CD 35: Doggett, Romo, Alvarado
Democrats face off in (or just outside) this gerrymandered district
One oddity of the Congressional District 35 Democratic primary is that neither of the leading candidates currently lives in the district. Incumbent CD 25 U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett lives about five blocks east of the newly drawn lines, and incumbent Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Sylvia Romo also lives outside the lines on the San Antonio end of the radically gerrymandered district. Only little-known retired Air Force veteran Maria Luisa Alvarado lives in 35 – although credit or blame in each case goes to the elongated GOP redistricting process, which only settled the lines (for now) in recent months. (Doggett and Romo each say they will move into the district should they win the May 29 primary.)
The situation also reflects the major outside influence on this race: the gerrymander that left Travis County sliced into five districts, all anchored elsewhere and four favoring Republicans. Only CD 35 has a Dem majority, but it was drawn with a skinny connector along I-35 to favor a San Antonio Hispanic. Doggett becomes the only likely Democratic standard-bearer for heavily Democratic Travis County – although the outcome will largely depend on San Antonio voters. The raw district numbers favor Romo, but she's attempting to leap from a local county office to Congress, and Doggett has both an enormous funding lead and a reputation as a formidable campaigner – now spending mucho time in San Antonio.
On the issues, Doggett is emphasizing his long record as a progressive Democrat representing a progressive constituency. He will stoutly defend Social Security, Medicare, and national health care, and also notes his strong support for both higher education programs and public education. (He recently fought a headline battle with Gov. Rick Perry over the use of federal education funding, and the GOP Legislature made its draconian cuts anyway.) Doggett also emphasizes his work on tax fairness, Wall Street regulatory reform, and supporting the DREAM Act and broad immigration reform. For many years, he's been a leading voice of the progressive wing of the party, and he's a known quantity for Democratic voters. As he puts it, "I want to be as strong an advocate for working families in other parts of the I-35 corridor as I have been for the communities that I already serve in Congress."
By contrast, Romo's early campaign statements have emphasized her CPA license and tax knowledge as promising potential Congressional tax reform efforts, and she targets economic development. "My highest priority when elected to Congress," she says, "is to help get our economy back on track and to create real economic opportunity for Texans." She also calls attention to her support for education, health care, and "taking care of public spaces," and pledges to defend Social Security and Medicare "relentlessly." Somewhat curiously in the current political climate, she suggests her approach to Congress will be nonpartisan, pointing to her two Texas House terms in the early Nineties. "I am a consensus builder, someone who listens and respects the other side," she says. "I'll take this skill with me to our nation's capital and work to end gridlock."
Alvarado's campaign is thus far largely under the radar; she emphasizes job creation, help for veterans, and "affordability for basic needs" as her priorities. Calling herself a true "grassroots" candidate, Alvarado says, "One does not have to be a millionaire, a lawyer, or have political connections to challenge and defeat those that forget to whom they are accountable." Underfunded and with a low campaign profile, her main effect on the District 35 race may be demographic; she could pull enough San Antonio votes from the better known Romo to even up the gerrymandered district numbers for Doggett.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary will be a heavy favorite against any of three Republicans in November. Rob Roark is a San Marcos quality control inspector and "blue-collar, constitutional conservative." San Antonio businessman and Perry appointee to the Texas Credit Union Commission John Yoggerst (the Travis County sample ballot misspells the name as "Yoggerest") promises conservative "fiscal policy and restraint." The highest-profile GOP candidate is consultant and former San Marcos mayor Susan Narvaiz, who stands for "limited government, individual rights, and personal responsibility" and is pro-life.