| (Cross-posted at DailyKos.) |
The DCCC should back former city councilman and San Antonio mayoral candidate Julian Castro because frankly, Julian is the only Democrat in the district capable of beating Henry Bonilla. A rising star in the Democratic party in Texas, Julian has the credentials, the charisma, the experience and the grassroots operation to win in November in TX-23. His personal story is also very compelling--he was raised by a single mother with limited finances in San Antonio, and went on from these humble beginnings to attend Stanford University and then Harvard Law School. After working for less than a year at a major law firm, he chose to take a huge pay cut and serve his constituents, getting elected to the San Antonio City Council in 2001 and re-elected in 2003. He narrowly lost his race for Mayor in 2005, winning almost 49 percent of the vote in a strong grassroots campaign with a massive GOTV and field operation.
If there ever was a golden opportunity to pick-up another seat in this year's House races, TX-23 is it. Bonilla's in the pocket of the oil and gas industry, and more significantly, Bonilla has very close ties to Tom DeLay.
| First, as the 2004 DeLay-Abramoff scandal started unfolding, Henry Bonilla actually introduced a House rule that would allow DeLay on to stay on in the House EVEN if he was INDICTED. Bonilla also voted for weakening House ethics rules when DeLay proposed such changes as majority leader.|
In addition, even after learning about DeLay's scandals, Bonilla continued to be one of his staunchest defenders. Read this statement from Bonilla, from AEI's own website:
Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas): "I am so happy to introduce one of the greatest leaders that this nation has ever seen, the most--one of the most honorable Americans that I've ever had the privilege of knowing and serving with, a good man, a compassionate man, a person who truly cares about his colleagues, his family, and the future of this country. I give you our wonderful Majority Leader, Tom DeLay."
On top of all of this, Bonilla accepted more than 22,000 from Delay's ARMPAC, and voted with DeLay 93% of the time, according to the DCCC's own website on Bonilla. If Dems keep hammering on the the Delay-Bonilla connection through media buys, Bonilla is very beatable.
But it's also going to require a huge grassroots, GOTV operation on the ground in San Antonio and Bexar County, which is now the real heart of CD-23 (57% of the electorate). Take a look at yesterday's article by San Antonio Express-News political reporter Jaime Castillo, who provides a solid assessment of the race, and argues that Dems should unify behind one candidate:
That's why it will be absolutely critical for local Democrats to show rare discipline by uniting behind one candidate in a race that amounts to a two-month free-for-all once the ballot is certified Sept. 6. If two or three Democrats get into the Nov. 7 race, they will lose. Pure and simple.Most Democratic insiders think the ideal candidate would be a young Hispanic with strong name identification who has the potential to dominate the South Side and pull just enough votes from Bonilla in his more Republican-leaning Northwest Bexar base.
Democrats believe the "right" candidate can attract the kind of national support from unions and other party sources that will be necessary to give Bonilla a run for his money.
The only candidate that matches Castillo's description here is Julian Castro. Frankly, Julian Castro is the only candidate capable of fielding a strong GOTV--consider that he won almost 49% of the vote in last year's mayoral race after being outspent almost 2 1/2 to 1 (Phil Hardberger had more than a million); still, Castro was able to raise an impressive $700,000 with spending caps in place. And Castillo knows it too--suggesting that Castro is the leading and strongest candidate, far stronger than Ciro Rodriguez:
"Rodriguez, now a two-time loser to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, is widely considered to be an honest man who was a loyal foot soldier for Democrats. But he's begun to take on the look of a fading horse, and it's doubtful that his candidacy would excite national donors.
That leaves the Democrats' stable of area politicos, all of whom would be taking a calculated risk by getting into the race. Former City Councilman Julián Castro is strongly considering a bid, but it would mean giving up his pursuit of the mayor's office in 2009.
Again, as Castillo points out, the "right" candidate here for the Dems is someone from Bexar County--and he's completely right: A Dem outside of Bexar County CANNOT beat Bonilla, period. Bonilla knows this--he realizes that he's very weak and vulnerable in Bexar County in the South Side of San Antonio in CD-23, and is desperately trying to re-connect with an area he hasn't campaigned in a long time, as Castillo notes:
Bonilla isn't taking the challenge lying down. He is already out telling his own South Side story, reminding people where he grew up and where his mother still lives.
But most Democrats think his support in the southern sector of the county will be soft. Party loyalists think they merely need to remind South Siders that Bonilla has steadfastly stood by polarizing former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the architect of the controversial Texas redistricting who is now in the midst of a serious ethics scandal.
And given that the district is now 61% Latino, the DCCC should back Julian Castro because he has a proven track record of mobilizing Latino support and getting them out to vote. This article demonstrates Castro's ability to mobilize an effective grassroots campaign and GOTV--Castro was able to win almost 70 percent of the Latino vote in the last mayoral campaign, despite being outspent by his millionaire opponent by more than 2 1/2 to one.
Frankly, the Hardberger campaign was surprised at how strong Castro's GOTV was, with Castro beating Hardberger by almost 5,000 votes on election day (though he lost by a larger margin in the early vote). After that campaign, I remember thinking that if Castro had been given financial support from the party or some outside source, he would have been unstoppable (but of course, it was a nonpartisan race).
Fortunately, only one year later, the Democratic party now has a golden opportunity to invest in a candidate with the best name recognition and the best grassroots, GOTV field operation in San Antonio and Bexar County. And with the strong financial backing of the DCCC, Julian Castro will be able to defeat Bonilla in San Antonio by a considerable margin, and hold his own elsewhere in Bexar County.
So if Rahm and the DCCC want to ensure that Dems take back the House this fall, why not invest in the strongest Bexar County Democratic candidate in the newly redrawn, highly competitive, TX-23? If things start getting close, TX-23 may become a must-win seat. Winning yet another competitive race, especially in Texas, would solidify Democrats' chances of taking back the House.