A Texas congressman's re-election hopes stayed alive Wednesday when a state appeals court sided with him in a lawsuit that alleges vote fraud during the March Democratic primary.

By a 2-1 vote, a 4th Court of Appeals panel overturned a lower-court judge who had ruled that U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (search) could not challenge the eligibility of hundreds voters in Webb and Zapata counties or conduct a full inspection of ballots for signs of tampering.

Rodriguez, a seven-year incumbent, trails Laredo lawyer Henry Cuellar (search) by 58 votes out of nearly 50,000 cast in the district that runs in a corridor from San Marcos to the Mexican border.

Cuellar said he will ask for a hearing before the full seven-member appeals court. If his appeal is rejected, the case will go back to state court for a trial.

Cuellar was behind on primary night but swung into the lead during a recount. Most of his new support came from more than 200 previously untallied ballots discovered in Webb County, where he lives, and in neighboring Zapata County.