Obama, Garcia linked in 2008
Since the two Democrats graduated from Harvard Law School in the early 1990s, Garcia, 42, is seeking re-election to a second twoyear term in the Texas House of Representatives here. Obama, three years into his first term as a United States Senator from Illinois, is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Both men outdid expectations with political upsets.
Garcia in 2006 knocked off Gene Seaman, a former Nueces County Republican chairman, partly with the help of Libertarian Lenard Nelson, who drew 5.6 percent of the vote (and is running again this year).
Obama challenged former First Lady and U.S Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, to become the apparent upset winner of the presidential nomination.
While the Obama campaign's vigorous organization and impressive fundraising ability is expected to help boost Garcia's candidacy, he nonetheless has a popular former Democratic state representative, Todd Hunter, 54 running against him as a Republican.
It is one of 18 House seats predicted to be in play in Texas. The outcomes of these races can make a difference in whether Republican Tom Craddick continues as speaker of the Texas House, where Democrats lack just five votes of becoming a majority.
Hunter, an attorney who served eight years after first being elected in 1988, chaired the Civil Practices Committee before retiring in 1997 to spend more time with his family. He was considered a player in efforts by businesses and insurance companies to cut back on tort lawsuits.
But he said even then that he didn't consider his career over, and was just taking a break.
"My political career is not ending," he said in November of 1995, when he announced he would not seek re-election. "It's just beginning."
In fact, Hunter considered running for the Texas Senate, congress, and for attorney general at various times.
While he was still in the House, Republicans tried to get him to switch parties, but he declined. He has said that he was not recruited to run by Craddick.
The race is in District 32, which includes Aransas, Calhoun and San Patricio Counties, plus part of Nueces County - where Corpus Christi is located. Hunter had represented much of the area during his earlier political career. When he did not seek reelection in 1996, Seaman was elected to succeed him.
The race is bound to feature heavy interest group competition, strong party involvement, and a considerable dollop of personal appeal on the parts of the candidates, in an area noted for an independent voting streak.
Hunter's campaign co-chairs include two other former Democratic state representatives from the area - Hugo Berlanga of Corpus Christi and Judy Hawley of Portland. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, a former Democrat, also endorsed Hunter on a video, available on Hunter's website (http://www.electtoddhunter.com) through YouTube.
For his part, Garcia's backers include former San Antonio Mayor and former director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development - and, like Garcia, a former White House fellow - Henry Cisneros, plus the political arms of the Texas Medical Association and the National Rifle Association.
Garcia's background includes years of service as a Navy pilot, with stints including the Persian Gulf and Kosovo. He still is active in the Naval Reserve, including giving flight lessons. He hopes his military background will continue to cut into groups that often tend to vote Republican.
He is a practicing attorney. The next several weeks will determine whether Garcia's ambitious political career will continue, or be sidetracked after two years.