The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Lloyd, Gonzo, and Others?

By Michael King, December 19, 2003, News

Assuming the new Austin-to-McAllen congressional District 25 survives the current redistricting trial and Department of Justice review (see p.26), jockeying for position continues in the potential race to fill the open seat. District 10 incumbent U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett is laying down border stakes, campaigning steadily in South Texas, where local politicos are torn between supporting the longtime Democratic stalwart or looking for a favorite son or daughter from the border.

State Rep. Kino Flores, D-Mission, initially declared his intention to challenge Doggett -- whom he describes as insufficiently Hispanic and too liberal for South Texas -- but last week refiled for his current seat and announced he had not been able to gather the financial support necessary for a congressional run. South Texas politicos have been looking hard for a border-based alternative to Doggett, and this week are leaning toward District Court Judge Leticia Hinojosa, who has deep roots in the Democratic Party and community activism.

Slightly less than half of District 25's population lives in Hidalgo and Starr counties, about the same number lives in Travis and Caldwell counties, and the remainder stretches the 300 miles in between. Hinojosa and Doggett were making courtesy calls around the Valley this week, appearing together at a United Farmworkers fundraiser, where the Quorum Report reported both were received enthusiastically -- but Doggett needed an interpreter to converse with Spanish-speaking farm workers.

Meanwhile, at our end of the district, Doggett obviously has a long record of public service -- dating back to his election to the Texas Senate in 1973. But his successor in that post, state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, is making it increasingly clear that he wants to take on Doggett if the new congressional district lines are upheld. This would revisit business left unfinished in 1994, when Doggett -- then a state Supreme Court justice -- jumped into the race to succeed retiring Jake Pickle, and -- after one furious weekend of fundraising -- effectively knocked both Barrientos and then-Mayor Bruce Todd out of the running before filing had even begun.

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