Posted: San Antonio Current
What started out as an amiable primary race between state Rep. Joaquin Castro and longtime congressman Lloyd Doggett, two strong, like-minded Democrats, has begun to devolve into an exercise in barb exchanging. Both are fighting for a district, newly-created congressional district 35 stretching from San Antonio to Austin, which they call a product of blatant GOP gerrymandering, part of a map that may not even fly once the federal courts have had their say. Still, discontent started to simmer when, while testifying in the federal redistricting trial last month, Ryan Downtown, a lawyer who helped guide state Republicans through redistricting, testified that Castro and state Rep. Mike Villarreal “liked the idea of 35,” and “wanted to make sure that the district was sufficiently weighted towards Bexar County, as opposed to Travis County.”
For supporters of the long-serving congressman, it was sign that Castro helped devise the very map that put the GOP-guided bullseye on Doggett’s back. Then, in part of a largely glowing Express-News profile of Castro early this month, the daily noted that Castro phoned state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, for help in redistricting — like pushing more Hispanic precincts into the newly-formed District 35. “I’m not inclined to believe that this is some evidence of his (Castro’s) prowess. … If being a savvy politician means carving up communities, that’s just not what good representatives do,” said Doggett campaign manager Matt Arnold last week. “The reason Tobin Hill is now connected to Montopolis, the reason that King William is connected to the Austin airport is because Joaquin Castro went in and helped draw the map,” he charged.
Also, there’s the damage done to freshman GOP Congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco’s district, Arnold said, which got significantly less Democratic this go around, paving the road for Canseco’s reelection. Not to mention the hatchet job done to the district of the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, longtime Democratic Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, Arnold said.
Castro fired back with his own message Friday, releasing a YouTube video defending himself and sending off an email containing a letter from one supporter, Eugene Sepuvelda, saying in part, “It’s sad that Lloyd is more worried about keeping his job than standing for the principles we’ve long known him to champion.” In his video, Castro claims Doggett’s “so worried about losing his job that he’s spreading conspiracy theory rumors about me working with the Republicans to draw him out of a job.”
You can bet many in Democratic circles are praying the federal courts will throw the standing map in the trash bin and start over. Maybe then we can put this little Castro-Doggett saga behind us.