Democrats knock off another one in final House runoff - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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Democrats knock off another one in final House runoff

House Democrats Extend '06 Gains to 30 Seats
The Washington Post

House Democrats increased their 2006 election gains to 30 seats Tuesday, with former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez's (D) surprisingly convincing victory over Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) in a runoff election in Texas's massive 23rd District.

With 85 percent of the vote counted, Rodriguez had 54 percent to Bonilla's 46 percent, according to the Texas Secretary of State's office. As expected, Bexar County (San Antonio) cast by far the most votes in the runoff, and Rodriguez carried it by more than 5,000 votes.

"It is never easy to defeat a sitting Republican incumbent with a financial edge in a special election, but tonight, Ciro Rodriguez's victory proves that voters want more than Henry Bonilla's rubber stamp support for failed Republican policies," said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie.

Rodriguez's win comes just five weeks after Bonilla received 49 percent of the vote in a special primary on Nov. 7. Rodriguez won just 20 percent that day, while a handful of other Democrats split up the remaining votes.

The apparent key to Rodriguez's come-from-behind victory was a heavy focus by national Democrats on identifying and turning out Latino voters -- especially in Bexar County. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $100,000 on ads on Hispanic radio in the district and paid for thousands of get-out-the-vote calls. All told, the DCCC spent more than $900,000 on this race -- more than two-thirds of which went into television advertising that sought to undermine Bonilla's seeming strengths on military issues. The DCCC also gained considerable traction with spots that attacked the incumbent for supporting multiple congressional pay raises.

"Voters sent a message in November and they sent another one tonight, that change is coming to Washington," said DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).

In contrast to the heavy spending by the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee chose not to spend a dime on this race -- under the belief that Bonilla's massive financial edge (he outspent Rodriguez at a better than four-to-one clip) would be more than enough to hold the seat. It's hard not to wonder if the chaos caused within the Republican Party following its losses on Nov. 7 led to a lack of focus on the Texas runoff.

Rodriguez's victory is doubly sweet for national Democrats, since they not only pick up another seat but also scored another direct hit on the legacy of former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas). DeLay engineered the congressional re-redistricting in 2003 that led to a six-seat Republican gain in Texas in 2004. But those gains came at a price. Portions of the 2003 map, including the removal of 100,000 Hispanic voters from the 23rd District, were ruled in violation of the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court last June. The resulting changes in the district's boundaries reinstituted a strong Hispanic presence in the 23rd and led to Bonilla's loss.

Delay himself resigned amid allegations of ethical improprieties related to the 2003 remapping effort and watched from the sidelines as former Rep. Nick Lampson last month claimed the strongly Republican 22nd District that DeLay had held since 1984.

The conclusion of the 23rd District race leaves just one House contest in limbo: the one in Florida's 13th District. While auto dealer Vern Buchanan (R) has been certified as the winner, banker Christine Jennings (D) has sued the state to force an investigations into thousands of "undervotes" in the Nov. 7 election. Jennings has also asked the House Administration Committee to look into the matter when Congress reconvenes in January.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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