February 10, 2006
A tale of two counties

I see that the Ciro Rodriguez-Henry Cuellar primary has been written up on MSNBC. It's a nice enough piece, with one point that I want to discuss:

This time, analysts don't expect the Cuellar-Rodriguez race to be as close [as it was in 2004], due to Cuellar's fundraising advantage, the federal money he's brought back to the district, and the expectation that -- as the incumbent -- he'll dominate in his hometown of Laredo and improve his standing in San Antonio, Rodriguez's hometown. "It is funny that people are commenting that this is a competitive race," said [Dan] Wright, Cuellar's campaign manager. "It is nowhere near competitive."

Here's the thing: The 2004 primary was a tale of two counties, Bexar and Webb. 2006 is unlikely to be any different in that regard. To understand how this race will be decided, let's take a look at what happened last time.

In the 2004 primary, Rodriguez won Bexar County by a 10,824 - 2,737 margin, for 13,561 total Democratic votes cast. Cuellar won Webb 12,894 to 2,431, for 15,324 votes all together. Shift over to the general election, and what you see is that Cuellar took 45,126 votes in Bexar and 15,637 in Webb. In other words, the primary turnout represented 30.1% of the Democratic vote total in Bexar, and 98.0% of the Webb total.

Ninety-eight percent!

What this says is very simple: Rodriguez has way more room for growth in Bexar County than Henry Cuellar does in Webb. Rodriguez carried the other counties by a 13,624 to 11,757 count. He can't do much worse in Webb than he did last time. If he turns out Bexar at even a little better clip, he ought to win even if Cuellar improves his standing there. Heck, if the same number of people in Bexar had voted in 2004 as they did in Webb, Rodriguez would have won by over a thousand votes, assuming the same percentage split among the extras.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Do better with turnout in his home county, and Rodriguez wins. In his favor are the contested primaries in HD118 (Rodriguez's former State House district) and SD19 where former HD118 rep Carlos Uresti is running, which should help drive participation even if Rodriguez doesn't have the campaign cash to do it on his own. Watch the early voting numbers and see how it goes. We ought to know pretty quickly if Ciro has a shot or not.

And since I know you want to know, Ciro's just passed $80K on ActBlue. Every little bit helps, so you know what to do.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 10, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Webb County also has some competitive races that should get voters out...for county judge and state rep (remember Raymond?). And don't underestimate Laredo's desire to have its own Congressman...that will also drive turn out. Although I am not as familiar with south San Antonio politics, I would imagine that Cuellar would do better there than last time...better name recognition, more advertising, etc. Cuellars pro-CAFTA vote and pro-military stance probably won't hurt him in SA...there are a lot of ex-military in south SA. And, as the MSNBC article pointed out, free trade is a popular concept in South Texas.

Other than getting elected chair of the Mexican American Congressional Caucus, Ciro had a pretty unremarkable run in Congress and his main support seems to be coming from Off the Kuff, Daily Kos, etc who are more anti-Cuellar than pro-Ciro. But the reasons that the left hates Cuellar just don't resonate with the voters of CD28. Sadly, I think that the left backed the wrong horse in this race. Victor Morales is the only true populist in this race.

Posted by: Chito on February 10, 2006 2:08 PM