In 1967, when Garcia was 9, his father brought the family to Dallas for better pay in construction. The family lived in the Little Mexico district of Oak Lawn, and Garcia attended Sam Houston Elementary School.
"My first day in class was fairly traumatic. They put me in a special ed class, because I was at that time primarily Spanish-speaking, what's now called limited English proficiency. I was in with a bunch of children that had disabilities, like mongoloid kids, kids with other types of handicaps."
Garcia, a successful attorney, is well-off now. He has been a crusading champion of public education in Dallas. Both of his kids go to private schools. I sent my kid to private school for a long time, too. I get why.
When Garcia was in the ninth grade, his father moved the family to Richardson, where he was one of very few Latinos in his class. He played football at Berkner High School, graduated and went on to the University of North Texas, where in his first year he integrated an all-Anglo fraternity. He also became president of a group called Chicanos United for Social Advancement.
Adelfa Callejo, a lawyer and political patrona, says Garcia's background--one foot in the working class and another in the upper middle class--has allowed him to be a coalition builder within the Latino community and among minorities in general.
"I know what I want in a mayor," Callejo said. "I want my mayor to be a business person, to be a professional, to be somebody who has met a payroll, who has grassroots experience. Domingo has all of the credentials to be able to fulfill that dream that so many people have had about making Dallas a world-class city."
Garcia gets high marks from the city's few genuine progressives as well. John Fullinwider, now a teacher and writer, was active on the frontier of progressive grassroots politics in Dallas for 25 years, from the turbulent '70s to the soporific late '90s. Fullinwider met me on a Saturday morning at Cafe Brazil in Deep Ellum. (I'm swearing off coffee after this story.)
"I'm for Domingo," he said right up. "Before he got in, I didn't have any thoughts. To me, Dunning is like yesterday's good guy. He's the kind of leader Dallas would have wanted in 1961."
Fullinwider referred to the revelation early in the campaign that Dunning belongs to the Dallas Country Club, which has no black members and still practices some kind of smelly-funky tokenism about Jews. "I think the country club membership, you know, it's indicative of him being past his prime."
Fullinwider remembers Garcia as having been right on all the tough issues over time. He said he believes that Garcia also has heart and generosity, traits that may not always peek through Garcia's chain-mail public persona. Several years ago when Fullinwider was fighting for a community of homeless people camped beneath the downtown overpasses, Garcia, then a council member, persuaded the rest of the council to at least provide the people with water and portable toilets.
"To me, Domingo is somebody that has a track record and a good one and a progressive one," Fullinwider said. "He was on the right side on the lead smelter issue. He was very helpful on the right side on the homeless issue. He was prominent and in the forefront on police review. He was very active in a substantial way in the single-member district struggle. So if you looked at the progressive agenda in Dallas, you would have to say that Domingo stayed on it."
I also drank some coffee with Laura Miller, at Cindi's New York Deli on Central Expressway near Forest Lane (my pick, because my parents live nearby and I needed to visit). I guess this means I have to explain my picket sign. Oh, yuck. This is going to sound like mass media therapy.
Last summer the Dallas Observer published a story about a code enforcement battle between Miller and a Mexican bus company ("Vamoose," August 30). The story, by Thomas Korosec, included a quote that I gave Korosec, something Miller actually had said to me that included a lot of blue language and ruthlessness. I believed then and still believe that the quote provided a useful window on her temperament.
Miller doesn't remember saying it. She says the bad language proves she couldn't have known we were on the record. But more than anything, based on the angry anti-Miller response the story drew from the Latino community, Miller feels that the story and the quote painted her as a racist.