The congressional candidate you may not have heard of
by Marene Gustin
Why would a successful attorney, husband, and father living a fine life in Houston run for congress?
As a Democrat in a gerrymandered district that skews Red.
In a district that some voters don’t even know they are in and is still being debated in the courts.
“Somebody needs to do it,” says James “Jim” S. Dougherty. “The president needs some support.”
Dougherty is running for the House of Representatives in the Texas 2nd Congressional District, a district that was redrawn following the 2010 Census, a move that has resulted in legal battles over the process causing the filing deadlines and primary dates to be changed. While still winding its way through the courts, the current redrawn district now looks like a backward question mark, snaking its way from the liberal Montrose, Rice Military areas to the heavily conservative northern parts of Kingwood.
“I don’t deny it’s an uphill battle,” admits Dougherty. “It’s a two-fold problem. First, people don’t know I’m in the race, and second, some people don’t even know they are in the new district.”
His opponent in the November 6 general election is the incumbent Ted Poe, a popular Republican who, according to ballotpedia.org, has raised over 1.3 million dollars to Dougherty’s ten-plus grand. Poe won reelection to his seat in 2010, before the district was redrawn, with 88 percent of the vote.
Yes, it’s an uphill battle. But Dougherty is strong in his convictions, and his policies should ring true with the smaller liberal portion of the new district, but he’ll need an outpouring from that southern area of the district to win.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Dougherty moved to Houston at the age of nine with his widowed mother. She later remarried Walt Dougherty, a Navy veteran and chemical engineer. The young Dougherty attended St. Anne’s Elementary, Marian High School (now Episcopal High School), Notre Dame, and then went to the University of Texas at Austin Law School.
He is a certified CPA and worked as a trial attorney with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington DC before spending six years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Houston. Almost thirty years ago he opened his own law firm in Montrose with his wife, Judy, also an attorney, called Dougherty & Dougherty.
Today they have two adult children and enjoy their family law practice, dining out at local restaurants like Merida Mexican and Cafe Brasil, and spending time outdoors, when they have the time.
Dougherty has long been involved with civic organizations, the Methodist Church, the Houston International Dance Coalition, and the Democratic Party, serving as a Precinct 70 Chair and president of the Greater Heights Democratic Club in 2002.
He’s also run for office twice before: as a candidate for Harris County District Attorney in 2000 and as a candidate for the Texas State House of Representatives, District 134, in 2004.
As a Democrat, he’s in favor of President Barack Obama’s policies such as the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m fully in favor of the ACA,” Dougherty says. “I wish it was health care for all, but I realize compromises have to be made in order to pass legislation. But I think it should be a right for all citizens of developed countries to have health care.”
He’s also in favor of passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a version of which has been kicked around Congress since 1974 and was reintroduced in 2011 by Representative Barney Frank. The proposed legislation would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.
Dougherty says: “I’m in favor of any legislation that would protect everyone in the workforce.”
But when it comes to same-sex marriage, he’s not advocating it at the federal level.
As he explains: “I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of defining what marriage is and is not.
“I think that should be left to the churches and the states. But I do think the federal government should recognize civil unions for both same-sex and heterosexual partners, and afford them all legal rights. Our society is evolving—in the last ten years we have seen several states recognize same-sex marriages and civil unions, and I think the federal government will evolve, too. But I think it will be civil unions that are recognized first. Eventually, I believe the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages.”
Underfunded and without the name recognition of his opponent, Dougherty says his best chance of winning a seat in Congress is for the liberal, Democratic portion of the redrawn district to turn out in force and for the more heavy Republican areas to be disenfranchised by the Tea Party candidates at the top of the ballot and either vote Democratic, or just stay home come election day.