Let the ugliness begin
Sunset Station was packed with local business leaders to consider poultry and politics Monday as former U.S. Representative Ciro Rodriguez squared off in a Democratic Primary debate with his nemesis, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, who beat Rodriguez, the long-time incumbent in the 2004 election.
Sparks flew between the pair, as Rodriguez accused Cuellar of not living in District 28, which covers an area from Laredo to parts of San Antonio and both claimed achievements in education, health care and economic development.
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Asked by the Current about his residence during the 2004 election, Cuellar refused to answer.
“Cuellar does not live in District 28,” Rodriguez contended. “Have you registered to vote in District 28, where you don’t live. Cuellar has sold out the people of the 28th Congressional District.”
Before House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Co.’s masterful recarving of Texas Congressional districts, Cuellar ran in District 23, where he lives. That forced him to run against Republican Henry Bonilla (who contributed to DeLay’s Legal Defense Fund) in 2000. Cuellar lost 52-47. After the Congressional chessboard was rearranged, Cuellar, while living in the same place, ran in District 28 in 2004 and beat Rodriguez by 58 votes in the primary — after six ballot boxes mysteriously emerged in Zapata County a month after the primary.
Rodriguez also alleged that Cuellar has signed onto a Republican agenda. Cuellar drew criticism over a photo in the Washington Post last week that showed President George Bush holding his head and smiling at him after the State of the Union address; Cuellar endorsed Bush in 2000. Cuellar also answered an accusation that he sat on the Republican side of the capital chamber during the address. Cuellar said Monday that he stood in the aisle during Bush’s speech, although he previously told the media, "It's the U.S. Congress side. I didn't see any sign that says Democratic or Republican."
“The American people are concerned ... the Republican agenda works against them. Cuellar gives them more reason to lose faith,” Rodriguez charged early in the debate. He also said Cuellar has received endorsements from Republicans, he has watered down Social Security and gutted minimum wage.
Cuellar said he has made 255 visits to local communities and has operated one of the “most successful offices” in the district. “Your priority is my priority. I work with everybody to get the job done. I said I would represent all people, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation.”
Rodriguez said during his terms of office he fought hard for education, “We have the responsibility and obligation to fund public schools. Vouchers are fine, but not to use existing funding of public schools for private schools.”
Cuellar countered by saying he passed more legislation in one year than Rodriguez did during eight years in office. “Being there is one thing, getting results is another thing.” •
By Michael Cary