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- 04-24-2012, 07:53 AM #1
TX--Immigration in spotlight in state House race
Immigration in spotlight in state House race
Ryan Downton says incumbent authored 'amnesty bill.'
Paul Workman says challenger has ties to Democrats.
By Tim Eaton -AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Updated: 5:22 a.m. Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Water and transportation might be the most serious issues facing voters in western Travis County, but the challenger in the race for District 47 in the Texas House is hammering away on the more controversial topic of illegal immigration in an effort to oust the district's one-term incumbent.
State Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, 60, and lawyer Ryan Downton, 34 — the two Republicans running in the May 29 primary for District 47 — don't differ very much on the central issues. Both candidates say there is much work to be done to improve transportation in the district and to ensure there's enough water for the residents.
But Downton, who has mounted an aggressive campaign on a shoestring budget, is spending much of his time attacking Workman on illegal immigration, a topic upon which the state House has little influence.
Downton often highlights a piece of failed legislation authored by Workman that would have offered undocumented immigrants the opportunity to apply for resident alien cards if they passed criminal background checks. The card, which would have been valid only in Texas, would have cost $4,000 for eight years.
In an effort to strike a chord with Republican primary voters, Downton tells voters that Workman's measure amounts to an "amnesty bill."
"Those illegal immigrants are taking jobs," Downton said in a recent interview.
Workman responded to Downton's criticism by saying his opponent is "taking the low road." Workman noted that he has always opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants and that his measure never sought to offer a path to citizenship.
Don Zimmerman, a State Republican Executive Committee member, said the issue of illegal immigration is one that resonates with Republicans everywhere.
Zimmerman, who has endorsed Downton, said the challenger could find some success in District 47 by making a big deal out of the illegal immigration issue.
"Definitely, Ryan is going to pick up votes over the issue," Zimmerman said.
But Downton has a comparatively small campaign war chest; he raised about $7,500 in the final quarter of 2011, compared with Workman's $54,000. And the challenger's dearth of dollars could make it difficult for him to get his message out, Zimmerman said.
Gerald Daugherty, a Travis County commissioner from 2002 to 2008 who is running again for commissioner, also said that the topic of illegal immigration could be a factor in the race.
"I do understand why Ryan is throwing it up there," said Daugherty, who is supporting Workman.
Like Zimmerman, Daugherty said money could be a problem for Downton.
"If you want to get a message out, you have to have some dough," he said.
Downton had about $11,000 in the bank as of Dec. 31, and Workman had more than $104,000, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.
Part of Downton's cash comes from an approximately $20,000 loan he gave to the campaign. But Downton said he is also depending on hustle to get the word out.
So far, he has met more than 8,000 voters in the 175,314-person district, he said.
Workman said Monday that he wants to keep the focus of the campaign positive, but previously he has mentioned that Downton has connections to the Democratic Party, something he said doesn't play well in Republican primaries.
Workman has noted that state Rep. Mark Strama, an Austin Democrat, hired Downton to be a lawyer for the House Committee on Technology, Economic Development & Workforce.
Downton responded by saying that he is more conservative than Workman and would be more responsive to the constituents of the district.
Contact Tim Eaton at 445-3631
Immigration in spotlight in state House raceThe price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Plato