May 29 2012

District 33 Democratic primary sets stage for Fort Worth vs. Dallas runoff

FORT WORTH — In the end, it may truly come down to Fort Worth versus Dallas.

As election officials continued counting the ballots in the hotly contested race for the newly drawn 33rd Congressional District late Tuesday night, two men rose to the top of the 11-person Democratic race and are now headed to a runoff: state Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and former state Rep. Domingo Garcia of Dallas.

With all 261 precincts reporting, Veasey — who jumped out to a lead once early voting results were posted and held it through the night — had 36.8 percent of the vote compared with Garcia’s 25 percent, according to unofficial results posted on the Texas secretary of state’s website.

“Right now, everything looks encouraging,” Veasey, an African-American real estate agent, said about 9 p.m. “I’m not going to start celebrating until the end of the night, until I see the boxes in both counties.

“We worked really hard, and obviously we wanted to do the best we could — all the candidates did,” he said. “I think our hard work definitely paid off.”

Garcia told reporters in Dallas that he was excited to be headed to a runoff.

“It’s a historic moment for the voters of Dallas-Fort Worth, especially minority voters who have been excluded by the Republicans for over a decade,” Garcia, a personal injury attorney, told The Dallas Morning News. “What we’ve seen so far is that message worked very well in Dallas County where people know me, and we’re going to get that message to Tarrant County, and once that message gets there, I think we’ll have a great opportunity to win the election.”

The runoff will be held on July 31.

The winner of that race will advance to the November general election to face Fort Worth Republican Chuck Bradley, who handily won his party’s nomination with 64 percent of the vote.

The 33rd Congressional District, which stretches from Fort Worth’s Stockyards through Arlington and into Dallas’ Oak Cliff section — is one of four new districts Texas picked up due to population growth and is drawn to give minority voters a chance to elect the candidate of their choice to represent them.

While more Dallas County residents live in the district than Tarrant County residents, more registered voters are in Tarrant than Dallas County. And more black voters — a pillar of the Democratic Party — are in Tarrant, while more Hispanic voters are in Dallas County, political observers say.

After the district lines were formally set this year by a slate of federal judges, 11 Democrats and two Republicans jumped into the race, which quickly became a multimillion-dollar battle to garner support from voters on both sides of the Trinity River.

Controversies quickly erupted, from calls for federal election monitors to the use of “street money” (cash-stuffed envelopes) to help influence endorsements.

Fiery rhetoric picked up — and even prompted calls for civility from Tarrant County’s Democratic Party chairman — after Garcia called Veasey a “paid-for errand boy” in a letter to supporters. His response came after Veasey spoke out about comments Garcia made at a campaign forum this month, saying that he didn’t “have any confidence” in General Motors, that American Airlines’ management is “reprehensible” and that he wouldn’t defend the F-35 project to save jobs at Lockheed Martin.

Veasey’s vocal support for protecting local companies and protecting the jobs they provide in North Texas then prompted Garcia’s letter to supporters.

On the Republican side of the race, Bradley got 64 percent of the vote to Red Oak’s Charles King’s 36 percent, with all 261 precincts reporting.

As many expected, the largest percentage of Tarrant County support in the district went to Veasey, and the biggest portion of Dallas County support in the district went to Garcia.

In the Democratic race, here’s how the votes broke down:

Dallas’ David Alameel, a dental center magnate who put more than $2 million of his own money into the race, earned 10.9 percent of the vote.

Alameel poured much of his money into billboards throughout the district, as well as frequently airing television and radio ads.

Dallas’ Chrysta L. Castaneda, a prominent attorney, drew 2.1 percent of the vote; Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, the youngest person ever elected to the Fort Worth City Council, garnered 12.6 percent; and Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Manuel Valdez picked up 4.8 percent.

Dallas’ Steve Salazar, a former City Council and school board member, pulled in 2.6 percent; Dallas’ Jason E. Roberts, known within Oak Cliff as a neighborhood activist, accrued 1.8 percent; Irving’s Carlos Quintanilla, a community activist, picked up 1.5 percent; Fort Worth’s Kyev Tatum, a pastor and civil rights activist, earned 1.1 percent; and Burleson’s J.R. Molina, a Fort Worth attorney, drew 1 percent.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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