Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ciro wins - two elections left

House Democrats Extend '06 Gains to 30 Seats

House Democrats increased their 2006 election gains to 30 seats Tuesday, with former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez 's (D) surprisingly convincing victory over Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) in a runoff election in Texas's massive 23rd District.

"It is never easy to defeat a sitting Republican incumbent with a financial edge in a special election, but tonight, Ciro Rodriguez's victory proves that voters want more than Henry Bonilla's rubber stamp support for failed Republican policies," said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie .

Rodriguez's win comes just five weeks after Bonilla received 49 percent of the vote in a special primary on Nov. 7. Rodriguez won just 20 percent that day, while a handful of other Democrats split up the remaining votes.

The apparent key to Rodriguez's come-from-behind victory was a heavy focus by national Democrats on identifying and turning out Latino voters -- especially in Bexar County. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $100,000 on ads on Hispanic radio in the district and paid for thousands of get-out-the-vote calls. All told, the DCCC spent more than $900,000 on this race -- more than two-thirds of which went into television advertising that sought to undermine Bonilla's seeming strengths on military issues. The DCCC also gained considerable traction with spots that attacked the incumbent for supporting multiple congressional pay raises.

In contrast to the heavy spending by the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee chose not to spend a dime on this race -- under the belief that Bonilla's massive financial edge (he outspent Rodriguez at a better than four-to-one clip) would be more than enough to hold the seat. It's hard not to wonder if the chaos caused within the Republican Party following its losses on Nov. 7 led to a lack of focus on the Texas runoff.

Rodriguez's victory is doubly sweet for national Democrats, since they not only pick up another seat but also scored another direct hit on the legacy of former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas). DeLay engineered the congressional re-redistricting in 2003 that led to a six-seat Republican gain in Texas in 2004. But those gains came at a price. Portions of the 2003 map, including the removal of 100,000 Hispanic voters from the 23rd District, were ruled in violation of the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court last June. The resulting changes in the district's boundaries reinstituted a strong Hispanic presence in the 23rd and led to Bonilla's loss.

Delay himself resigned amid allegations of ethical improprieties related to the 2003 remapping effort and watched from the sidelines as former Rep. Nick Lampson last month claimed the strongly Republican 22nd District that DeLay had held since 1984.

The conclusion of the 23rd District race leaves just one House contest in limbo: the one in Florida's 13th District.
While auto dealer Vern Buchanan (R) has been certified as the winner, banker Christine Jennings (D) has sued the state to force an investigations into thousands of "undervotes " in the Nov. 7 election. Jennings has also asked the House Administration Committee to look into the matter when Congress reconvenes in January.
Kuff and others on how he won.

The other election still awaiting results that I am following is in Alvin-Brazoria where the Republicans are scared of losing a special election to the state house. There have been a few reports of officials at polling places misinforming voters they were at the Republican only voting precinct. Democrat Dr. Anthony DiNovo should be favored to win this special election because three ill-informed cookie-cutter Republicans will be splitting the vote and there is no runoff. Meanwhile, in neighboring Fort Bend County the Republican Party continues its breakdown with the war between various factions after DeLay's defeat still churning. Other stories and comments at Fort Bend Now are worth getting the popcorn made for.

Light blogging through the holidays. Why don't you subscribe to the RSS feed in the upper left corner?

UPDATE - Ciro race - I love graphics. What a disaster for the GOP their fence policy is. What the win doesn't show is Dems moving to the right.

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