Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Senate District 19: A Full Story

Harvey Kronberg has a great piece on the Madla vs Uresti slugfest. Here is what he has to say about SD 19:

Covering some of the poorest and most isolated territory in the state, SD 19 starts in western and southern Bexar County and stretches to the border and across the Big Bend region to the edge of El Paso. All told, the district covers more than 55,000 square miles and is larger than 18 states.

The military has a strong presence here with San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base and Del Rio’s Laughlin Air Force Base both located in the district. Roughly 10,500 district residents are in the armed forces, according to census figures.

Uresti, a former Marine, said the veterans’ vote is an "X factor" that could tip the election in his favor.

According to Larry Romo, state chairman of the Texas Democratic Veterans, the number of active military belies the real strength of soldiers’ clout at the polls. Add veterans and their families and they boost the total of military in the district to roughly 128,000, or 20 percent, of SD 19. Uresti can count on the support of four-fifths of the veterans who show up at the polls, Romo said.

Several of the VFW post’s officers criticized Madla, whose San Antonio district office is about a mile south of the post, for never visiting them. A former post commander, Eddie Rodriguez, accused Madla of "fat-catting" in Austin.

The incumbent denied that he hasn’t delivered for veterans, claiming credit for past legislation that helped fund some schools on military bases and provided children of veterans with financial assistance for college.

The two also spar over who can better represent the rural part of the district west of San Antonio. Nearly half of the district’s residents live west of Bexar County. Uresti quickly rattles off officeholders in Eagle Pass, Uvalde and Reeves County who back him because they say the incumbent doesn’t visit often enough.

In a district with so many residents in poverty, Uresti has focused on a vote taken by Madla in 2003 to allow debate on a massive reorganization of the state agency in charge of distributing social services.

The bill led to cutbacks in certain components of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides low-cost health insurance for families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to purchase insurance on their own. Since the cuts, more than 180,000 children have left the program.

"He has been voting like a Republican," Uresti said. "The problem is that Senate District 19 needs someone who has the courage to fight for them."

Madla said he he’ll probably spend about $500,000 – reflecting the high cost of television, campaign signs and travel in a district as expansive as SD 19. Uresti estimated he’ll need another $200,000 to $300,000.

You can visit Frank Madla's site here and Carlos Uresti's site here.


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