 1997.
The majority of the voting-age population in two of the new districts is Hispanic — including the one that Doggett is now poised to win in November. The other stretched across Dallas and Fort Worth, where voters forced a July runoff between Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia in a crowded Democratic primary of 11 candidates.
Veasey is a black state lawmaker who already represents a third of the new congressional district in the state House. Garcia is a former state lawmaker vying to become the first Hispanic elected to Congress from Dallas.
Another runoff is also needed where Ron Paul's longtime South Texas district is up for grabs. The failed presidential candidate — who announced his retirement from Congress before his latest run for the White House — didn't endorse any of the nine candidates scrambling to succeed him. Republican state Rep. Randy Weber will face attorney Felicia Harris in a July runoff.
The winner isn't a slam-dunk for election in November. The likely Democratic nominee is former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, whose candidacy could make the U.S. House race a rare general election toss-up in Texas.
Paul has backed Weber in previous state house races, and Weber thinks he could still snag his endorsement again before the runoff.
"He knows how conservative I am and knows we've got to get someone who can defeat the liberals," Weber said.
In the Rio Grande Valley, attorney Filemon Vela also advanced to a runoff in the newly drawn 34th Congressional District, but his opponent wasn't immediately clear.
In Dallas, Johnson, 76, defeated Barbara Mallory Caraway and Taj Clayton in the 30th Congressional District she has represented since 1992, when she became the first black woman sent to Congress from North Texas. She had not faced a serious primary challenge before this year and had garnered a rare primary endorsement from President Barack Obama.
"I'm very appreciative of their support and confidence," she told Dallas television station WFAA.
Along the Texas coast, Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold beat three challengers in the GOP primary. Farenthold will face an easier general election than in 2010, when the part-time talk show host from Corpus Christi upset longtime Democratic Congressman Solomon Ortiz. This time around, Farenthold enjoys a more GOP-friendly district under the state's new political map.