December 12, 2006
Ciro wins!


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.

Way back when, I thought the Dems should have made CD23 a priority. It took longer than I would have liked, and I admit that along the way I too had serious doubts about Ciro Rodriguez's ability to win (he did drop out of the race at one point, after all), but it should be crystal clear now why this was a good idea. Not just to bump the Democrats' gains up one seat to a net of 30, but to knock off a prominent Republican incumbent who might be Texas' junior Senator-elect today had Kay Bailey Hutchison chosen to come home. That's a huge deal.

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."

Apathy is of course the flip side of motivation, which as we know is what the Democrats had coming into today. Heck, they had it well before today - look at the early vote totals. Seeing Ciro in the lead there must have been quite a shock to Team Bonilla.

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

How sweet it is. Looks like that redistricting business didn't work out the way Tom DeLay had expected. But then again, I think DeLay has always had a problem understanding exactly how democracy works.

Posted by: Dennis on December 13, 2006 9:31 AM

Just one race left to go!

We down here in Sarasota are watching our votes get stolen from us, and we plan to fight this theft.

Support Christine Jennings!

Posted by: Jay Red on December 13, 2006 10:47 AM

Does anyone ever go back to SurveyUSA or people like that and say "OK, you had Bonilla/Rodriguez at 51/47% +- 4.3, with 2% undecided. That's not really very close to the 55/45% that happened the next day. Why didn't you know this?"

Posted by: Michael on December 13, 2006 11:08 AM


What a great country we live in. Some may have forgotten but in May 2003, 52 Democrat State Reps broke quorum and headed to Ardmore, OK, because of an unjust and illegal redistricting plan forced on the state by then Congressman Tom Delay. Though Delay temporarily got his way, the Democrat's act of political protest was followed by legal challenges all the way up to the US Supreme Court who agreed that the Republican redistricting plan for Texas violated the law (Voting Rights Act). The fruitful conclusion of this tale is the voice of the voters that elected Ciro in the redrawn congressional district.
After having served in a lot of places, this action with my 51 colleagues is one of my proudest moments as a Texan and an American.

What a great country we live in where democracy works. Merry Christmas to all.


Posted by: Rick Noriega on December 14, 2006 5:30 AM