Apr 27, 2004
DCCC Blog Tour: Charles Kuffner
This is the first installment of the DCCC blog tour, in which we are exchanging space and thoughts with some of the more influential and insightful members of the blogosphere. This first edition features Charles Kuffner of www.offthekuff.com, who specializes in the circus that is Texas politics- the topic of his post today:
First, I’d like to thank Jesse Lee for the opportunity to post here. I’ve been an advocate of blogging by groups like the DCCC, and I’ve been very happy with the way they’ve gone about it. Our guys get it, and that will be an advantage for us now and in the future.
I’d like to talk a little bit about the upcoming Congressional elections in Texas. Everyone knows that an aggressive redistricting scheme was pushed through the state Legislature last year in an attempt to kill off several Texas Democratic incumbents. One has already been defeated - freshman Rep. Chris Bell, who was knocked off in the March primary by Justice of the Peace Al Green. The good news here is that this is a safe Democratic district, and though Green faces a Republican challenger, he should win easily.
A second incumbent, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, won a contentious primary with Corpus Christi Judge Leticia Hinojosa by a good margin. Doggett will face a fairly well financed opponent in November, a woman who is strongly backed by the state GOP, but like Al Green, he should win easily in this heavily Democratic district.
An unexpected result of redistricting was the excruciatingly close race between Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and former Secretary of State Henry Cuellar in the primary. Rodriguez had won by a small margin originally, but a recount turned up several hundred previously uncounted votes in Cuellar’s home turf of Webb County, and this tipped the election in his favor. Rodriguez has filed suit to overturn the result; the case should be heard in May. This district too is essentially a slam-dunk for Democrats, and the GOP opponent appears weak to me. Furthermore, should Cuellar be the nominee he should have the advantage of being from Laredo, whose turnout in the primary was the key to his victory.
Of the remaining Democrats, those not targeted for extinction face mostly token opposition and should cruise in November. These include Solomon Ortiz, Sheila Jackson Lee, Silvestre Reyes, Charlie Gonzalez, Ruben Hinojosa, Gene Green, and Eddie Bernice Johnson. That’s ten out of the 32 seats in Texas all together.
Those who were removed from their old districts face tough battles of varying degree. Charlie Stenholm and Martin Frost are running against Republican incumbents Randy Neugebauer and Pete Sessions, respectively. Chet Edwards faces State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, Nick Lampson opposes former Judge Ted Poe, and Max Sandlin gets former Judge Louie Gohmert.
My level of optimism about these races changes daily. I believe that all of them are winnable, even if we are the underdog in each one. Tom DeLay and the state GOP designed these districts to be clear sailing for their acolytes, so the more we win, the bigger the accomplishment and the greater the repudiation of DeLay. It’ll be tough, but every one of these races is in play, and every candidate will have to be at his best. All of them have done well with fundraising so far, while Edwards and Sandlin have benefited from opponents who had to make it through a runoff. Make no mistake, though, each of the GOP candidates will have whatever resources they need.
Several other Democrats are taking on GOP mainstays in their own backyard, and I’d like to highlight three of the candidates whose campaigns I’ve had at least some contact with: Richard Morrison, who is taking on Tom DeLay in CD22, Morris Meyer, who is running against Smokey Joe Barton in CD06, and John Martinez, who faces John Culberson in CD07. Even if none of them carries the day in November, the fact that they are challenging strong GOP incumbents in unfavorable turf is laudible and performs the real service of forcing those guys to spend at least some time and money at home, instead of helping out fellow Republicans. We’re going to need every little edge we can get.
There’s one observation I’d like to make before I hand the reins back to Jesse and the DCCC crew, from this recent article about the Democratic incumbents’ banding together to fundraise. The article pointed to a tension between their Texas campaigns and Kerry’s Massachusetts origins.
I’m not going to criticize them for this - all of them won in 2000 and 2002 in districts that were heavily red, and all of them will be in similar or worse situations this year. They know they have a fine line to tread. What caught my eye, though, was how many of them had previously endorsed Gen. Wes Clark in the Democratic Presidential primary. If they don’t feel that campaigning with John Kerry would be beneficial to them, maybe some assistance from Gen. Clark would. I figure it can’t hurt to ask.
Thanks for your time and attention. We now return you to your regular show.