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Juan Garcia HIGH FLYER Juan Garcia \(D -The toughest challenge for Juan Garcia may be living up to the hype that surrounds his incipient political career. Many, including us \(see, “The commented on the 40-year-old Garcia’s dream resume: Harvard law degree, Gulf War veteran, Navy pilot, White House service, a Hispanic surname with the looks and accent of an Anglo, and above all, powerful and well-connected friends. Surprisingly, so far Garcia has not disappointed. He knocked off well-funded incumbent Gene Seaman in a majority Republican district. And his constituents didn’t even have to wait a week for him to start fulfilling campaign promises. “When a first time candidate beats a 10-year incumbent, it means people want change. They don’t want me to wait in line,” Garcia says. Garcia voted with a majority of Democrats for a secret ballot to decide who should be speaker of the House. Those who voted for the measure were widely seen as supporters of the insurgency against the incumbent Speaker Craddick. After Craddick’s challenger Jim Pitts dropped out, the vote to approve Craddick became largely symbolic. No one would have faulted Garcia for voting for Craddick; he was the only candidate. Nonetheless, Garcia was one of only 27 members to vote against the speaker from the floor. “I felt [a sense of] real intimidation [on the floor],” Garcia said afterward. “I can’t go along with that.” Three days later, the House took up its rules. Garcia broke with the tradition that freshmen should be seen but not heard by offering a key amendment. Having campaigned on more openness in government, Garcia’s amendment called for all votes on the second reading of bills to be recorded. Second reading is often when support for a bill really matters. Garcia says he didn’t believe such a measure would make it out of committee with the current leadership, so an amendment to the rules was his best shot. It was a rough floor fight, and Garcia’s amendment eventually died at the hands of Craddick lieutenant and Houston Democrat Harold Dutton. Still, Garcia may have won over some of his peers with his humility and good humor. At one point, a Republican accused him of trying to sneak something past the membership. Garcia replied: “I don’t know the process well enough to hide the bill.” “It was a lot more dramatics than I envisioned,” Garcia said a few days later. Despite the defeat, Garcia says his constituents are ecstatic over the effort. Now comes the tough part. If the new representative in a swing district didn’t already have a target on his back, the Republican leadership will surely come gunning for him after his activities during the session’s first week. “Given my first 72 hours, I’m anticipating a seat on the cupcake committee,” he says. Time will tell how far Garcia gets as a politician, but if his beginning is any indication, he will go far, and it will be fun to watch.JB JANUARY 26, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25