August 10, 2006
CD23: Ciro's in

This qualifies as a non-surprise.

Former Democratic Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez (1997-2005) told Tuesday that he will challenge [incumbent Rep. Henry] Bonilla and will formally announce his bid next Tuesday.

That development has spurred to change its rating on the Texas 23 race to Republican Favored from Safe Republican. The new rating means that Bonilla still is highly likely to win his contest for an eighth House term, but that the possibility of a major Democratic upset now cannot be completely ruled out.

A lot of the South San Antonio area that was added to CD23 as part of the court-drawn map was once in Rodriguez's old CD28, so he's a fairly well-known name in that section of the district. That will give him an advantage, though not an insurmountable one, over any other Democratic challengers, and it will help him against Bonilla in November.

Bonilla, of course, has a pretty big advantage of his own, and I'm not talking about name recognition (which he does also have).

[Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee,] pointed to what he said was Bonilla’s “virtually insurmountable cash-on-hand advantage.” Bonilla, who is one of the House’s strongest fundraisers, reported $2.2 million in his campaign account at the end of June.

Rodriguez, by contrast, will have to rebuild his campaign treasury from scratch, following his March 7 primary loss to Cuellar.

The last FEC report that Rodriguez filed was in March, and it showed him $80K in the hole for cash on hand. He's definitely starting out way behind on this, and he's unlikely to get a whole lot of netroots support this time, not because he's any less likable but because his is no longer the major race of interest. There's a couple of schools of other fish to fry out there right now. I hate to be a wet blanket, especially since I do like Rodriguez as a candidate, but let's be realistic.

Rodriguez’s name recognition and longtime political base in San Antonio might give him a decided edge over other Democratic candidates whom party officials said are weighing the race. They include state Rep. Pete Gallego, who represents a rural part of the 23rd, and Julian Castro, a former San Antonio councilman who narrowly lost a 2005 race for mayor of that city.

Gallego would have to give up his State House seat for this campaign. He's unopposed for re-election there, and I think he has to believe that the prospects for gains in the State House are pretty good, which if that can be maintained might put him in line to be Speaker some day. He also has just $10K cash on hand, which would put him at an equal disadvantage relative to Bonilla. Finally, as was the case with Vilma Luna, were Gallego to resign and run for CD23, the Republicans would get a second chance to nominate someone for his seat, and it would not be a slamdunk for the Dems to hold onto it. I may be wishcasting a little, but I think he'd prefer to stay put. Lord knows, given all this, I sure as heck hope he does.

Having said all that, I would have been perfectly happy for Castro to jump in. Alas, according to the Express News, he has declared himself not a candidate - he wants to focus on the 2009 Mayoral race. I still disagree with Rodriguez here:

Rick Bolanos, a little-known Democrat who ran unopposed in the 23rd District’s now-voided March primary, is expected to refile for this race.

“If we can keep it one-on-one, that’s even going to be better,” Rodriguez said.

As I see it, since this is an open primary and therefore requires a full majority to win, the more Dems in the race, the better. Let 'em all tour around CD23 bashing Henry Bonilla everywhere they go. It might drive up turnout, which is not a bad thing here, and it might force Bonilla to spend more of that $2..2 million warchest than he wanted to. As long as all of the Dems involved keep their sights set on Bonilla, and promise to endorse whoever winds up in the hoped-for runoff with him, it's all good.

With Castro out, there are still some other potential contenders, according to that Express News piece:

Among others who said earlier this week they're considering mounting campaigns: City Councilman Richard Perez; Richard Gambitta, a political scientist and director of the Institute for Law and Public Affairs at the University of Texas at San Antonio; and Albert Uresti, a retired San Antonio Fire Department district chief and brother of state Rep. Carlos Uresti.

Perez would probably be the strongest candidate from that group, but from what I've heard he seems less likely to run than the others. Oh, well. Link via Political Wire.

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

I understand the logic behind a "Let 'em All In" contest with multiple Dems, but I'm not convinced that helps us in this particular race. Essentially, it starts with the premise that our path to upending Bonilla here only happens in a runoff. Whether control of Congress is at stake or not, I'm not sure I place great faith in the DCCC to outduel the NRCC ... even (hell, especially) after what should be a disasterous November for them.

Similarly, given what we've seen in Texas elections prior, who do you think is more certain to come out and vote in a runoff? ... poor, soutside San Antonians? ... or middle class-to-upscale Republicans?

Granted, Bolonas is holding firm to his stake in this race. Fine. I get that. So do the other 10 people who actually know his name. Start throwing in some bigger names, though, and it means Bonilla may have the luxury of running against an anonymous herd instead of fending off a far peskier challenge centered around an actual candidate.

Still, I find it ironic that this time around, I'm more than fine with Ciro representing what is, basically, a southside SA seat, than I was a split SA/Laredo seat. Yet the TexRoots that were so gungho for Ciro in that race are now heading for the hills.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on August 10, 2006 1:16 PM

As someone who lives in the 23rd (old and new) I really wanted Julian to run (I think he would have been a stronger challenge to Bonilla). Julian had connections to not just the southside, but also the northwest, which is where most of the votes are likely going to come from. As good a guy as Ciro is, I just think he's been around the block enough and needs to hang it up.

Posted by: SADem on August 10, 2006 1:24 PM

Still, I find it ironic that this time around, I'm more than fine with Ciro representing what is, basically, a southside SA seat, than I was a split SA/Laredo seat. Yet the TexRoots that were so gungho for Ciro in that race are now heading for the hills.

Once bitten, twice shy? I think that as long as everyone, including Castro, was a theoretical possibility for this race, some people were going to hang back and see who was really in before they committed to anyone. As things stand now, I do expect the Texroots to back Ciro, though again, that doesn't mean he'll be the highest priority. We'll just have to see how it goes.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 10, 2006 2:55 PM

Van de Putte could make the race against Bonilla...she's not on the ballot for re-election this year--free ride, so why not?

Posted by: sa dem on August 11, 2006 8:35 AM

Ciro has to be the number one priority for Texas Democrats and a major priority for Democrats around the country. What were the potential gains when everybody backed Ciro against Cuellar - replace a moderate Democrat with a liberal Democrat? Big deal. Here, Democrats have a chance to replace a conservative Republican with a liberal Democrat that has eight years of seniorty in Congress! Even better, Ciro just ran a campaign in the same neighborhoods and still has his network of supporters. Email all those Kossacks from California and New York who were sending him money and tell them to double down, but this time against a Republican. Even Cuellar should write Ciro a $50,000 check.

After the beating that Texas Democrats took in redistricting, the 5th Circuit gives the Dems a golden opportunity to elect a Chicano Democrat and unify the Texas border as a Democratic stronghold. If the DNC doesn't jump on this opportunity (when the control of Congress is at stake), I really don't know what to say about them. True, Ciro is not a good campaigner, but neither is Bonilla!! This is a winnable seat.

Posted by: el_longhorn on August 11, 2006 1:55 PM