Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Texas Runoffs: CD 23, Name vs. Money

Congressional District 23

Primary Outlook: Lean Rodriguez

General Election Outlook: Tossup (Gallego nominee), Lean Republican (Rodriguez nominee)

Congressional district 23.  An obnoxiously large district, it stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso.  The history of the seat and it's occupants is odd or interesting...take your pick.  It was created in 1965 and was first represented by Democrat Chick Kazen.  I will give Texas props to having old redistricting maps available online.  Prior to '66, Bexar County had a representative to itself.

In 1967, Texas redrew the lines slightly, but from '67 to 1992 the district pretty much was a Laredo-San Antonio district.  During that time the Hispanic population increased and Kazen was ousted by fellow Democrat Albert Bustamante in 1984, who would hold that seat until he was beaten by Republican Henry Bonilla in 1992.

In 1992, it stretched out west and then became an El Paso-Laredo-San Antonio district.  In 2003, the district was again an El Paso-Laredo-San Antonio district, but also less so at the same time.  Webb County (Laredo) was split between two districts.  Most of El Paso went to the 16th District.  San Antonio now had 4 congressional districts.  After some mid-decade redistricting and some lawsuits, the districts changed and in 2006, Bonilla was beaten by Democrat Ciro Rodriguez.  In 2010, Rodriguez was beaten by the current occupant, Republican Quico Canseco.

The current district is an El Paso-San Antonio district with no Laredo anymore.  The federal courts pretty much kept an El Paso-San Antonio district.

So who are our two candidates we have left?

Pete Gallego.  Gallego has been a state rep since 1991, first elected in 1990.  In 1990 he had a much smaller district made up of Brewster, Kinney, Maverick, Pecos, Presidio, Terrell, and Val Verde counties.  After redistricting in the early 90's, this district was expanded to include Culberson, Hudspeth, and Jeff Davis counties.  After another cycle of redistricting the district expanded to what it is today.

One big claim to fame for Gallego is highway speed.  Since 1999 he's been pushing to get speed limits up to 80 mph.  This change finally happened in 2006 on a couple highways in West Texas.  Probably Gallego's other claim to fame might be he shares a similar name with another high profile Hispanic Texas Legislator: State Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston).

Even so, he is still probably a somewhat unknown element to a good deal of the voters in CD-23, i.e., Bexar County.  It also didn't help things when his campaign early on sent out at least 3 oversized mail pieces to the wrong group of voters.  Rather than targeting by the new district lines, the campaign apparently was using the current lines to target voters.  But the campaign seemed to get it's act together on finding the right voters.

In terms of San Antonio/Bexar County elected official support, Gallego definitely cornered the market on that: State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, State Rep. Joaquin Castro, State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, State Rep. Jose Menendez, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, and Mayor Julian Castro, just to name a few. 

He seems like a good fit for the district except for 2 things.  Residency and absence.  One thing that's been rumored about Gallego is his residency.  The rumor is that he doesn't really live in Alpine, but instead lives in Austin.  A small issue to be sure, but here's a question, if the rumor is true that he really lives in Austin, would he pull the same thing as a Congressman and live in D.C., but claim Alpine/CD-23 has his home?  I realize Austin isn't exactly around the corner from Alpine (about 6 1/2 hours away), but still, your technically only there from about February - May of odd numbered years.  If you're going to reside in Austin in this situation, what's to stop someone from doing it with a much longer distance?

One other problem I've heard (since I don't live in the district) is his absence.  From a number of activists I've heard the same thing just phrased differently: where is Gallego...I haven't heard anything from his campaign...I haven't seen him anywhere.  This absence may be because of some bad scheduling and communication, which is another complaint I've heard...that it's hard to get in touch with people from the campaign.

Ciro Rodriguez.  Not much to say about Rodriguez.  He's the former Congressman for this district and he's back for another bite at the apple.  Rodriguez is a known entity here.  He was a state rep for 10 years before becoming a congressman in 1997.  Since then he has been a congressman for most of that time.

Rodriguez' main problem is the same that it's been for years: money.  He just doesn't ever seem to be able to raise the kind of money needed for a competitive district.   Luckily for him, the district is competitive which means national attention followed by money.

As the title suggests this is a battle between name and money.  While Gallego has been able raise the money needed for a congressional race, will it be enough to overcome Rodriguez' name id in the district?  The conventional wisdom is that Gallego would be a better opponent against Canseco (mainly because he is better at raising money than Rodriguez).  Of course if you're Rodriguez, raising a ton of money in the primary might not seem like an important task.  The district was drawn to be a competitive district meaning national money is going to pour into it no matter who the nominee is.

Is this a David vs. Goliath?  Is Gallego the Goliath because he has raised more money and garnered a lot more endorsements, especially from the San Antonio political establishment?  Or is Rodriguez the Goliath because has been the congressman here and has a good deal of name id?  Is Gallego the David going up against the known entity Rodriguez?  Is Rodriguez the David trying to overcome the money and endorsements of Gallego?

It'll probably be tight no matter what.  The difference between first and second in the primary was a little over 2000 votes, but I'll go out on a limb and predict a Rodriguez win in the runoff.  Just a gut feeling...but who knows, maybe it's just indigestion.

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