In the last five months, incumbent Democrat Ciro Rodriguez went from supremely confident – having won his last election by 56 percent — to seriously in trouble. It’s a tough campaign slog in District 23, which jogs 785 miles from the suburbs of San Antonio to east El Paso. Block walking requires frequent flier miles. Not to mention that the voters are fickle. Obama only won the district by a narrow margin in 2008, and a Republican once held the seat. It’s all too tantalizing for the GOP, which would like to have a Hispanic Republican representative in its ranks again.
The GOP is investing thousands in Francisco “Quico” Canseco’s campaign. Republicans have designated the attorney and businessman a “Young Gun,” which helps money flow in from national donors. It also didn’t help Rodriguez when a GOP operative called him a “liar” during a town hall meeting at a Mexican restaurant then videotaped the candidate becoming unglued. The video clip of the raging Rodriguez went viral. The Democratic Party responded by throwing high dollar fundraisers for Rodriguez and flying in a big gun, former President Bill Clinton, to raise more mega bucks and barnstorm the district.
The real battle will come down to San Antonio – where a majority of the district’s voters live. Both Rodriguez and Canseco call the Alamo City home. And both candidates are fighting to portray themselves as the candidate most in touch with la gente. Rodriguez has been seen in a guayabera shirt shaking hands and kissing babies at local San Antonio eateries in a bid to convince voters he hasn’t been inside the Beltway too long. Wealthy businessman Canseco, who made his millions in banking, is touting himself as a small business owner who speaks “Spanish, Tex-Mex and barrio.”
Rodriguez will have to ride out a tough anti-incumbent wave to win against his most formidable GOP opponent yet. But after three elections, the 64-year old Democrat knows that a win in the largest district in Texas won’t come cheap or easy.