Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D)
Texas 25th District
Austin is the capital of the second-largest state in the United States and the site of the largest Capitol building, if not the most rambunctious state legislature in the country. It is one of many capitals with a first-rate university, but one of only two with its own musical tradition (Nashville is the other). Not long ago, Austin was laid-back and countrified. There had never been much commerce here, and state government provided much of the local employment. Its skies were untainted by industrial smoke, its landscape unpocked by oil rigs, and its downtown streets lined not with business offices but with buildings holding a few lobbyists and the antique Driskill Hotel. Its biggest industry was the University of Texas, with 50,000 students and an endowment of thousands of west Texas acres that turned out to sit on top of oil. The university has long had a distinguished faculty and some of the world’s great scholarly collections, including the LBJ Presidential Library and its 35 million documents. The university has been a shelter for liberal intellectuals since the 1940s, and it helped spark Austin’s high-technology boom in the 1980s and 1990s. Half a century ago, in Lyndon Johnson’s time, Austin had a metropolitan population of 132,000. The compact Austin that was Johnson’s headquarters in 1948, when the Duval County returns came in and gave him the 87-vote Senate victory that made his national career, is a very different Austin from the metropolitan center of 1.2 million that waited up in the rain to hear the results of the election of Texas native son George W. Bush in 2000.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Growth has also brought political change. For many years, Austin was the central focus of Texas’s hardy but almost always outnumbered liberals, based in the university, state government and the Texas Observer magazine. They supported the New Deal and generous social programs and mocked the business lobbyists who called the shots when the “Leg” (pronounced lej) was in session. But as the Austin area grew, it became more conservative, especially as its private sector made up a larger share of the local economy. The techies who settled in the Silicon Hills from Austin’s Travis County to once-rural Williamson County have tended to vote Republican. Some businesses cater to the old liberal bastions: the upscale organic-food chain, Whole Foods Market, is based in Austin. The city core and the university area are still Democratic, and Texas liberals still are potent in the media. But this is a state capital where Gov. Bush could feel at home, perhaps more so than he did 30 years earlier when his application for admission was rejected by UT’s law school. Bush lost Austin and Travis County 59%-41% when he first ran for governor in 1994, but he carried the county 60%-38% in 1998 when he ran for re-election and 47%-42% in 2000 when he ran for president (10% went for Green Party nominee Ralph Nader). In 2004, Austin’s liberal community registered large numbers of new voters, and Bush lost Travis County 56%-42%, even as he increased his margin statewide. Democratic nominee Barack Obama carried Travis County with 64% of the vote.
The 25th Congressional District of Texas, a new seat created by the 2003 redistricting and revised significantly by a federal court in August 2006, encompasses nearly half of Travis County, including most of the east side of Austin and the city’s heavily Latino and African-American neighborhoods. The increasingly settled Hispanic community includes many people moving toward the middle class. The Capitol and the UT campus are just outside the district, in the 21st, while the 10th District takes in most of the Republican northern part of the city and county. Seven rural counties that extend to the south and east now account for 40% of the 25th district. The largest of them are Hays and Bastrop, both of which are among the fastest-growing in the state, having increased more than 25% from 2000 to 2007. The district was 37% Hispanic and 9% African-American in 2007. In 2008, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama carried the district 59%-39%, taking a 71% share of the vote in Travis County, which cast 59% of the total vote. Republican nominee John McCain carried all the other seven counties, three of them by 2-to-1 or better.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D)
Elected: 1994, 8th term.
Born: Oct. 6, 1946, Austin .
Education: U. of TX, B.B.A. 1967, J.D. 1970.
Family: Married (Libby); 2 children.
Elected office: TX Senate, 1972–84; TX Supreme Ct. justice, 1989-94.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1970–89; Adjunct prof., U. of TX Law Schl., 1989–94.
The congressman from the 25th District is Lloyd Doggett, first elected in 1994 in the old 10th District. He is a liberal Democrat with a career that includes some notable twists. Doggett grew up in Austin, finished first in his class at the University of Texas and was student-body president in 1967. In 1972, at age 26, he was elected to the state Senate. In the 70s, as part of a large liberal bloc, he pushed for laws against job discrimination and cop-killer bullets and for generic drugs. He has long been a close ally of trial lawyers, the one strong institutional force supporting liberal Democrats in Texas. In the Legislature, he was one of the “Killer Bees” who hid out to prevent a quorum on changing the rules in the Democratic primary and filibustered—wearing sneakers—against what he called anti-consumer bills. In 1984, he ran for the U.S. Senate, narrowly edging out two House members to win the Democratic nomination. Then, despite the campaign help of crack Democratic consultant James Carville, Doggett lost the general election 59%-41% to party-switching U.S. Rep. Phil Gramm, a Democrat turned Republican. Doggett came back and was elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1988. When Democratic U.S. Rep. Jake Pickle retired after 31 years, Doggett ran for his seat. He won the Democratic primary with token opposition and in the general election won by a solid 56%-40%.
|Lloyd Doggett (D)||191,755||(66%)||($401,449)|
|George Morovich (R)||88,693||(30%)||($64,134)|
|Jim Stutsman (Lib)||10,848||(4%)|
|Lloyd Doggett (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (67%), 2004 (68%), 2002 (84%), 2000 (85%), 1998 (85%), 1996 (56%), 1994 (56%)
In the House, Doggett’s voting record puts him among the most-liberal Texans and near the center of all Democrats. In the days of the Republican majority, he was a frequent critic of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a close ally of minority whips David Bonior of Michigan and Nancy Pelosi of California. (He backed Pelosi against fellow Texan Martin Frost in her race for minority leader.) In 1999, he gained a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee. Along with other Democrats, he voted against most of Bush’s major tax bills and other initiatives. In 2002, he was a leader in opposing the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. (Even he reported being surprised that 126 House Democrats voted against it.)
When Democrats took control of the House in 2007, Doggett set his priorities as eliminating tax shelters and loopholes and negotiating prescription-drug prices for Medicare. He also sought tax incentives for purchasers of plug-in hybrid electric cars. Often without the publicity of his earlier days in the minority, he had real impact on a number of issues. In May 2009, when President Obama announced his plan to reform international tax policy, he cited Doggett’s input on proposals to crack down on overseas tax evasion.
Reflecting his district’s environmental activism, Doggett was among the Ways and Means Democrats who asserted the panel’s role in global-warming legislation, then dominated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “In my view, the more the merrier,” he said in 2008. He won House passage in September 2008 of a bill to create a “silver alert” modeled on the Texas program to track wandering senior citizens who may have Alzheimer’s disease. He helped increase funds for UT in the Democratic economic-stimulus bill of 2009 and won a new tax credit for higher education.
Republicans were giddy in 2003 at the prospect that redistricting might end Doggett’s congressional career. But he took up the challenge. As some other dislocated Texas Democrats took their fight to the courts, Doggett took his case to the voters of his new district. He started by working hard to get the support of elected officials and party activists along the border. “I chose to spend not a few hours here in the Valley in the month of December (2003), but a few weeks, to resume old friendships,” he said in McAllen. Meanwhile, the best-known Hispanic challengers for a Democratic primary dropped out for various reasons. Doggett faced Leticia Hinojosa, a former district-court judge from McAllen. She called herself a “pragmatist” in contrast to the outspoken Doggett, and she claimed a closer identification with voters. “I’m Leticia Hinojosa, and I grew up poor in the Valley,” she said in her radio ad. But Doggett’s strong local base and relentless pursuit of new voters prevailed. He campaigned less against Hinojosa than against the redistricters. If he lost, Doggett told voters, “Tom DeLay will have won,” a reference to the powerful GOP majority leaders from Texas who had orchestrated the remap. Doggett won the primary 64%-36%. He led 88%-12% in Travis County and held Hinojosa to a standoff in Hidalgo County.
Although the primary effectively sealed his re-election, Doggett faced a spirited challenge in the 2004 general from Becky Armendariz Klein. She called herself a conservative “new voice with new ideas” and cited her experience as policy director for Gov. Bush and as chairwoman of the Texas Public Utility Commission. Klein raised more than $800,000 and criticized Doggett for failing to work across party lines. Doggett tweaked her for her bid for ethnic voters, saying she’d pulled out her “long forgotten maiden name” to run for the seat. He won 68%-31%, getting 79% in Travis County and 60% in Hidalgo County.