Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

It’s still Gene Green’s world

I have three things to say about this story about Rep. Gene Green.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

The affable, low-key former printer’s apprentice is a legend across his gritty, blue-collar domain along the 54-mile Houston Ship Channel, where he represents the most heavily Hispanic congressional district in the nation that has not elected a Hispanic to Congress.

By virtue of his seniority and Republican control of every statewide office, Green is effectively the highest ranking Democrat in Texas politics.

“Whatever I do in Congress doesn’t help people unless I’m also back in my district doing things for them,” Green said. “It’s one of the reasons people have developed a trust relationship with me.”

Green, who is not fluent in Spanish, has organized citizenship days to help legal residents apply for U.S. citizenship in a district that is 76 percent Hispanic. He helped conduct a forum in mid-November that enabled hundreds of Houston-area residents to learn about and register for Affordable Care Act coverage in a state with 6.3 million uninsured. And he has sponsored job fairs twice a year to help the unemployed find work.

“We do a lot of things that provide service to people in my district – and that brings visibility,” said Green, who was a member of the Texas Legislature for 20 years.

Green is well known for his constituent service, and I have no doubt that it is a big part of the reason why he has been so successful in office, both in terms of electoral performance and keeping potential primary challengers at bay. But it’s not just about doing well by your constituents, it’s also about getting along with your peers and would-be rivals. Green works well with others, and has mentored or otherwise directly assisted numerous current officeholders. One example of such is State Rep. Armando Walle, whom Rep. Green supported in his successful primary election against Craddick Dem Kevin Bailey. I tend to think of former Rep. Bailey, who was basically a do-nothing that got crosswise with many of his peers for his support of then-Speaker Tom Craddick and who represented a district as Latino as CD29 is, as something like the anti-Gene Green. It’s not really a mystery why some folks are more successful, and thus long-tenured, than others.

Texas has 12 Democratic House members, but “Green stands out as a pragmatist who is not afraid to break with the liberal Democratic House leadership when he disagrees with its position on an issue,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.

Indeed, Green has voted with the House Democratic leadership only 81 percent of the time – well below the 92 percent loyalty of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, or the 91 percent loyalty of Rep. Al Green, D-Houston.

Green, a loyal oil-patch lawmaker, has backed the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as legislation that would delay implementation of key components of the Clean Air Act related to cross-state air pollution and pollution standards for power plants.

“At least once a week in the Energy and Commerce Committee, I forget that Gene is a Democrat,” said Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, who shares many of Green’s pro-energy positions.

Green’s devotion to helping Houston is apparent to colleagues, too.

“Though Gene and I often disagree on policy, he’s always ready to work across the aisle to get things done when it comes to what’s best for the Houston region and Texas,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, who has served with Green for 16 years. “I’ve found his word to be as good as gold.”

Bipartisanship is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on the particulars. Be that as it may, are there any Republican members of Texas’ Congressional delegation that could be described in similar terms as Rep. Green was in those paragraphs? Hell, are there any Republican members of Congress from any state that could be described in those terms? I’m thinking the answer is No, but feel free to supply an example if you think one exists. Honestly, if there were any such Republicans, I’d expect they’d be getting primaried within an inch of their lives about now.

When the time comes for Green to step down, at least seven Hispanics are widely expected to eye the seat, led by Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a former Houston police officer and City Council member who has outpolled Barack Obama in Harris County.

Other potential contenders include state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a former municipal court judge and Houston city controller; term-limited Houston City Council member James Rodriguez; Houston City Council member Ed Gonzalez, a former police officer; and three state representatives: Carol Alvarado, Jessica Farrar and Ana Hernandez.

I’m sure there’s a long line of hopefuls for CD29 when Rep. Green decides to hang up his spurs. This is the first time I can recall seeing Sheriff Garcia’s name associated with this seat, however. Most of the talk I hear about him and other offices he might someday seek center on the Mayor’s office in 2015. If he has his eyes on a statewide office down the line, I’m not sure what the best springboard for him would be. I think he’s in pretty good shape where he is right now, and staying put until he’s ready for something bigger means he’s not putting anything at risk in the meantime, but I’m not his political adviser and I don’t know what he has in mind for the future. As for the other possibilities, I’ll just reiterate what I’ve said before about generational issues. Generally speaking, all things being equal otherwise, I would prefer a candidate that has statewide ambitions in his or her future to one who doesn’t. Our bench isn’t going to build itself, after all.

Related Posts:

9 Comments

  1. Bayard Rustin says:

    Gene Green is my congressional representative. He was one of the few Democrats in Congress to come out in support of the Defense of Marriage act when it looked like the Supreme Court was going to overturn it. If there is such a thing as a DINO (Democrat In Name Only), I’d nominate Mr. Green. The area around the Ship Channel is one of the most polluted in the region and I’d like to understand what, if anything, Mr. Green is doing to mitigate it. I’d take a Hispanic progressive is a minute, thank you.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    @Bayard

    Sure, there is pollution associated with the heavy industry around the ship channel. What are the options? Well, we can get the EPA to shut down all that industry, ship all those jobs overseas or to other American ports, and thus clean up the area. Guess what? Now there are no jobs, which creates a ripple effect for the rest of Houston. Those jobless industrial workers have no money to spend with the rest of us, so we turn into…..Detroit. There is not much industry polluting Detroit. Is that what you would like to see Houston turn into?

    The people of the rainforest live in a wonderful, pollution free area. And guess what? They have no jobs, no way to support themselves, so they are forced to log the trees to eat, destroying the rainforest along the way. Irony, huh?

    Politicians are known for promising a chicken in every pot. Green knows that by supporting industry (industry that provides jobs that PAY for that chicken), he is actually keeping that promise. Folks like Sheila Jackson Lee, on the other hand, constantly vote to harass industry via pollution legislation, then bemoan the lack of jobs available for her constituents, who end up getting minimum wage fast food jobs, instead. Maybe there is some kind of correlation?

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    @ Bayard

    Apologies for misspelling your name. It was not intentional. Perhaps the site proprietor could just fix that for me?

  4. @ Bill – Fixed as requested.

  5. joshua ben bullard says:

    notice how Charlie kuffner never fixes my mis spellings,iam now convinced I am being targeted and bullied…..Joshua ben bullard

  6. Bayard Rustin says:

    Who said anything about shutting down the industries around the Ship Channel? Why throw Detroit into the conversation? Why does it have to be a zero-sum game? Rather instead, couldn’t there be a way to improve the air quality around the Ship Channel? Have you been on Manchester Street near the Valero refinery? There are no trees in that neighborhood nor any other vegetation for that matter. It’s easy to marginalize neighborhoods when they are an abstraction rather than a place where fellow Americans live.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    @Bayard

    The law of diminishing returns is at work when talking about that Valero plant. You can keep throwing money at the plant to try and reduce the noxious emissions, but at some point, you spend more and more money to achieve less and less reduction. That plant is already there. The city of Houston has had Valero in court and no doubt has sic’d the state and federal regulators on the plant as well. The refining business isn’t a big margin business to begin with, and at some point, all this litigation and demands for more and more expensive pollution control equipment will make the plant unprofitable to operate. At that point, then yes, it is a zero sum game…..it’s game over. The plant shuts down, the jobs disappear, the property taxes paid by the plant take a dive…that’s it.

    As to the neighborhood, just like the neighborhoods in Texas City, adjacent to Texas City’s plants, the homes are affordable. If those homes were located somewhere else and not near the plant, they would probably be more desirable, and therefore, more expensive and less affordable to the folks who live there.

    I’m reminded of the city going after apartment slumlords, to improve their properties. OK, fine, so the landlords fix the apartments up. Then they necessarily jack up the rent to recoup their costs, and suddenly that housing is no longer affordable, which displaces the folks who used to live there. Where do those people go when there are no more affordable apartments?

  8. Carl Whitmarsh says:

    Thank you Charles for providing this opportunity for all readers to comment. I don’t come here or anywhere else where given the opportunity and expect you to correct ANYTHING that I do. If I mae an error or appear out of it, that burden is on me. If folks don’t like it, they don’t have to post here and/or they can make sure their own spelling and graamtical errors are neither when they post. In other words, don’t like how things are, form your own blog and rant away any way or any style you lie, but don’t come to someone else’s house and expect them to do for you what you should be able to do yourself. And please…Charles Kuffner – bullying and intimidating – GET SERIOUS

    Now as for Gene Green, everybody can go off all they wnat on what the Congressman does or doesn’t do – he doesn’t do everything I want him to and he doesn’t fight for all the causes I would or I would like him to do, but he obviously votes his district as evidenced by his results at every election he is in. Go back to when he was first a state representative and then a State Senator and now as Congressman and look at his majorities. I’d say he votes the will of the people of his district and in order to do that he must be in agreement with THEIR thinking and desires, plus….Gene Green has always been known far and wide for having one of the very best constituent service records and citizen outreach progrms of any public official…bar none. He doesn’t represent me, I can’t vote for him, do I wish he would vote differently and support more of my causes – you bet….but he votes his district, he gets re elected so he obviously is tuned in to the right frequency for those who cast the votes and to those of whom he is responsibleo

  9. Carl Whitmarsh says:

    Thank you Charles for providing this opportunity for all readers to comment. I don’t come here or anywhere else where given the opportunity and expect you to correct ANYTHING that I do. If I mae an error or appear out of it, that burden is on me. If folks don’t like it, they don’t have to post here and/or they can make sure their own spelling and graamtical errors are neither when they post. In other words, don’t like how things are, form your own blog and rant away any way or any style you lie, but don’t come to someone else’s house and expect them to do for you what you should be able to do yourself. And please…Charles Kuffner – bullying and intimidating – GET SERIOUS

    Now as for Gene Green, everybody can go off all they wnat on what the Congressman does or doesn’t do – he doesn’t do everything I want him to and he doesn’t fight for all the causes I would or I would like him to do, but he obviously votes his district as evidenced by his results at every election he is in. Go back to when he was first a state representative and then a State Senator and now as Congressman and look at his majorities. I’d say he votes the will of the people of his district and in order to do that he must be in agreement with THEIR thinking and desires, plus….Gene Green has always been known far and wide for having one of the very best constituent service records and citizen outreach progrms of any public official…bar none. He doesn’t represent me, I can’t vote for him, do I wish he would vote differently and support more of my causes – you bet….but he votes his district, he gets re elected so he obviously is tuned in to the right frequency for those who cast the votes and to those of whom he is responsibleo

Bookmark and Share