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Vetting Bonilla

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Now is the time for all good members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to come to the aid of their party–even if the beneficiary is a huge underdog. According to the Washington Post’s political blog, The Fix, the DCCC is spending $154,000 on a TV spot for Ciro Rodriguez, who is challenging incumbent Republican Henry Bonilla in a December 12 runoff to represent the 23rd congressional district, which covers just about everything between San Antonio and El Paso. The ad takes aim at Bonilla’s voting record on veterans’ benefits. Here is the text:

“Our heroes. Fighting for freedom overseas. Needing health care when they return. But Henry Bonilla voted to cut billions of dollars in veterans’ benefits, voted against extending health care to our National Guard. Henry Bonilla has neglected our vets. Ciro Rodriguez fights for our returning heroes. He backed fully funding veterans’ health care so veterans get what they were promised. Ciro Rodriguez, the change we need.”

This is a good spot, especially in San Antonio, a military town. The most damning phrases appear next to photographs of Bonilla, with a voice-over delivering the message. Is it my imagination or does the narrator pronounce Bonilla’s name in a way that sounds like an Anglo who mangles Spanish, while pronouncing Rodriguez’s name with all the right Spanish inflections? The spot has a heavy load to carry. If this were a boxing match, with measurements given as a “tale of the tape,” the fight might not be allowed to take place.

Percent in the first election: Bonilla 49, Rodriguez 20
Votes in the first election: Bonilla 60,147, Rodriguez 24,593
Cash on hand (late October): Bonilla $1.4 million, Rodriguez $40,000 debt
Percent won by statewide candidates in the district in ’04: Republicans 53%, Democrats 47%

If Rodriguez had more money and more time, he might be able to capitalize on Bonilla’s voting record, but he has neither. Bonilla should hold the seat with 56-57% of the vote.

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