When it comes to his political future, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett is on top of his game.
The proverbial ink was barely dry on the new Republican-drawn redistricting map, making Doggett’s current district unwinnable for a liberal Democrat, before Doggett was making contact with black Democratic Party activists in San Antonio to organize a “meet, greet and get to know me” breakfast at Tommy Moore’s Cafe.
Veteran Democratic political consultant Jo McCall seemed to be in charge, attendees say. Rev. C.J. Littlefield, who carries no title but is not shy about jumping into the political arena, and San Antonio Independent School District Board President James Howard, who may still have a bit of animus toward Mayor Julián Castro because the mayor backed his opponent in the recent school board election, also appeared to have key roles.
Every perceived East Side mover and shaker was invited, and most everybody showed up, including several who worked on Castro’s mayoral campaign. Granted, showing up at a popular restaurant for a free meal, courtesy of an elected official, is not in and of itself an endorsement, but sheer numbers and appearances leave their own impression.
That’s where the Castro factor becomes intriguing. Just about the time Doggett was holding his “meet, greet and get to know me” fete in San Antonio, the mayor’s twin brother, state Rep. Joaquin Castro, announced that he would run in the newly created 35th Congressional District, the same district that Doggett would be running in if the courts uphold the Republican redistricting map.
Although the new district has a large Hispanic base, Doggett has been known to transcend racial lines when it comes to garnering votes. Doggett has said that he will need every vote to win; solidifying support among black voters early is a smart thing to do.
Black Democrats may well be inclined to support Doggett. He has a voting record that consistently scores high on the NAACP Legislative Report and he has a history of a good rapport with blacks. After Republicans messed with his district after the 2000 census, he moved to East Austin, not much different from East San Antonio, in order to run.
The potential problem is that key black opinion leaders here are not separating Julián and Joaquin Castro and are likely to base their support of Joaquin on how they feel about the mayor and his relationship with the black community. Since Julián Castro’s election, some of his black supporters have privately grumbled that there are no high-ranking blacks in his office and have even met with his office on the matter. They were less than satisfied with the answer that a job was offered to a black person but he turned it down because it didn’t pay enough. Consequently, some aren’t immune to considering Doggett.
For other blacks, it’s nice to be in the political thick of things again. After the 2000 redistricting map chopped up the historically black East Side, the black community became politically inconsequential. Doggett came out of the gate declaring, “No, you’re not!”
If the courts uphold the GOP map and Doggett and Joaquin Castro fight it out for the District 35 seat, they won’t be the only ones politically fighting. It’s already started to steam up in some quarters of the black community, right after breakfast at Tommy Moore’s.
Kathy Clay-Little is publisher of African American Reflections.