Yesterday morning, Rep. Alex Dominguez announced that he’s running for state senate in District 27. Known best for his focus on education and healthcare access in the Rio Grande Valley, the two-term representative emerged as a leading voice within the Texas House Democratic Caucus during the 2021 legislative sessions. Now, he’s seeking to replace state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., a longtime conservative Democrat who broke party ranks earlier this year by voting in favor of SB 8. The Signal sat down with Dominguez to discuss his motivation for running and his core campaign priorities.
You’ve represented District 27 in the Texas House since 2018. What sets you apart from the other candidates in this race?
Well, exactly that. I’m likely the only person in this race with any kind of legislative experience — and we know how important that is for South Texas, given that, when you represent nearly a million people, you need somebody with legislative and policy making experience. Before I ran for state representative, I was the county commissioner. I believe that kind of policy background, working together with people, really getting into the community and finding out what people need and how… that’s how someone can best solve problems.
As a legislator, I’ve fought for the success of those who are normally overlooked in the legislative process. For example, I’ve pushed for and passed bills to help kids with disabilities and worked to make sure veterans get college credit for the experience that they earn in the military — the latter being a critical way to help those folks enter the civilian workforce faster and help their families. Those are, in my mind, pretty logical laws. But nobody else had ever done anything like that. That’s what I bring to the table that other candidates don’t: I have outside-the-box thinking to solve real problems that affect people every day.
How has your experience in the Texas House shaped your view of politics?
It’s only my second legislative session, but I was selected to be the vice chairman of two important committees. I was also the only member of the entire South Texas legislative delegation to represent us on the Appropriations Committee. So, I’ve had a chance to work with a variety of members regardless of party, to get good laws passed. For instance, I worked closely with Chairman Brooks Landgraf (R-81) and was a joint author on his bill that would ban high-level radioactive waste from being brought into Texas. We need to get over the divisive political rhetoric that we see so much on TV and, sometimes, on the House floor or the Senate floor. We need to find those common values. That’s the way that we move Texas forward.
You were one of the dozens of Texas House Democrats who flew to D.C. to fight for voting rights. How would you channel that energy into the Texas Senate?
This past number of endless sessions really created a lot of hostility between members. And, certainly, redistricting didn’t help with that. But it does come to a point where we need to get over our own emotions, because our constituents in our state demand more of us. There’s a chance that we’re going to be outnumbered again, both in the Senate and in the House, so it will still be critical to have at least some relationships to get legislation done. I firmly believe that, when it’s appropriate, you can side with a Republican bill and still stay true to your principles and beliefs at the same time. My first instinct is always to try to work things out behind the scenes — but I’m also the fighter that, if need be, can take the mic and let the people of this state know where South Texans stand.
Plenty has been made about recent GOP gains in South Texas. How can Democrats like yourself reverse that trend?
The message of the 2020 election, as far as how Hispanic voters in South Texas vote, shows that a lot of people in the rest of the country (and possibly other parts of the state) haven’t taken the time to get to know people from South Texas. People here have learned to be more independent, because we sometimes don’t get the resources that the rest of the state does. Our closest trading partner is Mexico. The values, perspectives, and beliefs here are specific to this place. So, for me, the biggest takeaway from 2020, when Donald Trump performed better than expected in South Texas, is that you cannot take anybody for granted. You need solid candidates that can deliver and that will speak for this area’s unique concerns. We can’t take South Texans’ vote for granted — because they might vote the other way or stay home completely.
What does Beto O’Rourke’s gubernatorial run mean for South Texas?
Texas Democrats benefited quite a bit from Beto O’Rourke’s campaign back in 2018. Now, it’s our turn to elevate his ship. As we know, the voters in South Texas have not traditionally turned out as much as other areas. We certainly did better in 2020, but we need to continue that work and bring out the Democratic vote in November ’22. If we do, we could have an entirely different outcome at the beginning of the 88th Legislature.