photo by Tim Eaton Juan Garcia and Henry Cisneros benefits that rally Garcia’s followers. Rather, it’s the desire to get on bbard the political express elevator at the ground floor. His supporterswho include former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark, and U.S. Sen. Barack Obamasee a budding political star. And they’re counting on Garcia’s universal appeal to move him quickly through the ranks of politics and government. The leadership of the Democratic Party of Texas also must have seen something; he was tapped to introduce Chris Bell, the party’s choice in the race for governor, at the state convention this past June. Garcia points to his campaign kickoff as evidence of the enthusiasm surrounding his candidacy. “In Corpus, typically, a state House race kicks off with 10 of your relatives and a filled up the Selena Auditorium. We haven’t seen that before. It just doesn’t happen like that.” Garcia’s friend and campaign treasurer Joe Hall says people see themselves in Garcia. Hispanics and whites, Democrats and. Republicans all identify with him. The candidate carries a driver’s license with one of the most common names in Texas. But his father’s Mexican-American features give way to his mother’s Irish traits, so he doesn’t look like a stereotypical Juan Garcia. His eyes are grayish-blue, his skin sunburns easily, and his hair is blondish, just like a lot of suburban voters. Garcia says he’s opposed to the war in Iraq, which pleases anti Bush lefties. But he also speaks aggressively about the war on terrorism and proudly of his service flying military aircraft over Kosovo and the Persian Gulf region, which makes him attractive to older, whiter, more conservative peopleespecially those who have worked at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi or the now-folded Naval Station-Ingleside. Further propelling the campaign is Garcia’s age. He’s 40neither young nor old. He’s lived enough years and experienced enough life to satisfy older voters, but his unyielding energy has attracted volunteers who are too young to remember when “The Cosby Show” was on prime time. “When I was a little boy, I thought this was my calling,” he says. It is the same motivation that led him to the Navy after graduating from Harvard. He traces his desire for public service to 1973, when as a boy on a military base, he watched his friends’ fathers return from being POWs in Vietnam. Some didn’t return at all. “I thought it was important to take a turn yourself” he says. Garcia’s wife wholeheartedly shares her husband’s mission. “We’re idealistic,” explains his wife Denise, a Brooklyn, N.Y.born brunette of Puerto Rican descent who is also a Harvardeducated lawyer. “We feel in our gut that we’ll be able to make some significant changes.” While his classmates are working on Wall Street, zipping around New York in black Lincoln Town Cars, the Garcias say they are happy with their suburban house in Corpus Christi 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 22, 2006
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