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|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Texas's 23rd district
January 3, 1985 - January 3, 1993
Albert Garza Bustamante
April 8, 1935
Asherton, Texas, U.S.
|Education||San Antonio College|
Sul Ross State University (BA)
Bustamante was born and raised in Asherton, Texas, to a family of Mexican migrant workers. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving for two years as a paratrooper. In 1958, he enrolled in San Antonio College, earning an associate degree. Bustamante then went on to major in education at Sul Ross State College. After earning his degree, he was hired as a teacher at San Antonio's Cooper Jr. High School.
In 1968, Bustamante took a job as an aide to Congressman Henry Gonzalez. In his first run for elective office in 1972, Bustamante was elected as a Bexar County, Texas, Commissioner. He then was elected as a county judge in 1978 and served on the state's Jail Standard Commission.
Bustamante burst into the national spotlight in 1984, when he challenged nine-term incumbent Chick Kazen in the Democratic primary for Texas's 23rd congressional district. No Republican even filed in this heavily Democratic, Hispanic-majority district, meaning that the Democratic primary was the real election. He defeated Kazen in an upset, all but assuring his election in November. He was reelected three times from this vast district, which spanned 800 miles from his home in San Antonio to El Paso.
While in Congress, he served on the Armed Services Committee and helped to keep open several Texan military bases. He served on the Procurement and Military Nuclear Systems Subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Energy, and the Natural Resources Subcommittee. In 1987 and 1988 he supported nuclear test ban amendments, and he voiced concern for environmental and safety problems in the nation's nuclear production plants. He played an important role in delaying funding for a Special Isotope Separation project in Idaho.
In 1985 Bustamante was elected president of his Democratic freshman class in the U.S. House of Representatives and was assigned to the Committees on Armed Services and Government Operations.
Bustamante changed his support of the administration's policy toward Nicaragua. In 1986 he voted to authorize an aid package for the Contras, but in the following two years he voted against Contra aid.
In the 100th Congress, Bustamante was assigned to the Select Committee on Hunger. He worked to increase nutrition funding for Hispanics, and brought attention to the "colonias," or rural slums, where many Hispanic immigrants live in deplorable conditions.
In December 1990 Bustamante became a member of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. That same year he voted to approve a civil rights bill and pass a family and medical leave bill over President Bush's veto.
He was also a member of the House Task Force on Drugs and Crime, in which he used his power to push for tighter border controls to keep out illegal drugs from Mexico. Bustamante called for deficit reduction, but also believed that more money should be spent on education and health care.
In 1992, Bustamante was investigated for fraud and racketeering, which ruined his reputation. He was not helped by the 1990s round of redistricting, which carved the 28th district out of most of Bustamante's territory and left a heavily Republican section of western San Antonio in the 23rd. Bustamante's Republican opponent, popular newscaster Henry Bonilla, hammered Bustamante for neglecting the needs of his constituents, excessive junketeering and writing 30 bad checks in the House banking scandal. Although Bill Clinton carried the district, Bustamante lost to Bonilla by a 21-point margin -- the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent that year.
Bustamante was convicted of accepting bribes and racketeering in 1993 and was sentenced to 42 months in prison. Since his release, Bustamante has faded from politics. He currently lives in San Antonio with his wife, Rebecca.
The University of Texas at San Antonio is a repository for a collection of papers that consists mainly of incoming and outgoing correspondence from constituents and colleagues. The remainder of the records compile Congressman Bustamante's legislative record through vote books, a legislative profile and his weekly newspaper column.