Huge victory for labor in southwest Texas

Labor-backed Ciro Rodriguez defeated Republican Henry Bonilla, a seven-term incumbent, in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, delivering a knockout blow to the right wing. Rodriguez garnered 54 percent of the vote in the Dec. 12 runoff election, adding another Democrat to Congress. Democrats will have a 233-202 majority over Republicans in 2007.

The 23rd CD, which is located in the southwestern part of Texas and which abuts San Antonio, is the largest congressional district in the state.

Bonilla had a near-zero percent voting record supporting working families, whereas Rodriguez had a near-100-percent pro-labor record. Organized labor and its allies ran a tremendous get-out-the-vote effort, resulting in this victory in a district that had previously been thought to be up for grabs. The American Postal Workers’ Union Local 195 and the United Transportation Union members were key in the campaign.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also provided support to counter Bonilla’s huge financial advantage.

Bonilla’s backing of the border wall clearly hurt him as well as his negative campaign attack ads against Rodriguez and his continued support for the disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and President Bush.

This was the second time this year that DeLay’s redistricting plan resulted in disaster for the GOP in Texas. Labor-backed Democrat Nick Lampson delivered the first punch to the right wing when he won the seat previously held by DeLay in the Houston area. DeLay was forced to resign after being indicted for money-laundering.

DeLay maneuvered in the early 2000s to get an unconstitutional redistricting map passed in the Legislature, which was supposed to benefit Bonilla by injecting an additional 100,000 Republicans who are mainly white into the 23rd CD. But the Supreme Court threw out the DeLay map. A special runoff election was called after no one got more than 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 7.

Rodriguez, who held a House seat from 1997-2004, was welcomed back to Washington with an appointment to a seat on the House Appropriations committee that oversees government spending. He will represent a U.S.-Mexico border district where communities still lack running water and electricity. He is also known to support veterans’ benefits, having previously served on the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services committees. However, he is not hawkish, and he opposed the 2002 resolution that led to the war in Iraq.

Working people in south Texas made a dramatic statement as to whose side they are on, many activists commented.

phill2 @ houston.rr.com