Politics makes strange enemies

It was the night of Domingo Garcia's annual Christmas party, but not every guest was in a festive mood. In fact, Sylvana Alonzo couldn't stand the idea of attending her third holiday party in three nights. "Roberto, do we have to go tonight?" she said tiredly as she was getting dressed.

"Yes," her husband responded. "I have to settle somethingz with Domingo." He told her he was hearing persistent rumors that his good friend was planning to run against him for state representative. "I need to hear it from him," Alonzo told his wife.

They headed out to Club Babalu on McKinney Avenue, where Garcia was hosting his law office's annual holiday party. As usual, Garcia spared no expense. Tonight he had arranged for a catered dinner, two disc jockeys, free beer, and frozen margaritas for 300 people--all the makings of a fun time in a swingin' place with a distinct mambo feel. "It's the ultimate Latin high in here," says club owner Efrain Echevarria. "It's a throwback to the Ricky Ricardo days--when Ricky was always saying, 'Lucy, Lucy, I'm getting tired of playing at the Tropicana. I want my own club.'"

How fitting, then, for Garcia to come to Babalu. Like Ricky Ricardo, Garcia was in search of something--something big that could resuscitate a political career sidetracked by an unsuccessful bid for mayor.

Though he had been thinking about what position to run for, what Garcia really wanted was to be in the Texas Legislature. But there was a hitch. His good friend Alonzo--padrino at Garcia's wedding, father of Garcia's godson--was already in that job.

Details, details.
"I walked into the party, and the first thing I said was, 'Are you going to run?'" Alonzo recalls. "And Domingo said, 'Let's talk later; this isn't the place to talk about it.' And I said, 'Yeah, man, it is the place. You invited me. This is your party.' And he said, 'OK, no, I'm not going to run against you. I support you for state rep'.'"

Garcia tells a different story: "He did ask me if I would support him, and I told him I would not." Despite the revelation, Alonzo stayed and partied with him, Garcia says, though "only for a few hours."

Later, both agree, Garcia grabbed the DJ's microphone and proudly introduced the elected officials present, including his friend, "State Representative Roberto Alonzo." The two posed for a photo for a Hispanic newspaper, which ran it the following week, along with a front-page story declaring that Garcia was endorsing Alonzo.

"They're running a retraction so I don't sue them for libel and slander," says Garcia. The newspaper owner stands by the story.

Whatever transpired, the two men drank beers that night. They danced. "They played a lot of disco music from the time we were in college--a lot of 'YMCA' and Saturday Night Fever," says the 39-year-old Alonzo. "Everybody at the party was saying, 'This is great. You two are together again. You're laughing.' A good time was had by all."

Two weeks later, Garcia filed to run against him.

Ah, Domingo. We hardly knew you. Or perhaps I should say we badly underestimated you.

We knew you were in search of greatness--10 political races in 15 years is about as ambitious as it gets, though only four of those bids were successful. And your last race was especially brash, seeing as how you remade yourself virtually overnight from bomb-throwing Democratic activist to stalwart conservative--shaving off your trademark moustache in midcampaign and charming your way, just as Desi would have done, into the heart of every North Dallas women's clubber.

But this? No one could have suspected this, not even the one who knew you best--the one who knew how much you craved the limelight and the power, the one who worked side by side with you in all your campaigns. Not even Roberto Alonzo suspected you would stoop this low. "AAh, que Domingo?" Alonzo said miserably one day last week, sitting in his law office on the eighth floor of the NationsBank building in Oak Cliff. "AAh, que Domingo?"

Alonzo had been repeating these three words for about five minutes. Tears were in his eyes. Taken aback by this outpouring of emotion, I asked him to translate. "'Why, Domingo?'" Alonzo says. "It means 'I can't believe it, Domingo.'"

Actually, Alonzo was not referring to Garcia's decision to run against him. That shock was over. No, Alonzo was reacting to something Garcia told me the day before, sitting in his law office, just a mile up the road. "You know, Roberto's only had his moustache a couple of years," Garcia told me, shortly after I noted that Garcia's moustache was still absent. "You know why his moustache is so thin?" he added with a mischievous smile. "He has a tough time growing one--because, you know, he has Indian blood."

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Laura Miller