U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla conceded defeat to former congressman Ciro Rodriguez in a stunning upset that completed the Democratic takeover of Congress.
The Republican incumbent lost Bexar County for the first time in his political career Tuesday night, and trailed Rodriguez, his Democratic challenger, in total votes across the sprawling Congressional District 23.
The Associated Press called the election for Rodriguez shortly before 9 p.m. Bonilla telephoned Rodriguez to concede around that time, according to his spokesman, Phil Ricks.
Bonilla lost at least four counties in his West Texas stronghold that he won just five weeks ago. He carried Dimmit, Culberson, Presidio and Brewster counties in the seven-way special election on Nov. 7, but lost all four to Rodriguez on Tuesday.
"It's an uphill battle, no doubt about it," Bonilla spokesman Phil Ricks said at 8:15 p.m. "I think the other side was much more organized in getting the early vote out, and that's why they sought extra days of early voting."
Soon after Gov. Rick Perry set the runoff date, the League of United Latin American Citizens sued and eventually wrangled three extra days of early voting before dropping the complaint.
Bonilla came into the runoff with $1.6 million in the bank and the advantages of incumbency -- a familiar name across the sprawling district and list of projects for which he'd secured federal funding.
Rodriguez hobbled out of the special election in debt and with the reputation of a less than savvy campaigner.
But he had a name that registered in Bexar County and into South Texas, and soon he had the interest of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The organization wound up spending more than $900,000 on mail-outs and television ads.
Adam Segal, director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University, said he's talked informally with both campaigns in the past month.
"I think a lot of Democrats involved think making the investment was a wise decision that just weeks ago looked pretty risky," Segal said.
Richard Langlois, chairman of the Bexar County Republican County, blamed Bonilla's fall in Bexar County on his supporters staying home Tuesday.
"Obviously, it was voter apathy," Langlois said. "Obviously, something happened."
Anyway. Here's the county canvass report with eight boxes in Medina County still to be counted, here's wrapups from Burnt Orange Report and Paul Burka, and here's a beautiful picture from Swing State Project. Congratulations, Congressman Ciro Rodriguez!Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack