Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Texas 23rd – Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) is seeking a 5th full term
Primary: March 2, 2010; Runoff: April 13, 2010
Location: Southwestern Texas
Days until Election Day: 85
Republicans in the Lone Star State see an opportunity to oust Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who is still relatively new to voters in the massive 23rd congressional district despite serving in Congress for over 11 years.
Rodriguez first took office in April 1997 after winning a special election to replace the late Democratic Rep. Frank Tejeda in the neighboring 28th district. He won re-election to this seat three times with impressive vote percentages in the 70 to 90 percent range. He served for almost eight years but then lost a bitter primary challenge to Democrat Henry Cuellar in 2004. In 2006, after a court-ordered redrawing of some district boundaries, Rodriguez ran in the newly redrawn 23rd district and defeated GOP incumbent Rep. Henry Bonilla in a December runoff, 54 percent to 46 percent. He was re-elected in 2008 with 56 percent.
Rodriguez has been a reliable Democratic vote in Congress and has supported most of the party's major legislative initiatives, such as health care reform and the economic stimulus package. He did buck his party on at least one key vote, the "cap and trade" energy proposal, which he voted against.
Facing Rodriguez in the November general election will be Republican Francisco "Quico" Canseco, a wealthy commercial real estate developer. This is his third bid for Congress but his first as the party's nominee. He previously ran in 2004 in the 28th district, but like Rodriguez that year, lost his party's nomination for that seat. He ran again in 2008 in the 23rd district hoping to face Rodriguez in the general but placed a distant second in the GOP primary after spending $911,000 of his own money.
By the end of June, Rodriguez had outraised Canseco in total contributions for the cycle and had more cash in the bank, with $702,000 to Canseco's $453,000. However, the incumbent Democrat has two things to worry about when it comes to finances. First, Canseco outraised him in contributions from April through June, $208,000 to $168,000. Second, Canseco has already loaned himself $598,000 from his own funds and, if his previous congressional bids are any indication, is prepared to kick in much more.
Texas 23rd is immense in size. At more than 48,000 square miles, it is Texas' largest congressional district and larger than 19 states. It stretches from the San Antonio area to the East to the El Paso area to the West. President Obama won the district narrowly in 2008 with 51 percent, with Republican John McCain receiving 48 percent. President Bush received 57 percent of the vote in this region during his 2004 presidential bid. Hispanics make up 65 percent of the population, less than the 79 percent they comprise in Rodriguez's old 28th district.
Though he has two wins under his belt in this district, Rodriguez has not been able to rack up the impressive re-election numbers in this more competitive region that he was used to receiving in his old seat. The Ciro/Quico match-up of 2010 may not reach epic proportions, but it could become just competitive enough to give Democrats another seat to worry about in November.