Democrat Filemon Vela won a seat in the newly created 34th District on the strength of his membership in Brownsville's most illustrious political family. The city's federal courthouse bears the name of his late father, a U.S. district judge for more than two decades, and his mother was Brownsville's first elected woman mayor.
Vela was born in Harlingen, at the southern tip of Texas, and raised in nearby Brownsville. In addition to his mother's and father's political connections, a cousin, Moe Vela, was a former director of administration for Vice President Joe Biden. After receiving a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from the University of Texas, he returned to Brownsville to practice law. As a civil attorney, Vela represented school districts seeking restitution for shoddy construction by independent contractors. In one case, he recovered money spent by the district on a poorly built facility; in another, he won recompense for a malfunctioning air-quality control system.
A civil attorney for the last 25 years, Vela told Georgetown's Hoya newspaper in October that he considered running for Congress in the early 1980s, but "then I started practicing law, helping my clients and never thought about it again until one day at the end of last year, when a group of friends convinced me it was time to step out from behind the scenes and become a full-time public servant."