Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Looking back at Romo versus Doggett

Former CD35 candidate Sylvia Romo does a post-mortem on her unsuccessful run for Congress.

Sylvia Romo

“Texas is ready for a qualified Latina congresswoman,” she said. “If I wasn’t the first one, then I hope I opened the door for another woman to be the first one.”

As she thought about her defeat, Romo cited numerous factors, least of which was the fact that she was the only real contender for the seat until Doggett filed to run against her.

There was also the fact that lawsuits tied up the primaries, resulting in confusion not only among voters — but amongst the media, which often distributes such information to the public. The squeezed timeframe of the final dates meant political boundaries were set March 1 and early voting started May 14 — leaving but a few weeks to campaign, raise money and get out the vote, she said.

“There was so much confusion out there with the voters, I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and told me they were going to vote for me after the fact,” said Romo, a former state lawmaker and Bexar County (San Antonio) tax assessor-collector for 16 years. “They had no idea that the election had already happened.”

But one of the biggest issues Romo dealt with during her campaign was the emphasis on her gender and race over her professional and political experience as a candidate. She highlighted the fact that 2012 marked her fourteenth political race — and her first and only loss. People couldn’t seem to get over the fact that she had a good chance to be the first Latina congresswoman representing Texas, she said, and found it all too easy to dismiss her political experience and career as an accountant.

“I had a fiscal background, and in 2013, Congress was going to have to make some really rough decisions based on the tax code, with which I am familiar —that was the point I was trying to make,” she explained. “And it somehow got lost in ‘I am a Latina.’”

Romo says her fiscal background made her an ideal candidate, but admits she could not compete with Doggett’s resources after he entered the race. “It’s hard for a woman to raise money, period,” she said. “It’s easier for a man, I think because the perception is that men would most likely win.”

Let’s not overcomplicate things. The main reason for Romo’s defeat is that she was up against a very strong opponent. It wasn’t just that Rep. Doggett had name ID and a ton of money, it was also that he had a long record of doing things that Democratic voters tend to like. Though he had to move to run in CD35, he was generally perceived – or at least generally portrayed – as the incumbent, and the first rule of beating an incumbent is that there has to be a good reason to fire that incumbent. Doggett’s voting record has no obvious black marks on it – none that Romo articulated, anyway – and there were no issues of personal behavior to exploit. Having interviewed Romo, I agree that she’s a perfectly well qualified candidate and I think she’d have made a perfectly fine member of Congress, but I don’t think she ever adequately answered the question why voters should choose to replace a perfectly fine sitting Congressperson with seniority, a good record, and a history of making Republicans mad enough to try twice to kill him off via redistricting. The ironic effect of this was that it made “I am a Latina” a strong pitch for her, as she was both a better demographic fit for the district as well as a resident of its more populous area. Understandably, that wasn’t the campaign she wanted to run.

There’s another issue that needs to be mentioned here, and that’s age. Sylvia Romo turns 70 this year. That’s absolutely not a disqualifying factor, but as I said back when it looked like Doggett would be running against Joaquin Castro, if we’re going to trade in a solid progressive like Lloyd Doggett, my preference would be to get someone a generation younger with higher ambitions in return. (I’ve said the same basic thing in other contexts as well.) Again, that by no means implies that a Sylvia Romo cannot or should not run for whatever office she chooses, but it is a factor that voters and interested onlookers are entitled to consider.

Finally, while Romo will not be on the ballot this fall, there are still two Latinas vying for Congressional seats on the Democratic side. Candace Duval is the nominee in CD21, and Rose Meza Harrison is in the runoff for CD27. (On the GOP side, Susan Narvaiz is the nominee in CD35, Barbara Carrasco is the nominee in CD16, with Adele Garza and Jessica Puente Bradshaw in the runoff for CD34.) None of these districts are on anyone’s short list for takeover opportunities, but they are running and should not be overlooked. If a Latina doesn’t get elected this year, it will happen eventually, more likely sooner than later. Politics365 link via Sara Ines Calderon.

Related Posts:

5 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    This is my district and Doggett was my choice from early on. He was already representing me I the current congress and he really did a lot of contacting, including making sure to tell mr when and where to vote. I had the feeling that if I’d said I couldn’t drive to the polls, they’d've offered me a ride.

    Doggett ran against Rick Perry, which played well in my house. Romo ran against him.

  2. Ginger says:

    I would not have guessed Romo was five years older than Doggett. I wish her well and would vote for her in a different race, but I’m glad I voted the way I did in that one.

  3. Joel says:

    she might have campaigned a bit harder, too. i saw some signs on i-35, but that’s about it.

  4. Mainstream says:

    Doggett took a whopping 93% of the vote in Travis county against both opponents. While there were 2600 more votes in Bexar than Travis, her inability to get a respectable share in Travis doomed her candidacy. And Doggett won Bexar as well, with a solid 54% to her 38%.

    I am also not sure she is a “better demographic fit” for this district’s adult citizens and voters.

  5. [...] two of these races before, so I’m going to quote myself. Here’s what I said about Rep. Doggett’s victory, which by the way was in CD35, not CD34. The main reason for [Sylvia] Romo’s defeat is that she [...]

Bookmark and Share