Luis Vera Jr., the national general counsel for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) who is also serving as Rodríguez’s campaign treasurer, criticized the date Perry set late Tuesday.
“This is a strategic move to suppress the Latino vote, because they are afraid the vote will go for Mr. Rodríguez,” Vera said.
Despite his ties to Rodríguez, Vera emphasized the group’s goal was to protect Latino voting rights not to help either candidate. A LULAC news release opposing the date also carried the names of Rosa Rosales, LULAC national president, and Roger Rocha, LULAC’s Texas state director.
Dec. 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some Latino communities in the district that stretches over a large swath of West and southwest Texas and part of San Antonio attend processions, Mass and family gatherings to honor the day celebrating the appearance of the Virgin before Indian peasant Juan Diego in México in 1531.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the patron saint of México and Latin America.
Perry announced the date after the end of the business day. Early voting would begin Dec. 4. LULAC says the election should be set no earlier than Dec. 19, with early voting beginning Dec. 11 to give ample notice to voters.
Kathy Walt, Perry’s spokeswoman, said the court ordered the secretary of state to set the runoff date as soon as possible. She said the Nov. 7 votes weren’t canvassed until Tuesday because one county had not reported results.
Secretary of State Roger Williams worked with the governor to set the date and followed the state election code. A later election would run into the Christmas holidays, said Williams’ spokesman Scott Haywood.
He said Williams does not plan to change the date. Rodríguez opposed Dec. 12. A Bonilla spokesman said it was fair.
The date means a shortened campaign period, which could work against Rodríguez. Bonilla had $1.94 million cash on hand in mid-October, according to a report filed Oct. 26. He raised another $205,500 after filing the report, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Rodríguez reported he had $22,996 in cash by mid October and raised another $12,000 in the days before the elections. His FEC reports show his committee owes about $45,000 in campaign debt.
The Supreme Court ruled last summer that Texas reduced Latino voting strength in the district by redrawing its boundaries in 2003. The changes were part of a redistricting scheme led by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay that included the goal of boosting re-election chances for Bonilla, whose popularity among Latinos was eroding.
District 23 once took in all of Webb County, home to Laredo, a city on the Texas-México border. In that configuration, Bonilla won his 2002 race with only 52 percent of the vote. Under DeLay’s redistricting plan, 100,000 Latinos were removed from the district, in part by splitting Webb County, and Bonilla won with 69 percent.
A federal court redrew the district again, increasing the Latino voting age population to 61 percent from 51 percent and throwing open the race for the District 23 seat.
On the Net: LULAC: http://www.lulac.org