Published March 23, 2004
SAN ANTONIO – A congressional candidate who lost a Democratic primary by a mere 145 votes asked for a recount Monday, saying several problems on election day have left unanswered questions about the vote tally.
Henry Cuellar (search), a former lawmaker and Texas secretary of state, was defeated by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (search) two weeks ago in a district whose lines were substantially altered during last year's heated redistricting battle.
Cuellar pointed to an election day breakdown in vote-counting machinery in a county south of Laredo, and he claimed there were a series of irregularities in Bexar County, home to his opponent and the largest voting bloc in the district.
He also referred to allegations that 140 mail-in ballots were mishandled by a county commissioner in Comal County, a tiny portion of which is in District 28, and that 41 dead people in Bexar County had sought mail-in ballots.
"Clearly a dark cloud hangs over these results," Cuellar said. "We need to take a second look and recount every ballot."
Bexar County officials say Cuellar has mischaracterized what happened with the vote.
Rodriguez said he anticipated Cuellar's move, though he cannot see much room for change in the outcome. "I expect that the results after the recount should be about the same," he said.
The Texas Democratic Party's final canvass of votes in the March 9 primary showed Rodriguez with 24,363, or 50.1 percent, and Cuellar at 24,218, or 49.9 percent.
In Texas, candidates seeking recounts are required to pay for the tally, and their money is refunded if they end up the winner.
Mike Levine, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, confirmed that the Cuellar campaign had filed the recount paperwork, along with a check for $13,930. The Secretary of State's office estimated that amount as the cost of a manual hand recount of the entire district, which stretches from San Antonio to the Mexico border.