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Texas 23rd: Another Democratic Pickup?

The 2006 election breathes perhaps its last breath today as voters head to the polls to choose between Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) and former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) in Texas's 23rd district.

The path to today's runoff began in 2002 when Republicans took control of the Texas legislature. The following year, spurred on by then U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, they redrew the state's Congressional districts to make them more favorable toward Republicans. The plan worked as Republicans gained six seats in the 2004 election.

One of the lesser-noticed aspects of state legislature's redistricting plan was that it shored up Bonilla's 23rd district by removing approximately 100,000 Hispanic voters living in Webb County, which includes Laredo, from the seat. As a result, Bonilla was easily re-elected with 69 percent of the vote in 2004 after narrowly escaping defeat two years earlier.

Texas Democrats protested the redistricting plan all the way to the Supreme Court, which largely upheld the legislature's actions. However, the court did rule that portions of the map --including an area in the 23rd district -- were in violation of the Voting Rights Act, which does not allow Congressional lines to be drawn in a way that dilutes minority voting power.

The court's ruling brought more Hispanic voters back into the 23rd -- raising the Hispanic population from 51 percent to 61 percent and giving Democrats hope that they could knock off Bonilla. On Nov. 7 those hopes were diminished as Bonilla won 49 percent of the vote -- narrowly missing the 50 percent mark that would have allowed him to avoid today's runoff. Rodriguez advanced to the runoff by winning 20 percent, which was good enough for second place. The vote margin between the two men -- Bonilla won 60,147 votes to Rodriguez's 24,593 -- showed how difficult a runoff upset would be.

Democrats have thrown a huge amount of money at the race over the past five weeks. Recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission showed that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent nearly $900,000 on the contest; the majority of that money ($600,000 or so) has gone into television ads and direct mail ($200,000). The committee has also spent $100,000 on ads that ran on Hispanic radio. (By contrast, the National Republican Congressional Committee has not spent a dime on the race.)

Unfortunately for national Democrats, Rodriguez, who held the San Antonio area 28th district from 1996 to 2004, hasn't run much of a campaign -- he has yet to air a single television advertisement. Bonilla on the other hand has been spending heavily on television, seeking to use Rodriguez's congressional voting record against him. As of Nov. 22, Bonilla had spent $3.8 million to Rodriguez's $963,000.

Without any significant public polling, it's difficult to get a sense of how real an opportunity Democrats have to defeat Bonilla. The primary results were not particularly encouraging for Rodriguez's chances and even Democrats admit privately that the former Congressman has not run a stellar campaign. But, off-date election like this one -- particularly given the fact that it falls on the Feast of the Virigin of Guadalupe -- make turnout predictions almost impossible.

You can monitor the election returns on the Texas Secretary of State Web site.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 12, 2006; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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Comments

It was fun to read these comments after the results came in. Maybe the Republicans need a new name. Let's see: 1) The fantasy party, or 2) the rationalization party, or 3) the truthiness party. Anyway reading their comments, like listening to Rush Limbaugh, can be entertaining if approached in the right spirit!

Rich Evans
Orlando

Posted by: Rich Evans | December 13, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

If I had to guess, FL-13 will stay Republican.

But in any case, the Dems now control the House 233-202, or is it 234-201 now that Bonilla lost?

In any case, that is quite a tidal wave.

But Democrats should keep in mind that it had more to do with moderates and a lot of conservatives getting fed up with the GOP and deciding to punish it.

Moderates and many conservatives were furious about corruption, the Iraq war, the rediculously high spending, etc.

A lot of conservatives were also outraged over the Senate-Bush immigration amnesty plan, so they stayed home.

I don't really see the Dem upset as a sign that voters are now for gay marriage, abortion, gun control, ending the death penalty, raising taxes, and other Dem ideas.

However the Dems do have a lot of ideas that voters like, such as ethanol, lowering college tuition and student loans, cleaning up gov't, ending earmarks, paper trail voting, etc.

So it remains to be seen if the Dems will do well this coming congress.

I think that Americans are freedom-loving, and are resistant to the idea of one party rule. So after such a long GOP reign, it is only logical that eventually the Dems would regain control, for a while. A lot of our problems are self-inflicted, and I think if the GOP controlled congress had remained loyal to the spirit of the 1994 revolution and the contract with america, we would not have been booted out.

But the GOP deserved it, since they abandoned the 1994 principles.

Hopefully we will now move back to the spirit of 1994 and our Reagan roots.

But considering that Blunt and Boehner were chosen again by huge margins, and that all the GOP candidates are NOT in the Reagan/1994 mold, the future looks kind of bleak.

I think it may take until 2012 for us to return to our roots as the grassroots party of 1994.

I don't want McCain to be president, since that will only prolong the current situation, but he WILL be president if he wins the primary and the Dem contender is someone far out.

So I hope this happens.

Of course, a good candidate in 2008 would be optimal, but if that doesnt happen then,
I hope the Dems run a moderate so McCain loses, and then the Dems screw up badly, and then we can come back in 2012 reformed and remade, with a true Reaganite conservative like Mark Sanford or Matt Blunt or Coburn or DeMint or Barbour. Hopefully, we can recreate 1994, and this time remain loyal to our principles, and not be corrupted by power.

Posted by: William | December 13, 2006 12:06 AM | Report abuse

LOL - I love it! Rodriguez wins by a bigger margin than anyone expected! That brings the number of Democratic gains in the House in 2006 to 31.

Now if we could only hurry up and hold a new election in FL-13 we could make it 32.....

Posted by: Ohio guy | December 12, 2006 10:35 PM | Report abuse

At 9 PM Texas time the Asociated Press is reporting Rodriguez has defeated Bonilla, and rather easily. At that point the Democrat had 57% of the vote, the Republican incumbent had 42%, with 67% of precincts reporting. Congratulations to Chris on his intuition. And sorry William, all those "Hispanics" must have put aside their criminal activities today long enough to go to the polls.

Posted by: larry | December 12, 2006 10:12 PM | Report abuse

"maybe William is working on Bonilla's campaign ads."

Actually, no. Though I am a Republican, I have been contracted by an undisclosed Democratic hopeful to obliviate B. Hussein Obama and clear the way for that hopeful to the presidency ;)

I'll just give you a heads up.. Operation Call Me will commence on January 1st, 2007, and Barack Hussein will know the fury of some other Dems smear machine.

My sources inform me that a well timed leak soon after that candidate officially declares will effectively END Obama's chances ;)

But dont believe me, you'll see.

Posted by: William | December 12, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

"maybe William is working on Bonilla's campaign ads."

Actually, no. Though I am a Republican, I have been contracted by an undisclosed Democratic hopeful to obliviate B. Hussein Obama and clear the way for that hopeful to the presidency ;)

I'll just give you a heads up. Operation Call Me will commence on January 1st, 2007, and Barack Hussein will know the fury of some other Dems smear machine.

My sources inform me that a well timed leak soon after that candidate officially declares will effectively END Obama's chances ;)

But dont believe me, you'll see.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 5:47 PM | Report abuse

"maybe William is working on Bonilla's campaign ads."

Actually, no. Though I am a Republican, I have been contracted by an undisclosed Democratic hopeful to obliviate B. Hussein Obama and clear the way for that hopeful to the presidency ;)

I'll just give you a heads up. Operation Call Me will commence on January 1st, 2007, and Barack Hussein will know the fury of some other Dems smear machine.

My sources inform me that a well timed leak soon after that candidate officially declares will effectively END Obama's chances ;)

But dont believe me, you'll see.

Posted by: William | December 12, 2006 5:47 PM | Report abuse

MikeB, you know what you're talking about. Don't mind these liberal wackos. They can't even express their own beliefs coherently.


"playing up to the hispanic vote? what should they do, just ignore them? how about the ones that are here legally -- or born here. there just as much citizens as you are. and where do you get these stats -- '2/3 are here illegally' sounds bogus."

No, we shouldn't ignore them, we should have ICE round them up and send them where they came from. And not let anymore in.

Hispanics commit something like 100 times more crimes than white Americans. Every day thousands upon thousands of Americans are victimized by Mexican criminals.

Posted by: William | December 12, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

May be William is working on Bonilla's campaign ads.

A little slander here, a little slander there; we win! In your face, losers!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Not mentioned was the tone of Bonilla's advertisements. His ads actually accuse Rodriguez of being a supporter of terrorism. Obviously there is some degree of concern in Bonilla's camp.

As to the Hispanic vote, Bonilla doesn't have a good track record in Congress to court those votes. Regardless of your opinion of Hispanic citizens, the point is that that demographic favors Rodriguez.

A corollary to that is that Republican governor Rick Perry set the date of the special election for today, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Most Democrats here believe that was done purposely to suppress Hispanic voter turnout.

According to the local (San Antonio) newspaper's website, turnout was low this morning, with a few more people voting in the wealthier Republican northside than in the less affluent Democratic southside of town. I am uncertain what the numbers are with respect to the early voting. Bexar county was able to extend the early voting period, given the special election date on the feast of OLG.

Posted by: texasdem | December 12, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse


playing up to the hispanic vote? what should they do, just ignore them? how about the ones that are here legally -- or born here. there just as much citizens as you are. and where do you get these stats -- '2/3 are here illegally' sounds bogus.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I am very troubled by the Democarts playing up to the "Hispanic vote". 7 out 10 Mexican workers are employed in the U.S.! And 2/3 of these are here illegally, taking jobs from Amercian workers, using our health care and other services, not paying taxes (except for a few dollars in sales taxes collect4ed on purchases), and committing identity theft on an unprecidented basis - which is leaving to all sorts of problems for the victims; everything from the IRS attempting to collect taxes on a job you didn't have to credit card and other purchases made in your name and you get stuck with all of it while the illegal goes scampering back across the border and returns with a new identity, a new victim, and a "fresh start". I don't particularly like Republican's, especially Texas Republican's, but you would need to be suicidal to vote for a pro-Hispanic emigration Democrat. The parasites that candidates that both Texas candidates want to legalize cost the U.S. taxpayers in excess of 1.2 trllion dollars a year and take living wage jobs from millions of Amercian workers who desparately need them.

Posted by: MikeB | December 12, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

We've had plenty of candidates come out of jungle primaries with 30% or below and go on to win, even against a front-runner with a big lead. Bill Jefferson this year and Rodney Alexander in 2002 come to mind.

Posted by: Brittain33 | December 12, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Two factors in Rodriguez's favor: first, Bush's popularity has dipped even further from where it was on Election Day last month; second, voters may have been reluctant in November to vote to unseat an incumbent of the majority party, whereas now they know that the Democrats will have the majority in the House. The DCCC wouldn't have spent all of that money if they didn't have polls showing it to be a tight race. Ultimately, I think Bonilla hangs on this year, but it will be very close - 52/48 or less - and he will be a top target for a more organized challenger in 2 years.

Posted by: PBS | December 12, 2006 2:04 PM | Report abuse

RMIll - As always, Thanks!

Chris C- New Headline alongs the lines Ryan suggested - Republicans Able to Hold On?

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 12, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I would giuess that turnout will drop by as much as 20% so expect around 100,000 votes cast, if that.

Posted by: RMill | December 12, 2006 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Not much to analyze I'm afraid.

I think that the elation of the Democratic tide has waned and with Bonilla having already come so close, it is highly unlikely that Rodriguez can catch him. The margin of error for Rodriguez is razor thin and he would need to motivate and capture every Dem voters from 11/7.

I was surprised by the margin that Jefferson won the runoff over the weekend, thinking it would be much closer. I am guessing that Bonilla wins 60-40.

Posted by: RMill | December 12, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Bonilla 60,147 49%
Rodriguez 24,593 20%
Uresti 14,529 12%
Gilliland 13,725 11%
Stephens 3,344 3%
Beltran 2,650 2%
Bolanos 2,563 2%
DeLeon 2,198 2%

Chris's post was sub-par. These are the 11/7 results. Bonilla was the only Repub. running. Stephens was independent (I think). So, the race was fairly close R-vs-D, the D vote was highly split. The question for Rodriguez is, can he pool all those Dem votes in the runoff?

Posted by: Adam Hammond | December 12, 2006 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Chris, your headline on the Post's main page says simply "Another Democratic Pickup". There's no question mark and so it makes it seem like the Democrats have already picked up the seat. You should get that fixed.

Moreover, why even put the question mark? It makes it sound like it's plausible, yet your analysis makes it clear that it's very unlikely that Bonilla will lose. How about: "Texas 23rd: Another Republican victory?"

Posted by: Ryan | December 12, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse


'the voting rights act is unconstitutional.'

try reading the consitution, william. you might learn something.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Either way, Texas Republicans have screwed themselves overall. Their gerrymandering didn't prevent a Democratic majority but their caucus is dominated by Republicans. Serves them right.

http://intrepidliberaljournal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | December 12, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Since Bonilla is of Hispanic heritage also that doesn't seem to give that advantage to either candidate although Rodriguez was born in Mexico and Bonilla in San Antonio.

However, Bonilla is Baptist.... ah, the politics of "religion."

Seems like the biggest factor is the 30% lead Bonilla garnered on November 7.

http://whathappenedtomycountry.blogspot.com

Posted by: Truth Hunter | December 12, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

The 2006 election will take its last breath when there's a final result in the Florida 13th.

So what's the latest on that scam?

Posted by: JEP | December 12, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

the voting rights act is unconstitutional.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see an RMill analysis of this runoff, if he has one.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | December 12, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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