Latinos’ fight for greater representation in Congress is coming to Houston in a race pitting two close friends against each other.
Rep. Gene Green faces a Democratic primary challenge from former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a longtime ally who is testing whether voters in the majority-Hispanic district will trade in a popular incumbent for one of their own.
Houston remains the most Hispanic major city without a Latino representative in Congress, and this race will decide whether that will change.
“If you are looking at congressional seats in terms of where Hispanics can be elected to Congress, this is as good a seat as any,” said Oscar Ramirez, one of the Democratic Party’s top Latino donors. “From that perspective, it is a missed opportunity if Adrian doesn’t win.”
A potential challenge from a Hispanic candidate has long lingered for Green, a 12-term, white Democrat whose district is three-quarters Hispanic. The district was drawn in 1991 to elect a Latino, but Green has faced little significant primary opposition since winning a hard-fought primary against a Hispanic candidate in 1992.
Garcia’s bid, which comes on the heels of his third-place finish in the Houston mayoral race, signals a recognition of the growing electoral power of the Latino vote. But it also highlights the difficulty Hispanics have had converting population gains into political power: Latinos account for about 17 percent of the U.S. population but hold just 7 percent of the seats in Congress.