Rep. Al Green (D)
Texas 9th District
Spreading out in all directions from its historic center at Allen’s Landing on Buffalo Bayou, Houston has become one of the great metropolises of North America. A half-century ago, the steaming flatlands south of Houston running down to the Gulf of Mexico did not seem a likely site for one of the world’s most advanced civilizations. But they are today. Most of the scientific work in NASA’s early years was done in Houston, and the first word spoken when man landed on the moon was “Houston.” It is the undisputed center of expertise in the oil business. In 2008, 70% of the city’s economic growth came from the energy industry. Houston has also become a medical mecca, with the giant Texas Medical Center and its 13 hospitals leaving their mark on the health care statewide. And Houston has become one of the great surprise growth cities, creating thousands of small businesses, many owned by immigrants. This success is testimony to human, and Texas, creativity, and to the triumph of air conditioning, which facilitated the growth of what is now the fourth-largest city in the nation, with a population that grew by more than one-third from 1990 to 2007. After all, far fewer people would have moved here if they had to sweat through Houston’s steamy five-month summer. The city’s growth is expected to continue. In 2007, Houston unveiled a 30-year plan that projected an increase of 3.5 million people in the region.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 9th Congressional District of Texas slices across the southern part of metropolitan Houston on the streets and freeways and waterways spreading out from the center of the city. It begins just southwest of where Interstate 45 crosses the I-610 Loop, continues west with a slight intrusion inside 610 near the Reliant Astrodome and Reliant Stadium, and then heads past Meadows Place and Mission Bend outside Beltway 8 toward the western end of Harris County. It includes two wedges of Fort Bend County, which form a crescent around the 22nd District.
The district includes many African-American neighborhoods, low-income and middle-income, in Harris and Fort Bend counties. Its population is 36% black, the third highest in any Texas district. It also includes many Asians, who form 9% of the total population, the highest percentage in Texas. Along Belleaire Boulevard is a Chinese-American community. Entrepreneurial Vietnamese boat people settled in the Alief neighborhood of southwest Houston on Bray’s Bayou and have created quality schools, an Asian-oriented shopping mall and businesses that serve the largest Vietnamese community in the nation outside of California. And of course, there are many Hispanics, who made up 40% of the district’s population in 2007, though many are not citizens or do not vote. Half of the district’s population speaks a language other than English at home. The devastation of Katrina that emptied out New Orleans moved approximately 200,000 residents to Houston, and tens of thousands have remained. Overall this is a heavily Democratic district, which voted 77% for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
Rep. Al Green (D)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: Sept. 1, 1947, New Orleans, LA .
Education: TX Southern U., J.D. 1973.
Elected office: Harris Cnty. justice of the peace, 1977-2004.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1973-77; Pres., Houston NAACP, 1986-95.
The congressman from the 9th District is Al Green, a Democrat first elected in 2004. Green grew up in New Orleans, attended college at Florida A&M University and graduated from Texas Southern University’s law school, where he later taught. From 1986 to 1995, he was president of the Houston chapter of the NAACP. In 1977, he was elected justice of the peace and served 26 years. After new district boundaries were created in 2003, Green saw an opening to run for Congress. The representative from the old district that covered much of this area was Chris Bell, a white Democrat first elected in 2002. That year, he ran with liberal support and beat a more conservative black candidate. The primary against Green was a different matter. Green said that he wanted to fight racial profiling and discrimination in law enforcement, and used subtle racial references on the campaign trail, including his promise to bring “a mountain of soul” to the new district. He amassed an impressive roster of endorsements from prominent local and national black leaders. Bell responded by asking voters “not to focus on the color of my skin, but on the size of my heart.” He spent more than $1 million on the primary, while Green spent less than half as much. Bell was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, Texas teachers, abortion rights groups and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But he struggled as a white candidate running in a district where minorities constituted two-thirds of the electorate. And, a little more than half of the district was new to him.
|Al Green (D)||143,868||(94%)||($384,442)|
|Brad Walters (Lib)||9,760||(6%)|
|Al Green (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (72%)
As the primary neared, the racially charged atmosphere intensified. When state Democratic Chairman Charles Soechting endorsed Bell, Green said that it reminded him of “the double standards when African-Americans had to ride on the back of the bus and drink from colored-only water fountains.” The Congressional Black Caucus was drawn into the campaign after California Rep. Maxine Waters hand-delivered a $5,000 check to Green from the caucus’ political action committee and announced that nearly a dozen CBC members backed Green. Bell complained that caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., had earlier promised to support him. Although the caucus itself never made a formal endorsement, its role in the primary angered other Democratic members. In the end, it may not have mattered. Green won the primary in a landslide, 66%-31%. “It’s been a divisive race and in some ways a rather ugly race,” Bell said in conceding. Green faced no real opposition in the general election.
In the House, Green has had a relatively moderate voting record. On the Financial Services Committee, he has worked to eliminate housing practices that discriminated against minorities. He passed an amendment in the House in 2005 to add $7.7 million to fight housing discrimination. In 2008, he worked with then-Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., on a plan to reduce the number of mortgage holders with unstable sub-prime loans, and he passed a bill in the House to expand housing assistance for low-income veterans. Green broke with most House Democrats by voting in 2006 to permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, probably the smart vote in a Houston-based district that relies on oil profits. In March 2005, Green complained that he had been racially profiled after Houston airport security officials pulled him out of a line, questioned him and searched him.
He has been re-elected twice without Republican opposition.