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[Cross-posted at Daily Kos, MyDD, Swing State Project, and My Left Wing.]

"You win some.  You lose some.  And then there's that little known third category."  - Al Gore -

In 2006, there were nineteen netroots candidates.  Seven of them were elected.  Eight of them lost.  Three (Darcy Burner, Larry Kissell, Gary Trauner) are still locked in tight counts or recounts.  Not a bad record for a list that in 2004 went 0-for-15.

But what we're liable to forget is that one of our candidates is still out there facing not just a recount, but an actual election -- and one in which he has a fighting chance of winning.  With all the euphoria about our smashing victory on November 7th, we should not neglect one of our own in his electoral battle just because the race isn't essential to our control of Congress.  If we are to be a viable political movement, we need to practice loyalty to our candidates, no matter what the circumstances of their run.

I'm talking, of course, about former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez.

As you may recall, when we last saw Ciro, he had just lost a contentious and hard-fought primary against DINO Congressman Henry Cuellar.  For most candidates, defeat in a primary spells the end of their candidacies for at least one election cycle.  But Ciro was given a chance to rise like a phoenix from the ashes because of a quirk in the Texas districting process.

In August, a federal judge struck down part of Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting plan, arguing that it disadvantaged Hispanics.  The redrawn district map removed Ciro from Cuellar's district and placed him in a district held by a Republican, Henry Bonilla.  Bonilla's district, accordingly, was changed from a Republican area into a truly swing district.  Finally, a special election was set for the district: anyone who filed could run on November 7th, but if one candidate failed to win fifty percent outright, the top two candidates would move on to a runoff in December.

Ciro, along with six other candidates, signed up to challenge Bonilla in the new district.  He made some mistakes coming out of the gate, including dropping out and then dropping back in.  After this misstep, most commentators painted the race as finished: Bonilla would stroll to an outright majority on November 7.

But all by himself, with no help from either the national party or the netroots, Ciro managed to hold Bonilla below the magic 50% mark.  The final results (from CNN:

Bonilla (R): 48%
Rodriguez (D): 20%
Uresti (D): 12%
Gilliland (D): 11%
Stephens (I): 3%
Beltran (D): 2%
Bolanos (D): 2%
DeLeon (D): 2%

For the uninitiated, Gilliand, a wealthy Democrat, was supposed to be Ciro's main competition for the second spot; his anemic totals are a testament to Ciro's strength in the new district.

In addition to these encouraging numbers, knocking off Bonilla would be an important step in bringing Texas back into the Democratic fold.  BBonilla fashions himself the next Senator from Texas and is backed by heavyweights such as Phil Gramm and former Congressman Tom Loeffler.  Beating such a rising star in Texas Republican politics would serve notice that Democrats are not giving up in Texas any time soon.

I could go on and on, but I'll let Ciro speak for himself:

Dear Fellow Texans,

Good Afternoon!

I thank the citizens of the 23rd District for their votes and confidence in me. I ask all Democrats and voters of the 23rd to join us to win this December run-offelection, and make history.

It would be my honor and privilege to represent you as Congressman for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. I humbly ask for your support and vote.

As election day is here, I want to ask you to vote and your families vote. I ask you to help get everyone you know to go vote for Ciro D. Rodriguez for Congress. Your support in what is no doubt one of the most critical races of 2006 is important and it can make a difference.

This congressional district stretches from South San Antonio in Bexar County, west to the eastern edge of El Paso County and south along the U.S./Mexico border from El Paso to Eagle Pass. It is home to Big Bend National Park our most pristine wilderness area. It is urban and rural. Its diversity is what makes it beautiful. I feel confident that I have the experience, shared values and background to represent you.

I believe this race matters to you. For 14 years, this district has been represented by an incumbent whose ties to special interests are much stronger than his ties to this district. As a congressman, Henry Bonilla has voted to cut federal college student aid by $12.7 billion, voted to erode worker's rights and overtime protection. He voted in favor of national budgets resulting in a debt of almost 9 trillion dollars. Gasoline prices are through the roof, but, Bonilla's friends in the oil industry rake in record profits. However, Bonilla continues to vote to give the energy companies subsidies and tax breaks. He continues to support a war in Iraq with no exit strategy.

Our call to action is the same one that echoes throughout this country: Let's turn this country around...Enough is enough--let's bring back America.

As I have visited the counties and cities in the district, my belief that this office belongs to you, the people and not special interests has been strengthened. I have served in Congress for four terms and as past chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. I've worked to ensure the delivery of clean safe water to border communities. I have worked and will continue to fight for affordable health care and real prescription drug coverage at lower costs. With your support, I will continue to speak out for more monies to fund student loans and decreasing their interest rates because our future rests with our young people.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I voted against the authorization for the war in Iraq. However, I will continue the fight for all our veterans to get the services they and their families need.

With your help, we can seize this opportunity to unseat this out of touch republican incumbent. Together, we can change the balance of power in a congress that is taking America in the wrong direction. I believe we are at an important crossroads for our country. The battle for the control of congress is a battle for the direction of this country. Times like these call for a change in congress.

Individual supporters such as you--and not special interests--will allow me to join my Democratic colleagues. Please consider sending a contribution of $25.00, $50.00, $100.00, or $250.00 today. Federal law allows contributions to this special election of up to $2100.00 per individual. Make checks payable to: Ciro D. Rodriguez for Congress. Please send your generous contribution to: PO Box 14528, San Antonio, TX 78214 or online at www.cirodrodriguez.com. Your personal contribution is critical. Together, we can win this seat and bring America back to the people.

Sincerely,

Ciro Rodriguez

How can you help?  Sign up to volunteer for or get e-mails from Ciro.  Donate to his campaign.  And most importantly, don't let up the pressure.  We should and we CAN win this seat.  Whether we do or not is entirely up to us.

[Update] Another good argument from BasharH in comments:

People in the district no doubt are now aware that the Democrats control the House. Wouldn't it be logical to have the voters now embrace Candidate Rodriguez so that their district is represented in the House within the majority party instead of the new minority party?
It's time to help the people of TX-23 get the quality Congressional representation they deserve.

[Update II} From Adam T in comments:

THIS IS A WINNABLE DISTICT. The combined total from the election was D 49% R 48%.

Originally posted to Nonpartisan on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 02:26 PM PST.

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