SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Before one fast-rising family in Texas Democratic politics joins Congress, an old dynasty is saying goodbye.
When U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez leaves Washington next month, it will signal the end of the family's half-century grip on a San Antonio congressional seat held since 1961. The outgoing chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus served 14 years after replacing his famous father, Henry B. Gonzalez, who carved out a lasting legacy as a political reformer and civil rights leader.
Charlie Gonzalez is returning to private life after deciding to not seek an eighth term. Taking his seat is Joaquin Castro, whose family packs its own celebrity pedigree: His twin brother is San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a rising star on the national stage who was the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention this year.
Charlie Gonzalez told the San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/TndmCC) that he's leaving with a "sense of sadness."
"It's a job, but it's an incredible job. The people, the surroundings, nothing compares to it," Gonzalez said. "It is bittersweet. That is the best way to describe it."
Charlie Gonzalez was first elected in 1988. His father served for 37 years and was chairman of the House Banking Committee, which wielded power over financial institutions and was instrumental in pushing reforms. The elder Gonzalez used that clout to push for public housing and programs for the homeless.
Larry Hufford, a political science professor at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, said the elder Gonzalez pursued social justice in a time when it wasn't fashionable. Charlie Gonzalez represented a 20th congressional district that, by the end of this last term, covered impoverished barrios on the city's West side as well as middle-class and affluent neighborhoods to the north.
When it came to national issue, Charlie Gonzalez used his status Hispanic Caucus chairman to push for immigration reform.
"Charlie was able to carry on that legacy with a much different style; more low-keyed but very effective," Hufford said.
Charlie Gonzalez dismissed suggestions that he could wind up being an appointee in President Barack Obama's second term or be elected to a statewide office. A Democrat hasn't been elected statewide in Texas since 1994.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Gonzalez's decision to leave Congress marks the "end of an era."
"To decide on my own when to leave Congress, that wasn't a decision wasted on me," Charlie Gonzalez said. "I'm a blessed individual. Rather than having circumstances imposed on my life, I'm looking forward to this next chapter in my life. It is my encore career."
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com