District 37 set for new leader

BROWNSVILLE — Come January, District 37 will send a new representative to the Texas House for the first time in nearly three decades.

Representative-elect Alex Dominguez said House members and state Senators started reaching out on election night Tuesday to offer advice on making the transition.

Unofficial results show Dominguez won the Democratic runoff against longtime Rep. Rene Oliviera by garnering 3,287 votes to Oliveira’s 2,509.

Oliveira came just shy of winning the March 6 primary outright. Though he missed the 50-percent-plus-one-vote needed to avoid a runoff, he was ahead of Dominguez by 767 votes. Oliveira was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in April, and he lost Tuesday to Dominguez by 778 votes.

Dominguez, who represents Precinct 2 on the Cameron County Commissioners Court, said attending a Texas Conference of Urban Counties meeting last week gave him a chance to speak with Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner and other House members about staffing, budgeting and prefiling legislation.

“I’m hoping for the transition to be as seamless as possible. That’s why these second months are critical,” he said. “I really want the people in District 37 to know I’m not sitting on my tail celebrating. I’m beginning the process for January.”

Dominguez ran on platforms that included addressing poverty, lack of affordable housing and increasing employment. He named working with the General Land Office on protecting South Padre Island from erosion as one of his priorities for the upcoming session. Loss of the Island would be a major blow to the local economy, he said. He anticipates having a chief of staff in place before legislation prefiling opens in November.

Though Dominguez will be sworn into the Texas Legislature on Jan. 8, he still has work to do as a county commissioner. Dominguez said two projects still in the pipeline are the creation of a park in Olmito that will be accessible to people with special needs and possibly constructing a community center in San Pedro.

Joey Lopez, an accountant and financial advisor, won the March Democratic race to replace Dominguez in the Precinct 2 seat on the Cameron County Commissioners Court.

Dominguez said a schedule of town hall meetings to be held across the district will be available June 10 on www.AlexForTexas.com.

Looking Ahead

Oliveira will end his term this year as the fifth-most senior member of the Texas House. He said he wants to exit the post with dignity and grace.

He will continue presiding over hearings as the chair of the Business and Industry Committee. Most recently, he led a hearing in the district on workforce development, wage theft, worker’s compensation and post-hurricane relief.

Oliveira said he had been preparing for the next session, but that no longer will be his job. He plans to continue wrapping up his committee work and helping constituents.

He said two of the foremost issues during the next Texas Legislative session will be the state budget and school financing. Oliveira said that with a school district as the largest employer in Brownsville, school finance will impact not only education quality but livelihoods and health care of local teachers.

“Our kids deserve the same quality education that someone in a wealthier school district has,” he said. “There are inequalities in the schools that need to be addressed.”

He also noted the coming fight over the next Texas House speaker. Oliveira said whether the new speaker is willing to work across the aisle or takes hard lines on issues will have a major impact on what happens in the House.

After 34 years as a lawmaker, Oliveira said he’s looking forward to spending time with his family and “maybe finally having a private life.”

Though he’s been approached with professional opportunities for the time after his term ends, he said “now is not the time to decide that.”