Prelude to the 2004 General Election

In the counties of Webb and Zapata, Texas, the Republican candidate got a big present from somebody, but who? (click for story). In what sounds like a bad mini playback of the 2000 Bush/Gore fiasco in Florida, the lead of the Democratic candidate was wiped out in a recount. That’s not as interesting as the fact that an EXTRA 115 votes showed up in the recount. These votes weren’t reported by the counties on election day. And what’s even more interesting is that all 115 votes went to the Republican candidate.

What are the odds on that? About the same as being bit by a shark while piloting the Goodyear blimp? Something is going wrong in Texas, besides the Bush legacy. NEW: Democratic Party rejects request for third Webb recount

Web Posted: 04/02/2004 03:11 PM CST

Rebeca Rodriguez
San Antonio Express-News

The Texas Democratic Party rejected a request today from Webb County party officials to count for a third time disputed ballots from the 28th Congressional District primary race, saying that the result of the clouded election is best decided in a court of law.

“There is little doubt that something sketchy is going on in Zapata and Webb counties,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting. “I feel strongly that there ought to be a recount. That recount should occur under the watchful eye of a judge, and any comments about how extra ballots appeared should be made under oath.

“Not having a re-recount on Sunday will allow this to happen even sooner,” he said.

Nevertheless, Webb County Democratic Party Chairman Roberto Balli said he was disappointed by the state party’s decision.

“I feel like I was the only one with the courage to stand up and say what needed to be done,” Balli said.

The action scuttled plans for a Sunday re-recount of votes cast in the border county, one of 11 in the district that recounted ballots this week in an attempt to determine a winner between U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and Henry Cuellar.

That recount erased a 145-vote lead for Rodriguez after the March 9 primary and put Cuellar, a former Laredo lawmaker and Texas secretary of state, ahead by 203 votes.

The Webb County results, however, raised more questions in the already disputed election because the recount turned up 115 more votes than were cast on election day. All 115 of those votes, plus an additional 62, went to Cuellar.

That scenario, combined with election-day tabulation woes that led Zapata County officials to turn up more votes in a recount there as well, has prompted Rodriguez, the incumbent congressman from San Antonio, to consider legal action.

Rodriguez’s attorney, Buck Wood, said he was not shocked by the decision not to hold a re-recount because an examination of the questionable ballots will be the subject of a potential lawsuit anyway.

Wood said that lawsuit will likely be filed early next week.

rrodriguez@express-news.net

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