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Chron overview of District J

It’s the “Latino opportunity district” that isn’t quite a Latino opportunity district.

Southwest Houston was supposed to be the land of opportunity for aspiring Latino city leaders.

Whether it actually starts out that way will be up to first-time candidates Criselda Romero and Rodrigo Cañedo, who currently trail in fundraising behind the lone non-Latino hopeful in the City Council’s new District J.

The district, a contiguous area bisected by the Southwest Freeway and extending from about the 610 South Loop to just south of Beltway 8, has a diverse population, including 63 percent of residents from Hispanic backgrounds and a large contingent of Asian, Anglo and African-American residents.

It was carved out as an “opportunity district” for Latinos in a city where Hispanics comprise 44 percent of the population, but only hold two of 14 seats on city council.

Still, just 17 percent of registered voters in District J have Hispanic surnames, and the non-Latino candidate, Mike Laster, has nearly 10 times as much money in his campaign account as Romero and Cañedo.

If you’ve been reading Greg’s work on Houston redistricting, none of this will be a surprise to you. There was another way to draw a more opportune Latino district, but that’s not how it played out. And to be fair, the actual District J is a good union of neighborhoods, and very likely will become more of a true Latino opportunity district over time. It’s just that it doesn’t look like that time is now.

Anyway. Laster got the Chron’s endorsement, and he’s generally considered the favorite at this point. Insert your own cliche here about why they play the games instead of just picking the winner beforehand. My interview with Laster is here, with Criselda Romero is here, and with Rodrigo Cañedo is here. The good news is that all three are capable, so the people in District J should do well no matter who wins.

UPDATE: Here’s Greg’s take on this article.

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