Immigration Activist Challenges Longtime Incumbent for North Texas Seat in U.S. House (Again)

An longtime immigration activist is facing an uphill battle for a North Texas U.S. House seat. He's sure this is his year to win.
An longtime immigration activist is facing an uphill battle for a North Texas U.S. House seat. He's sure this is his year to win. Getty Images
This isn't the first time Carlos Quintanilla has run for Congress. In fact, he's tried to beat out fellow Democrat and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey three times in primary races since 2016, falling short each time. In 2016, he got a little more than a third of the vote, but last year, he only managed to win over some 5% of voters.

Still, Quintanilla, a longtime immigration rights advocate, hopes this year's primary, scheduled for March 1, will be different. Since first winning the seat in 2012, Veasey has represented Texas' 33rd congressional district, a swath of North Texas that covers parts of Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth.

The odds aren't exactly in Quintanilla's favor. Veasey's path to another Democratic primary nomination seems straightforward. He has beat Quintanilla before and has nearly a dozen years of congressional experience. Plus, the incumbent also has deep PAC pockets and a loyal North Texas following.

But Quintanilla's banking on the hope that increased Latino voting in Texas will help him out this time around. “Latinos showed we are a powerful voting bloc in the U.S. and here in Texas,” Quintanilla said. “We haven’t even seen the power of our vote yet.” (While Latinos voted in larger numbers during the November 2020 presidential elections, a growing number voted Republican.)

Quintanilla said he was ready to challenge Veasey on the issues facing the district earlier this month at the Dallas Examiner’s Meet The Candidates forum. Opponents for various federal, state and local elected seats debated issues before a live audience, but Veasey never showed. “There’s no reason he shouldn’t show up,” said Quintanilla. (Veasey didn't respond to the Observer's question about why he didn't appear.)

“Latinos showed we are a powerful voting bloc in the U.S. and here in Texas." - Carlos Quintanilla, congressional hopeful

tweet this
But Quintanilla has also got what he hopes is a more compelling argument in his favor: He pointed to Veasey’s record of PAC spending on luxury spas, high-end hotels and MLB baseball tickets to argue that Veasey doesn’t have the best interests of his constituents in mind.

Since 2019, Veasey’s leadership political action committee spent more than $10,000 on baseball tickets, spas and Florida travel expenses, CQ Roll Call recently reported.

It is illegal for politicians to spend normal PAC money on personal expenses. With leadership PACs, though, the rules are more complex.

Spending leadership PAC money on personal expenses is not necessarily illegal, but it does violate the rules of the House Ethics Manual, according to CQ Roll Call.

“All of our money is raised legally and compliant with FEC guidelines,” Veasey wrote in response to the Observer’s question about his PAC’s spending.

By email, Veasey said he has used his position in Congress to “create jobs, expand affordable and accessible health care, bolster our infrastructure in North Texas, worked to protect voting rights, fought for comprehensive immigration reform and help the constituents I serve access critical COVID-19 relief and resources.”
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Murney is a staff writer at the Dallas Observer and a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His reporting has appeared in Chicago’s South Side Weekly and the Chicago Reader.
Contact: Michael Murney