March 10, 2004
Doggett wins, Bell and Wilson lose

Lots of stuff happening from yesterday's primaries. Let's go to the videotape.

The big local news is that Rep. Chris Bell lost to former JP Al Green by a fairly substantial margin.

With all votes counted in the primary for the 9th Congressional District, Green had 66 percent of the vote to 31 percent for Bell in a race that was fought along racial lines. A third candidate -- lawyer Beverly Spencer -- had 2 percent.

Democrats are already trying to heal the wounds caused by the primary that became contested when Bell was moved into a new district that Republican legislators created last year in hopes of forcing Bell into a race with a strong black Democratic candidate.

Green is the former president of the Houston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

I'm much more surprised by the margin than by the result. I believed it would be a close race, but clearly that wasn't the case. Congratulations to Judge Green and best of luck in Washington. (Yes, I know, he has a Republican challenger. I'm not the least bit worried about that.)

I'm sorry to see Chris Bell go, but if the tradeoff is seeing Ron Wilson get booted, it's more than worth it.

For the first time in almost 30 years, District 131 in Houston will have a new representative in the Texas Legislature after Alma Allen upset longtime incumbent Democratic state Rep. Ron Wilson, an often controversial figure who most recently drew fire after siding with Republicans in last year's acrimonious battle over redistricting.

With all precincts reporting, Allen, a member of the State Board of Education, beat Wilson by a margin of 55 percent to 44 percent.

Allen will face no Republican opposition in the November general election.

According to one of his fellow Democratic state representatives, Wilson lost the seat he has held for the past 27 years because he lost touch with the needs of the people of his district. "I think Ron moved out of step with his district and started representing (Republican Speaker of the House) Tom Craddick instead of Tom Jones in his district," said state Rep. Garnet Colemen.

Coleman's comments were a reference to the fact that Wilson was one of the few Democrats to side with Craddick and other Republicans in a redistricting plan designed to give the GOP the majority of Texas congressional seats. It was a sentiment echoed by Wilson's challenger.

"I think redistricting was the key issue in the race," Allen said. "We're very excited and we're looking forward to new leadership and new ideas in the district."

Wilson was not available for comment late Tuesday.

Excellent. Good luck finding a job, Ron. You can always take the GOP Career Plan and become a highly-paid lobbyist for business interests.

In other contested Congressional primaries, Rep. Lloyd Doggett won easily over Judge Leticia Hinojosa, while Rep. Ciro Rodriguez appears to have beaten back a strong challenge from Henry Cuellar. On the Doggett race:

With 90 percent of the district's precincts reporting, Doggett, of Austin, was beating Hinojosa, of McAllen, by 64 percent to 35 percent.

In Austin, Doggett cruised with 88 percent of the vote. But he also nosed ahead in the narrow district's southern anchor, Hidalgo County, leading by fewer than 100 out of more than 15,000 votes there with 53 of 54 precincts reporting.

Running even in the Valley was the key for Doggett. The Quorum Report, which had noted the high early voting totals in Hidalgo County and which took that as a likely sign of trouble for Doggett, expressed surprise at the result. They also quoted Hinojosa's campaign as acknowledging her need to get 60% of the vote there, something which she failed to do.

As for Rodriguez, the Secretary of State shows him leading 23,546 to 22,089 with 261 of 269 precincts counted. Given that there's an average of 170 voters per precinct, and that Cuellar would have to win the remaining 8 precincts by an average of 183 votes per precinct, I think we can call this one for the incumbent.

Other Democratic news: State Sen. Mario Gallegos won his primary against Yolanda Navarro Flores, Richard Morrison won the right to take on Tom DeLay, and oh yeah, John Kerry won easily, too.

On the GOP side, former judge Ted Poe easily won the CD 02 race and will challenge Rep. Nick Lampson in November. In CD 10, the nutball Ben Streusand and the sane-by-comparison Mike McCaul advanced to the runoff, while the same fate awaits Arlene Wohlgemuth and Dot Snyder in CD 17 and Louie Gohmert and John Graves in CD 01. The McCaul/Streusand winner gets a free pass in November, while the Wohlgemuth/Snyder winner will face Rep. Chet Edwards and the Gohmert/Graves winner gets Rep. Max Sandlin. Finally, in statewide races, State Supreme Court judge Steven Wayne Smith got ousted while Railroad Commish Victor Carillo will be in a runoff.

UPDATE: Still not over in CD 28. One more precinct has reported, and it's now 24,004 to 23,169 for Ciro Rodriguez. That means the 262nd precinct was won by Cuellar by a 1080-458 margin. Obviously, that "average of 170 votes per precinct" methodology has some holes in it. The latest story from the Express News says

Rodriguez, of San Antonio, was leading Laredoan Cuellar by just more than 1,000 votes at 7 this morning. But several thousand votes in Zapata County were still being hand-counted, and officials with the county Sheriff's Department were unsure when results would be available.

There was no answer this morning at the Zapata County Elections Department.

Both campaigns had staffers anxiously awaiting results in Zapata County, which is adjacent to Webb County in the district's southern portion.

Rodriguez spokesman John Puder said he was confident that Rodriguez would emerge victorious.

"We only need 30 percent in Zapata," he said. "We don't need to take it -- it's just a matter of not getting killed down there."

Cuellar spokesman Colin Strother said he was equally sure that Cuellar would win Zapata.

"Henry's mother is from Zapata, he was baptized in Zapata and he has a very strong following there among elected officials and voters," Strother said.

Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 10, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

I guess this means that Ron Wilson will have more time to play in The Rhythm Fish.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on March 10, 2004 9:43 AM

And it only cost Ben "I'm not a lawyer" Streusand $2,000,000 of his own money to get those 9,260 votes in CD10. Ain't democracy grand?

Posted by: lord marmite on March 10, 2004 9:51 AM

Kuff - I understand your satisfaction with Wilson having lost, but since when has becoming a business lobbyist after political life been a GOP career path? Are you familiar with the post-political careers of Buddy Jones, Kent Caperton, Stan Schleuter, Hugo Berlanga, Billy Clayton, Gib Lewis, Mike Andrews, and Carl Parker?

Posted by: Jett on March 10, 2004 9:52 AM