Battle for the Texas 23rd District

Two Latino candidates fight to win over Hispanic voters to take congressional seat

Rep. Canseco, Gallego AP
October 30, 2012

The congressional race in the 23rd District of Texas is the most difficult race in the country to call, according to some election experts, but Republicans say they have a solid lead with one week to go before the election.

The race between incumbent Republican Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco and Democratic candidate Pete Gallego is a toss-up, according to both election experts and the Gallego campaign.

The Canseco campaign and the Republican Party have a different take on the race, however. They believe they have the upper hand.

"Our internal polling has had Congressman Canseco up nine to 12 points for the entire month of October," said Scott Yeldell, campaign manager for Canseco.

"I would say three to four weeks ago it was the most competitive, but one week out, it’s much less competitive," Yeldell told the Washington Free Beacon.

He said Canseco has a solid lead "well outside the margin of error" and their polling data is showing "strong support by Latino voters."

The National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC) said they, too, are confident in Canseco’s position.

"All of our tracking has shown that Congressman Canseco continues to have an edge in this race," said Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for the NRCC. "We feel good on where the race is, based on what we are seeing."

When asked if the NRCC would be dedicating more resources to this race, he said it is possible but did not think it would be necessary.

The University of Virginia (UVA) Center for Politics said the race is hard to call, but the House editor at the center, Kyle Kondik, also said it is inching toward Canseco. His rating in this race is "leans Republican."

"There are no public polls of the district as far as I can tell, so there’s no data on which way the Hispanic vote is heading; in fact, there’s basically no data, period. That’s why I say it is a very difficult race to call. Because there are two Hispanic candidates, Canseco might be in position to do better than your average Republican with Hispanics," Kondik said to the Free Beacon.

The Gallego campaign also says the race is still too close to call. Spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said, "This is a toss-up, it’s all about if we get people out to vote, and then we’ll win."

The campaign, she said, will spend this final week with a final push for voters by making phone calls and knocking on doors to get a big turnout.

"Once voters know him and meet him, they will vote for him," she said of Gallego.

Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Gallego last week. Acuña said the rally drew a crowd of 3,000 and helped generate enthusiasm for the Democrat.

The Republicans said Clinton's visit to the district is telling.

"It’s a sign that they are worried," said Scarpinato, "We welcome the former president going there. It points out how radical Gallego is."

He explained that Clinton was for limited government while Gallego is "very blunt that he wants to grow government."

Kondik said Clinton has been "barnstorming the country for House candidates, and he’s obviously a very effective surrogate."

However, he also said it is difficult to tell if "such visits have any quantifiable effect."

Since the district has a huge concentration of Hispanics—66 percent of the population—getting their vote is crucial to win the race. Latinos, like all other ethnic groups in the country, believe the economy and jobs are critical issues.

"Nationally, the economy is one of the top issues for Latinos, given the impact of the recession," said Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center.

Lopez said other issues of importance to Latinos include health care, education, border security, and immigration, including a path to citizenship.

For instance, he said 89 percent of Latinos approved of President Barack Obama’s deferred action on the DREAM Act.

Outside spending in this race has picked up for Gallego. The Congressional Leadership Fund spent over $450,000 in the last week alone; the House Majority PAC spent over $320,000; and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spent over $230,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Yeldell said that the DCCC and all the left groups have spent their money against Canseco.

"Every dime they’ve spent has been against us—they are not saying why people should vote for Gallego," Yeldell said. "After all the millions they have spent, it hasn’t moved the dial."