- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Democratic Rep. Chris Bell was defeated by a former NAACP official in the primary Tuesday as Texas Democrats slugged it out with each other in newly redrawn districts.

While Mr. Bell was soundly trounced by Al Green in a Houston district, two other Democratic incumbents survived challenges in the primary. Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez pulled out a narrow victory over a former Texas secretary of state, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett easily won the Democratic nomination in a district stretching from Austin to the Mexican border.

With all precincts reporting yesterday, Mr. Rodriguez defeated Henry Cuellar by 126 votes out of more than 48,000 cast. But Mr. Cuellar was not ready to concede, holding out the possibility of asking for a recount and raising questions about vote counting.

“I think anybody would agree we should always eliminate any doubts after every election,” Mr. Cuellar said. “If there’s an election and there’s a doubt as to whether all the votes were properly counted or accurately counted, then I don’t think that’s good for our democracy or for our electoral process.”

But Mr. Rodriguez said: “All I know is that I won this election and we’re moving forward.”

An April runoff vote will be required to choose between two Republicans who hope to face Mr. Rodriguez in November.

Mr. Rodriguez, 57, said repeatedly that he felt betrayed by Mr. Cuellar’s candidacy. He said he deserved more respect after providing financial and campaign help to Mr. Cuellar in 2002, when the latter nearly defeated Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla in another district.

Mr. Cuellar had planned to run again this year against Mr. Bonilla, but the redistricting last year made Mr. Bonilla’s district more solidly Republican by including voters in San Antonio’s well-to-do northern suburbs.

After taking control of the Texas legislature, Republicans redrew the state’s districts to favor their party. Republicans have said they expect that the new district map will swing the state’s congressional 32-member delegation — now evenly divided between the two parties — to a 22-10 Republican advantage. The battle over redistricting in Texas has been appealed to the Supreme Court, which will not decide on the Democratic challenge until after the November election.

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