January 03, 2003
Sylvia and Gabriel

Here's a nice article about newly elected County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, the first Latino and the first woman to serve on this court. As noted, this makes her one of the more powerful Hispanic politicians in the country.

Garcia has her work cut out for her in the insular old-boys club that the Court is, as Greg Wythe notes. She's taking over her seat from a man who'd been greatly slowed by Parkinson's disease and who apparently left things in some disarray, so I wouldn't expect her to get much of a honeymoon. Still, she's already overcome some odds to win this election in the way of well-organized opposition and a district that is not particularly favorable to her demographically (though it is trending that way).

Meanwhile, in Houston, there's already a lot of jockeying going on for the city election that will occur in November. The mayor's race already has a crowded field, while a number of term-limited politicians are looking around for the next office to run for. One person who'll likely be in the same place is my City Council member, Gabriel Vasquez. Vasquez can run for his office one more time. I'm not sure what he'll do next, but I am sure he'll do something.

Vasquez lives a couple of blocks away from me. We've had a few encounters with him, all of which have been positive. The city has scheduled a major repaving of the main road into our neighborhood for later this year, which will cause all kinds of pain. Vasquez has held a couple of question-and-answer sessions for residents regarding this. The one I attended was at 6 PM at a school. Vasquez, who'd clearly come straight from work, had brought members of the city's planning department as well as representitives from TxDOT. They answered questions for over an hour.

More recently, we had a trash pickup problem. Tiffany called Vasquez's office, and the problem was solved in a few days. You better believe that even if I didn't already like this guy, he'd have my vote for as long as he wants it.

I bring all this up because rumor has it that Kay Bailey Hutchison wants to retire from the Senate and run for Governor in 2006. Rick Perry will presumably run for KBH's vacant seat. Who would run against Governor Goodhair after his impressive showing in 2002? One person who I hope will consider it when and if it happens is Sylvia Garcia. If she can succeed as a Commissioner, she'll have a natural base of support to build on, and I think she'd make a race of it.

As for Vasquez, I'm not sure what his career path should be. I'd love to see him run for Mayor, but the timing is not favorable to him. What might work would be if the 2003 race is fractious and the new mayor has a rough go of it, he could make a successful challenge in 2005. Congress is not an option unless he moves or Sheila Jackson Lee gets out of the picture.

Whatever happens, keep an eye on these two. You'll be hearing more from them.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 03, 2003 to Local politics | TrackBack

I haven't seen much to note a dislike of Vasquez, either. He may have to bide his time to work his way up in City Politics, but there's always the task of taking on Gene Green if he lives close enough to that district. Not that I favor that approach, but that district is bound to just get antsier and antsier for an Hispanic Represntative (if not redistricted in a manner which makes it more feasible this session).

But as for Sylvia, my hunch is that she now wishes to set herself up as one of two things: an Hispanic kingmaker, or a County Judge in waiting whenever demographics make it an easier step for her to run countywide. The shame of it all is that I have always thought Sylvia could be one of the best mayors Houston has seen in a long long time ... if not ever. She missed the boat last year and she's now gone down a different path.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on January 3, 2003 1:21 PM

Vasquez's reputation among students at UH is a bit dubious, from what I understand. Particularly among Daily Cougarites (of a few years ago). Something about being a rather vain and shallow individual.

But from what I know of him on Council and running for it, I like him. He's also reasonably popular among Republicans. If Turner beats Sanchez this year, he could be a formidable candidate in 2005 (or 07) to unseat Turner because Republicans will have learned they can't win with their own and Vasquez's standing among Republicans is better than any other city Democrat I can think of. Hispanic support, moderate support, and Republican support could serve him well.

Posted by: R. Alex on January 3, 2003 1:44 PM