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Heard from the 23rd

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Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a major PR/politics/polling firm based in Washington and San Francisco, recently (August 10-15) conducted a poll in the 23rd congressional district. Here are the results of the telephone survey of 405 likely voters (margin of error: +/- 4.9%):

Henry Bonilla 44% (incumbent Republican)
Ciro Rodriguez 24% (former congressman in District 28)
Pete Gallego 11% (Democratic state representative from Alpine)
Albert Uresti 7% (brother of Democratic senate primary winner Carlos Uresti, of San Antonio)
Richard Perez 3% (San Antonio city council member)
Rick Bolanos 1% (won the ’06 Democratic primary in the old District 23, of El Pas0)
Virgil Yanta 1% (losing candidate in the ’04 Democratic primary)
Libertarian 1%
Undecided 6%

This list is a little out of date. Today was the filing deadline. Gallego, Perez, and Yanta did not make the race. Nor did former San Antonio mayor Ed Garza. Uresti and Bolanos are in. So is San Antonio rancher and investor Luke Gilliland (see yesterday’s post, “A Third for the 23rd”).

The poll analysis is thinly disguised cheerleading for Rodriguez:

*”The district is now fertile terrain for Democrats and a Democrat has a real opportunity to win the seat this year. Ciro Rodriguez is by far the strongest Democratic candidate and offers Democrats their best chance to knock off another Republican incumbent. The new 23rd CD tilts Democratic: The poll found that a plurality of voters in the district identifies themselves as Democrats and that Democratic candidates currently draw more support in total than long-time Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla. Specifically, all of the Democratic candidates we tested in the survey draw a total of 47 percent of the vote. In comparison, Bonilla only garners 44 percent of the vote, falling well short of the majority needed to win the election outright in November and avoid a December run-off. With only 6 percent remaining undecided, there is little room for the incumbent to gain much ground.”

*”Rodriguez is particularly well-known and popular in Bexar County, home to San Antonio and the most populated county in the district, where his name identification and favorability ratings are high and he draws considerable support. With a solid base of support and with so few undecided voters, Rodriguez is extremely well positioned to make it into a December run-off against Congressman Bonilla.”

*”Overall, this poll indicates that this district is very competitive and that a Democrat can win this seat, especially if the Democratic nominee has the resources to compete.”

I think Gilliland changes the equation even more in the Democrats’ favor. He comes from a wealthy Alamo Heights family and rates to draw some Republican votes away from Bonilla. The Democratic strategy will be to hold Bonilla under 50 percent and force him into a head-to-head runoff with their leading vote-getter.

Otherwise, the analysis is very optimistic. Bonilla is a longtime incumbent who has been running for years in the desert country west of San Antonio all the way to El Paso. None of the Democrats, including Rodriguez, is known out there. Bonilla has $2 million in the bank and will have anything extra he needs. Rodriguez doesn’t have enough money to compete. That’s what this poll is all about. It’s something Rodriguez can take to national Democratic strategists who hand out the money. A lot of Democrats are competing for money from the national party and related organizations in 40 to 50 districts nationwide, and Rodriguez so far has not been regarded as somebody who can win. This poll might pry the coffers open. Gilliland, on the other hand, has the resources to conduct a campaign out of his own wallet. But it’s hard to imagine an Anglo finishing second in a 60%+ Hispanic district.

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