The 23rd Congressional District in Texas, pitting the only Republican Hispanic representative from Texas against his first real challenger, is profiled here. State Rep. Henry Cuellar is looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla as part of the national Democratic strategy to retake control of the House. Cuellar is from Laredo, the same hometown as Tony Sanchez, and is clearly hoping that a big turnout for Sanchez will help carry him into office. Have I mentioned before that turnout is going to be the key to all these state races? Yes, I believe I have.
Bonilla's District 23 is geographically the second-largest congressional district in the United States, outsized only by an Alaskan seat. The district includes 625 miles of U.S.-Mexico border and sprawls from Laredo at the south end, north to pick up a portion of Bexar County and San Antonio, then west for a slice of El Paso County.
The population is diverse and dispersed, spanning from needy colonias and border towns to salt-of-the-earth West Texas farms and ranches, to flush and mainly Anglo suburban enclaves in northwest Bexar County, Bonilla's home turf.
Laredo's Webb County is one of two population anchors of the district with about 193,000 people. The other is northwest San Antonio and Bexar County with about 173,000 people. But because Webb turnout in general elections historically has hovered around 20 percent, the high-vote Bexar portion has dominated the district.
In the last nonpresidential election, Cuellar's home base produced only about 20,000 votes; Bonilla's home base, 38,000.
"Historically, the Anglo precincts in Bexar have had very high turnout, while the poor border precincts have done terribly," said University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray. "But you've got to throw out those recent election histories."