The longtime Corpus Christi Democratic congressman and political boss is facing a stiff challenge from Republican Blake Farenthold. He is the step-grandson of Sissy Farenthold, the onetime leader of the Dirty Thirty in the Texas House of Representatives during the 1971 Sharpstown Scandal, who finished second (to Dolph Briscoe) in the 1972 Democratic gubernatorial primary, knocking Ben Barnes out of the race and ending his promising political career. Now another Farenthold is positioned to knock off Ortiz. Word on the street in Corpus Christi is that Farenthold has an 8 point lead in the district, which runs south along the coast to the Rio Grande and upriver into Hidalgo County, and an even bigger lead in Nueces County.
Few Texans realize what is going on in Nueces County. It is going to be the state's first Republican Hispanic county. The Republicans have recruited several Hispanic women in local races this fall. One of the main reasons for this evolution is Ortiz, whose strong personality has made him a polarizing figure in regional politics and divided Democrats. He may have committed the mistake of staying too long. His political machine is leaking oil; Ortiz-backed candidates performed poorly in spring elections in Nueces and nearby San Patricio counties.
A Farenthold victory would be a huge symbolic win for the Republican party--capturing a Democratic seat and establishing a beachhead in South Texas. It could also have an impact on other local races, including those of Democratic state representatives Solomon Ortiz Jr. and Abel Herrero.
UPDATE: county returns in 2008 (Ortiz, D vs. Vaden R)
San Patricio: Vaden 59.98%, Ortiz 35.86%
Nueces: Ortiz (D) 52.51%, Vaden 43.56%
Kleberg: Ortiz 62.55%, Vaden 34.03%
Willacy: Ortiz 74.41%, Vaden 22.59%
Cameron: Ortiz 70.78%, Vadem 35/4-%
I omitted the lightly populated counties that include the King Ranch. It is obvious here that Ortiz is weakest in the north end of the district (Nueces and San Patricio) and strongest in the southern end.
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