March 09, 2004
Votacion Hoy

At long last, it's primary day in Texas, and there are some rumblings that a few incumbents might be in trouble in their primaries. The Quorum Report is suggesting that early voting is favoring Judge Leticia Hinojosa in her race against Rep. Lloyd Doggett in the new 25th CD, while Henry Cuellar appears to be getting a boost from Webb County in his race against Rep. Ciro Rodriguez in the 28th. That race is especially fierce given Rodriguez's support of Cuellar in 2002 when he came close to unseating Republican Henry Bonilla.

Mr. Rodriguez, 57, says he feels betrayed by Mr. Cuellar's entry in the race.

After all, he says, they served in the Texas House together for more than a decade, and he helped raise money and secure endorsements for Mr. Cuellar's first run for Congress in 2002 a nearly successful bid to knock off Republican Henry Bonilla.

"When I first heard about it, I thought it was just rumors," Mr. Rodriguez said. "I never expected it. ... I thought I knew him, but apparently not."

Mr. Cuellar, 48, was readying himself for another shot at Mr. Bonilla this year when GOP-led redistricting split Laredo, one of the state's most reliable Democratic strongholds.

Half stayed in Mr. Bonilla's 23rd District, which was also reinforced with Republican voters in San Antonio's well-to-do northern suburbs. The other half went to Mr. Rodriguez.

Mr. Cuellar, a 14-year lawmaker who served briefly as Texas secretary of state under Republican Gov. Rick Perry, said he agonized over whether to run against Mr. Rodriguez. But once he made the decision, he went for the incumbent's jugular.

"He's a very nice man, but what has he done for the district?" Mr. Cuellar asked while campaigning recently in a working-class neighborhood in San Antonio. The race "is not about him or me. It's about providing public service to the community."

Mr. Cuellar also accuses Mr. Rodriguez of telling only part of a story that dates to 1987, when the pair went into the Legislature together.

He said he helped Mr. Rodriguez get state money for his district, and he "never threw it back in his face."

Mr. Rodriguez says he has served his district well. He says he helped lure the new Toyota truck plant to his district and secured money for higher education, veterans health and public transit programs and a large jail in Pearsall.

As chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Mr. Rodriguez says he's also been active on border and trade issues important to his constituents.

The CHC is firmly behind Ciro Rodriguez. CHC Chair Bob Menendez was quoted in as follows:

"[Cuellar's challenge to Rodriguez] is a huge disappointment. So many of us supported him, and his biggest advocate, the biggest fighter when he was running against Bonilla, in raising money and getting out the vote, was Ciro Rodriguez. There is a certain requirement, I think, of being thankful...[Rodriguez is] an exceptional member of the Democratic caucus and an exceptional leader in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus."

The Express News confirms that early turnout in Bexar County was not overwhelming.

Turnout is typically higher than normal during presidential years, as voters are inundated with campaign materials and become more politically aware.

Nearly 22,000 people cast early votes in Bexar County this year, compared with about 35,000 in 2002 and about 49,000 in 2000, the last presidential election year.

Another 50,000 are likely to hit the polls today, for a total turnout of about 72,000, or about 8.5 percent of registered voters, said Christian Anderson, who monitors local voting patterns for Election Support Services.

Most of that turnout has been driven by Democratic voters who have cast ballots at more than twice the rate of Republican voters.

There were contested primaries for Governor in 2002, and of course for President in 2000, so there isn't a straight apples-to-apples comparison. Nonetheless, Rodriguez better hope that today's turnout beats expectations.

It may or may not make any difference, but Cuellar came under fire late last week for claiming a union endorsement that he later retracted.

"Let me state this in no uncertain terms," Texas AFL-CIO President Emmett Sheppard said Friday in a news release. "Ciro Rodriguez has a stellar record of support for the working people in his district."

The Cuellar campaign Web site had listed the Communications Workers of America (CWA) as an endorsing organization.

The CWA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Cuellar spokesman Colin Strother acknowledged that the mistake was his.

"They're right," Strother said. "We had a meeting with all the CWA members in Laredo and they indicated that they support Henry.

"I mistook that as an endorsement and erroneously posted it on the Web site."

Strother said when he was made aware of the error, he immediately removed the group's name from the list Friday afternoon.

"We don't want to confuse anyone," he said.

Meanwhile, over in CD 25, it's not been quite as nasty, but recent ads may be making up for that.

In ads that began airing late this week, an old man questions whether Doggett lives in the newly created, overwhelmingly Hispanic district and how someone who doesn't speak Spanish expects to represent it.

District 25 snakes from East Austin 350 miles south to the Mexican border.

In the 60-second radio commercial and a 30-second TV version, Hinojosa questions "whether he will run in another district if there is a redistricting effort next election."

Doggett almost immediately fired back with ads that declare, "The people who know her the best have supported her the least that's why every single Hidalgo County official who has endorsed in the race has endorsed me."

Doggett has said he is a resident of the newly configured district, which contains about one-third of the population that was in his old Austin district.

A Republican-dominated Legislature last year redrew the state's 32 congressional districts, targeting Doggett and five other Anglo Democratic U.S. House incumbents for extinction.

Doggett accused her of characterizing him as a rich Anglo.

"It's ironic that she's saying I'm a rich Anglo when she was relying on a small group of Anglo power brokers to crown her campaign," he said.

Hinojosa denied any racial or ill intent and said she was justified in "raising those issues because it is what voters are asking me about him."

There's one small consolation to these races, as well as with the Bell-Green battle in CD09, and that's that these districts will remain Democratic regardless of who wins the primaries. I'd hate to see a bunch of seniority get flushed, but in the end we'll all get on with our lives. Oh, and there shouldn't be any runoffs in these races, either. That's always good news.

Now for some Republican hijinx. As noted by a Kos diarist, the NRCC tried to brass-knuckle a challenger to Ralph Hall in CD 04 and made themselves look like idiots in the process. I particularly enjoyed Larry Telford's up-is-down denial of what he was recorded saying. And of course, the fact that the attempted pistol-whipping was of a no-name with no money, and not the challenger who had actual experience and funding.

Last but not least, also from (it's a subscription service; I was sent some excerpts): When in doubt, invoke the Clenis:

A last-minute attack mailer sent by "Citizens for Education" seeks to tie mortgage co. exec. Ben Streusand (R) and atty. Michael McCaul (R) to ex-Pres. Bill Clinton and ex-AG Janet Reno, "even going so far as to allege that McCaul had something to do with Clinton donor Johnny Chung getting probation instead of jail time." The piece "also tries to connect Streusand" with ex-Reps. Bob Gammage (D) and Ken Bensten (D), "and tries to link McCaul to the hate crimes law and questions his positions on home schooling."

McCaul was a career DOJ prosecutor in several admins, and says he made several recommendations to his superiors about follow-up prosecutions on the Clinton fundraising scandal, but they were ignored. No one, "including the other candidates, is willing to own up to sending the mailer. (All have denied it.) And we can find no records on who the Citizens for Education is."

"Quote of the week:" McCaul spokesperson Ted Delisi, on the attack mailer: "This mailer is full of falsehoods and half-truths. The only half that's true is the part about Streusand."

Heh. I didn't find anything useful from a Google search on "Citizens for Education", which is about as phony a "grass roots" name as you'll find. Once again, as with the BS attacks on Adrian Garcia, the perpetrators (who are very likely violating some campaign law or another) will spread their slime and get away scott-free. They seem to be as hard to trace as spammers, and no DA's office has the money or the inclination to do anything about it. I don't really care who wins the CD 10 race, but I find this sort of behavior objectionable no matter who the victim is.

Thanks to reader JD for the NationalJournal excerpts.

UPDATE: Check the comments for a little more info on "Citizens for Education", courtesy of AJ.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 09, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

According to the Texas Ethics Commission, a PAC called Citizens for Education was formed in Houston in 1997, but it hasn't filed any reports with the TEC since 1998.

Posted by: AJ on March 9, 2004 12:18 PM

The registered agent for Citizens for Education is Austin election lawyer Frank M. Reilly of the firm Potts & Reilly, 401 W. 15th Street, Suite 850, Austin, Texas. The firm's phone number is (512) 469-7474. Mr. Reilly made $250 contributions to the 2002 campaign of Senator John Cornyn and the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.

Posted by: AJ on March 9, 2004 12:38 PM