Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Castro, Doggett rub elbows at Westside march

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2011 at 11:10 AM

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Though the longtime congressman claims he has yet to start campaigning, you can expect to see a lot more of Lloyd Doggett around town. Doggett, who’s now running in the newly formed congressional district that stretches from Austin to San Antonio, joined a local march on Monday with a host of neighborhood and immigrant rights groups protesting what they consider anti-immigrant sentiment at the Capitol and in the halls of Congress. Before a long trek through the city’s West Side waving signs and banners, Doggett, flanked by local reps with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Brown Berets of Texas, praised the crowd of roughly 200, saying, “Thank you for your leadership. I’m pleased to be your long-term partner.” Sound like campaign talk to you? It does to state Rep. Joaquin Castro, San Antonio’s own political wunderkind now pitted against the veteran politician for the new congressional seat. When Castro joined the crowd moments before the march, he greeted Doggett and laughed, “I thought you weren’t campaigning.” Asked later if he found Doggett’s San Antonio presence irritating, Castro brushed it off with a smile, saying, “Nah, this is a campaign. This is how it works.”

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Castro acknowledged Doggett’s long history in Congress and his liberal credentials, saying, “[Doggett] has of course made an impression on people, and if this is a longevity contest, I’m gonna lose.” Still, he added, “I think here, in San Antonio, we’re more about looking toward our future, not our past.” Doggett has been forced to dive into San Antonio politics by a newly drawn GOP-inspired map that turns his current District 25 into largely conservative turf, practically unwinnable for the liberal Austin congressman. Doggett has slammed the new map, saying it’s unconstitutional and unlikely to stand up to legal scrutiny. Still, Doggett says he’ll stick to the new district if the courts don’t intervene and change the map. And two new young staffers accompanied the congressman Monday gathering names and numbers from some of the rally’s attendees, saying the congressman had already begun to set up a local office.* For Doggett, this is the second time Texas Republicans have tried to squeeze him out. In 2003, under the infamous redistricting plan led by now-convicted felon and then-U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay, the GOP forced Doggett into a new district by making his old one largely conservative and impossible to win. Doggett said Monday he was invited by organizers to attend San Antonio’s march, saying he’s long been opposed to immigration measures like SB9, what Doggett called “that phony sanctuary cities bill" that died in the Lege this year. Doggett and others in the crowd also urged President Barack Obama to use his executive power end to deportations of students and young people brought into the country as children. Gauging Congress’ willingness to tackle immigration reform, Doggett conceded, “I think the opposition to the DREAM Act shows how extreme some of our opponents are, that they won’t even permit that modest step forward. I really think we need a new Congress in order to get immigration reform.” Castro on Monday spoke of his grandmother, a Mexican immigrant, who worked as a babysitter, cook and maid on the city’s West Side for 40 years to provide for her family. “She worked as an immigrant I don’t know whether she was legal or illegal, but she did everything that she could to help us live the American dream," he said. *Updated: A Doggett spokeswoman Tuesday afternoon said the congressman will only establish his official San Antonio office once the courts rule on the new Texas congressional map. - Michael Barajas, mbarajas@sacurrent.com  

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