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March 31, 2004

Cuellar Extends Lead to 201 Votes

By Byron LaMasters

After concluding recounts in Hays and Bexar Counties today, Henry Cuellar picked up a few more votes. The San Antonio Express-News reports:

Laredo lawyer Henry Cuellar has picked up one vote in this afternoon's Hays County recount after gaining another three votes this morning during a Bexar County tally in the bitter congressional District 28 race.

The gains have boosted his lead over incumbent U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez to 201 votes.

The Bexar County recount, which took about three hours, involved only the mail-in and provisional ballots, not the touchscreen voting results, which comprise the vast majority of votes cast, elections officials said.

There are two small counties left to conclude their recounts, and it's likely barring any irregularities that Cuellar's lead will hold up. Rodriguez is now moving forward with plans to file a lawsuit to officially contest the election results.

Two final counties, Comal and Guadalupe, will have recounts Thursday in the 11-county procedure.

Earlier in the day, a visibly angry Rodriguez reiterated his concerns over Tuesday's recounts in Zapata and Webb counties, which shattered his original post-primary lead of 145 votes.

"Something is happening and it's not correct and it's not appropriate," Rodriguez said at a morning news conference.

Rodriguez, a four-term incumbent from San Antonio, is planning to file a lawsuit Friday to contest the recount results, which his attorney "totally inexplicable and fraudulent."

I'm not sure when the election results need to be certified by, but right now it looks pretty good for Henry Cuellar.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at March 31, 2004 09:57 PM | TrackBack


Maybe I'm a bit naive to the ways of South Texas politics (having never been past Austin when going down I-35), but I'm totally bewildered by why this Primary contest has become so knock-down, drag-out. What are the fundamental issues over which they are fighting? To the casual observer, it just looks like an intramural race between two South Texas Latinos, and to that end it seems as though the election of either in November would be a win for both.

Posted by: Jeff at March 31, 2004 10:38 PM


I'm not sure what you mean by "it just looks like an intramural race between two South Texas Latinos."

You're right: Either Cuellar or Rodriguez will indeed win in November.

However, there are quite a few issues involved in this race. Some of them have to do with regionalism, some of them have to do with redistricting, and some of them have to do with personal history.

Rodriguez, of San Antonio, was elected in 1997 to replace the late Congressman Frank Tejeda. He defeated a candidate supported by the Tejeda family. Since then, he has compiled a record that has made him among the most liberal members of the Texas delegation. He has also been a strong supporter of South San Antonio's military bases. He recently rose to a prominent position, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Enter Tom DeLay. In his redistricting crusade, DeLay targeted target conservative white Democrats (Stenholm, Edwards, Sandlin, etc) and outspoken liberals like Lloyd Doggett and Rodriguez.

The redistricting process greatly altered Rodriguez' district. After the mapmakers were finished, the 28th district, which had been steadily anchored in San Antonio, was split between the San Antonio and Laredo metro areas.

Laredo, which until redistricting was represented by Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, has long hungered for its own congressman. When Cuellar saw he had a chance in the new district, the Laredo business establishment quickly lined up behind him.

When Cuellar jumped into the race, he drew the ire of Democrats who were angry at him for betraying and running against a reliable democratic incumbent. Rodriguez had actually campaigned for Cuellar in his close 2002 race against Bonilla.

But this isn't the first time Cuellar has bucked the Democratic establishment. He drew criticism from Democrats a few years back when served as Republican Gov. Rick Perry's Secretary of State.

Cuellar has also has also had a longstanding feud with Laredo's other Democratic powerhouse: State Sen. Judith Zaffirini. Zaffirni, along with Laredo Mayor Betty Flores, endorsed Rodriguez in the primary. Despite this, Laredo voted overwhelmingly for Cuellar.

Rodriguez, too, wasn't universally admired at home. Cuellar was endorsed by Bexar Co. Commissioner Robert Tejeda of San Antonio, the late congressman's cousin.

In the race itself, Rodriguez was cast as liberal, while Cuellar took a moderate to conservative track. Cuellar said Rodriguez was ineffective and blasted him for not supporting Bush's prescription drug plan. Rodriguez criticized Cuellar's ties to Republicans.

In the end, though, the race turned on geography. Rodriguez took too long to realize he was in trouble, and started campaigning late. Bexar County's turnout was abysmal compared to Webb's (Laredo). Laredo clearly had the hunger for a hometown congressman.

Of course, most of the conflict now centers on who actually won the race. Ballot boxes have a history of suddenly appearing in South Texas. We'll have to wait and see.

Posted by: Eduardo J. Klein at April 1, 2004 01:52 AM

Eduaro's comments are on the mark.

But I think the big story is voting patterns around the state. Senator Zaffarini got about 62,000 votes. Sentator Gallegos vote about 6,500 votes.

Tracy King of Batesville got about 13,000 votes against incumbent Rep. Timo Garza of Eagle Pass. Rep. Scott Hochberg of Houston got 1,017 votes in his contested primary.

Tony Sanchez (actually, John Sharp and Kelly Fero) were probably a few years ahead of their time. Voters in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and other metro areas stayed home in droves. Voters along the border and in South Texas vote like it's an obligation! Proposition 12, the tort dereform Constitional Amendment, would not have passed but for voters in Cameron, El Paso, Nueces and other heavily Hispanic counties.

I think the absence of Karl Rove has given Democrats a great opportunity. The Dems just need a big thinker.

Rove once said, "I have seen the future, and the future is Plano." He could have said Conroe, Sugarland, Denton, etc., but the point is the same.

If I were in charge of rebuilding the Democratic Party, I would say, "I see the future, and it is Webb, Maverick and Zapata counties."

Just something to think about.

Posted by: notgonnatell at April 1, 2004 02:27 PM

Not Gonna Tell...

Well, I disagree with you a lot, but on this... I agree. The future of the Texas Democratic Party is through Webb, Cameron and Hidalgo Counties, etc. While I'm disappointed with Cuellar's apparent victory over Rodriguez, it's hard to not appreciate the extraordinary turnout in Laredo compared to the poor turnout in San Antonio. While I certainly favored Rodriguez in the race, I can sympathize with Laredo's desire to have a hometown congressman (in the same desire that I might have seemed a little bit hysterical in my fervent support of Lloyd Doggett, our hometown Congressman in Austin - it's not that Leticia Hinojosa would have been a poor congressmwoman, but rather that she's from far away in South Texas, and it's much harder to identify with her than it is with someone in Austin).

Posted by: Byron L at April 1, 2004 07:06 PM

Remember, Dallas and Harris counties account for over 25% of the State population. Their sheer size demands that attention be paid to these two counties.

Posted by: WhoMe? at April 1, 2004 10:42 PM

notgonnatell made the following statement which caugfht my eye and almost knocked me over -

"I think the absence of Karl Rove has given Democrats a great opportunity."

Sorry to burst your bubble guys, but in 1998 (when Karl Rove was still here) the average Republican victory in a statewide race was 493,000 votes. In 2002 (when Rove was away worrying about Bush nationally) the average Republican statewide victory was 684,000.

That's an increase of 191,000! The numbers say that Republicans do better when Karl Rove IS absent!

Posted by: Tammy at April 2, 2004 12:00 PM

Tammy actually makes my point for me. Karl saw the future and ANTICIPATED what could happen. That's why my post suggested that Democrats in Texas should build a foundation, look at new opportunities and develop a plan.

Karl worked for 20 years to make Texas a GOP state. Good Dems should spend a few years thinking like Karl to make Democrats competitive again.

Posted by: notgonnatell at April 2, 2004 01:29 PM

bottom line is that ciro is an idiot who never did ONE THING for his district. if we dems are ever going to make a comeback, we have to get rid of the dead weight and get REAL workers in there that will get things done instead of just collecting a check. ciro ran a shit campaign and deserved to get beat.

Posted by: pfontenot at April 23, 2004 10:07 AM
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