State Rep. Alex Dominguez will run to replace retiring state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. in high-stakes Democratic primary

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Lucio is retiring from the Rio Grande Valley seat, and Dominguez wants to continue his legacy of focusing on education in the region. But he suggested he would take a different approach to at least a couple issues, including abortion.

State Rep. Alex Dominguez at a 2019 legislative hearing. The Brownsville Democrat plans to run for an open Texas Senate seat next year. Credit: Emree Weaver / The Texas Tribune

State Rep. Alex Dominguez is running for Texas Senate, hoping to succeed retiring Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., a fellow Brownsville Democrat, in a race filled with implications for Texas Democrats and the Rio Grande Valley.

“I think that our office is perfectly situated to take on the next generation of leading South Texas and” Senate District 27, Dominguez said in an interview with The Texas Tribune.

Dominguez said his platform would center on improving health care access, workforce training and infrastructure. And he made clear he would run on his experience as a two-term House member and former Cameron County commissioner, noting Lucio also had that resume before getting elected to the Senate.

Lucio announced earlier this month that he was retiring after serving three decades in the upper chamber. He become well known for breaking with his party on some major issues — most notably abortion — and the race to fill his seat is set to test voters’ appetites for continuing his legacy.

Already, the primary challenger who forced Lucio into a runoff last year, Sara Stapleton Barrera, has announced she is running for the open seat.

Dominguez said he wanted to continue Lucio’s legacy of focusing on the Valley’s educational needs. But he suggested he would be different from Lucio in at least a couple ways, including on abortion.

“I think people know that we come from two different generations,” Dominguez said. “I’m a great deal more inclined to to let women make educated decisions about their own bodies and, more importantly, allow that personal responsibility and decision to lie in their hands and remove government meddling when it’s not necessary.”

Lucio is a devout Catholic, and Dominguez noted he grew up as Catholic but said he does not believe it is the the job of policymakers to “use that religion to influence other people’s views.”

Dominguez also pointed out that he and Lucio had different approaches to the battle earlier this year over the GOP’s priority elections bill. Dominguez was among the dozens of House Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C., in protest of the legislation, and while Lucio voted against it, he declined to join most other Senate Democrats when they briefly visited the nation’s capital to support their House colleagues.

“The difference is I’m willing to bring the energy needed to do what we have to do as Democrats to preserve the rights of all Texans,” Dominguez said.

Even before Lucio announced his retirement, Dominguez started exploring a run for the Senate seat. Last month, he filed a campaign treasurer appointment for the seat with the Texas Ethics Commission. His treasurer is Wendy Davis, the 2014 gubernatorial nominee and former state senator known for her 2013 filibuster against anti-abortion restrictions.

The Democratic primary to replace Lucio could also feature Morgan LaMantia, a McAllen lawyer whose family runs the L&F beer distribution company. She told the Tribune last week that she “has been having a lot of conversations with people throughout the District and feedback has been very positive.”

Dominguez cast doubt on whether LaMantia would legislate as a Democrat given her record of donating to members of both parties, which includes a $10,000 check to Republican Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller in 2018. And regardless of who else runs, Dominguez said it would be a mistake to nominate someone without policymaking experience, especially following the “vacuum” that Lucio’s leaving would create.

Whoever the next Democratic nominee is, they could have a competitive general election on their hands. Redistricting has made Lucio’s seat less solidly Democratic, and Republicans are making no secret they want to make fresh inroads in South Texas after President Joe Biden’s underwhelming performance there in 2020.

Dominguez said he is prepared to run for the seat in November with bipartisan appeal. While Dominguez may be a different kind of Democrat from Lucio, Dominguez said he is not a “far-left progressive” and has a record of working with Republicans.

Dominguez cited the bill that he and former Gov. Rick Perry successfully pushed earlier this year to study psychedelic drug therapy for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. And Dominguez pointed out that he is the vice chair of two committees and the only Valley Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, calling it a sign of the trust that House GOP leaders have in him.

Dominguez currently represents House District 37, which he was drawn out of during redistricting and which is now a new battleground district in the Valley. Dominguez previously considered a run for the 34th Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, is retiring. However, those deliberations were complicated by the decision by U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, to seek reelection in the 34th District rather than his current district, which was redrawn to be more favorable to the GOP.


This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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