Ciro Rodriguez Back In Congress, A Twisted Redistricting Story From Texas

A little story from Texas today. We added one more congressman yesterday who has supported Utah’s interests on issues like nuclear testing and public lands conservation. But the way it happened has some partisan redistricting twists.

In 2002 Democrats hoped to replace San Antonio Congressman Henry Bonilla (R-TX) with candidate Henry Cuellar. We lost by a hair, 51%-47%.

In 2003 Tom DeLay used strong arm tactics (for which he has since been indicted) to persuade the Texas legislature to redraw congressional districts. One goal was to move Henry Cuellar and his hometown of Laredo into another San Antonio based district then represented by progressive Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX).

In 2004 Henry Cuellar challenged Representative Rodriguez in a primary and lost an even closer race. But then new boxes of previously unknown votes were ‘discovered’ in Laredo that pushed Cuellar into the lead by 203 votes. Rodriguez’s campaign lawyers missed the deadlines or misfiled the paperwork to challenge the suspicious votes.

Congressman Cuellar joined Congress in 2005, but Rodriguez filed to run again in the primary in 2006. With no Republican filing in the race, it was effectively the first general election of 2006. Cuellar won the primary by 13%, winning a strong victory in Laredo while Rodriguez won in San Antonio.

But in Summer of 2006 federal courts rules that the 2003 redistricting violated the Voting Rights Act by dividing Latino voters in an effort to deprive them of their voice in Henry Bonilla’s district. Now Henry Cuellar is in his own Laredo district and Rodriguez and Bonilla are together in a San Antonio based district. After the court decision there wasn’t time for a regular primary so the primary was held on November 7th and the general election was December 12th.

That meant Rodriguez was in both the first and last general election for Congress in 2006 and while he lost the first he won the second.

With the Rodriguez victory 55%-45% over Bonilla we have both Democrats Cuellar and Rodriguez in Congress, so the story has a happy ending.

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