March 11, 2004
Primary wrapup

The closest race of the primaries may not be over, as challenger Henry Cuellar contemplates asking for a recount in his loss to Rep. Ciro Rodriguez.

The drama surrounding the already spirited race was amplified by election night woes in Zapata County, the southernmost county in the district. Some optical scan equipment broke down and 3,600 ballots had to be counted by hand a task that took 13 hours to complete.

The problem raised a red flag in Texas Secretary of State Geoff Connor's office.

"I am extremely concerned and disappointed by the reporting of election results in Zapata County," Connor said in a written statement released Wednesday. "My office made repeated requests for a timely processing of election returns and found local officials unresponsive."

A faulty computer chip was blamed for the counting delay.

County Clerk Consuelo Villarreal said the computer efforts were ditched late Tuesday evening.

Four groups of four registered voters each then worked through the night.

Most of the counters were recruited Tuesday when they came to check election results.

Then early Wednesday, a dozen advanced-placement students from Zapata High School came to help.


Cuellar campaign spokesman Colin Strother said they were looking at all their options before determining whether to request a recount.

"I think it's still too close to call," he said. "We have to ascertain whether or not we're convinced every vote was counted accurately."

In particular, Strother lashed out at Bexar County returns, which he said need to be examined closely.

"Cliff Borofsky hasn't run an election right yet," Strother said.

Borofsky, the Bexar County elections administrator, said Strother is entitled to his opinion.

"I appreciate his candor," Borofsky said. "If he wants to request a recount, he's perfectly entitled to do so."

If conducted throughout the district, a manual recount could cost Cuellar up to $14,000. Or he could focus on specific counties for review.

He could have up until March 23 at 5 p.m. to make up his mind, depending on when the statewide canvass of votes is completed, said Jennifer Waisath, a spokeswoman with the Texas secretary of state's office.

San Antonians are unhappy with Borofsky as well.

Returns showing 100 percent of the vote weren't posted till 3:17 a.m. Wednesday, leading some county commissioners to publicly chastise Borofsky for failing to meet expectations.

"We underestimated the time it would take to read the (mail-in) ballots," Borofsky told commissioners, referring to problems tabulating more than 3,000 vote-by-mail paper ballots cast in Tuesday's primaries.

Those problems didn't delay tabulation of votes cast early or on Tuesday using the county's new $8.5 million touch-screen system.

However, Borofsky also was taken to task for failing to make adequate arrangements for post-election precinct party conventions, failing to follow up on serious complaints against a handful of election judges, and for delays in opening about 10 of the 267 election-day polling sites.

Election results from Bexar County were delayed by more than a full day in 2002; ironically, one of the races that was decided when those results finally came in was Rep. Henry Bonilla's close-shave win over challenger Henry Cuellar. Borofsky pledges to do better in November. Let's hope he's right this time.

Ron Wilson is claiming vindication despite his electoral defeat. I don't particularly feel like quoting from this article, so I'm just going to reiterate what I said yesterday - if the price for booting his sorry ass is the loss of a freshman Congressman, I'll take it. Greg sees it differently.

Of much greater interest is what effect the defeats of Wilson and Glenn Lewis will have on committee memberships. The Quorum Report has been all over this, as according to both House rules and state law, "A duly appointed senator's or representative's membership on the Legislative Budget Board, Legislative Library Board, Legislative Audit Committee, Texas Legislative Council, or any other interim committee terminates if the member: (1) resigns the membership; (2) ceases membership in the legislature for any reason; or (3) fails to be nominated or elected to the legislature for the next term." Wilson and Lewis were on the House Select Committee on School Finance, meaning that replacements for them will have to be found prior to the still-not-yet-called special session. Keep an eye on the people that Tom Craddick picks to fill in.

One last thought on Chris Bell: For your next gig, may I suggest checking out neighborhoods in State Senate District 15 and considering a move there in order to challenge the incumbent in the 2006 primary? I have a feeling you'll get a decent amount of support from the Democratic Party establishment if you do.

Finally, my condolences to Rob Humenik for losing the election for precinct chair. I'd have voted for you if I could!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 11, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack