Cuellar Leads Incumbent Rep. Rodriguez in Texas Recount

Former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar (search) finished with a 203-vote lead Thursday over Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (search) in a Democratic congressional primary, according to an initial recount of all counties in the district.

Cuellar sought the recount last week after trailing Rodriguez by only 145 votes out of more than 48,000 cast in the March 9 primary.

It is still too early for Cuellar to be declared the winner, however.

That is because the recount vote total in Webb County was 115 ballots greater than the number of ballots counted on primary night. Another recount is scheduled there on Sunday.

"We're on a roll right now," said Cuellar, who lives in Webb County. "I'm very happy so far with the results."

The turn of events has stunned Rodriguez, who said Wednesday that he will file a lawsuit challenging the totals in Webb and Zapata counties once the recount is completed.

Nearly all of Cuellar's gains came in those two counties. In Webb County, he netted 177 additional votes in the recount, while his total increased by 170 votes in Zapata.

The San Antonio-area district was substantially redrawn during last year's heated redistricting battle. Republicans hope the new map will help them win at least 22 of Texas' 32 congressional seats, now split evenly between the parties. Democratic legislators twice fled the state in attempts to thwart the GOP effort.

In 2002 Cuellar — a longtime Democratic legislator who briefly served as secretary of state under GOP Gov. Rick Perry (search) — came close to knocking off U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla (search).

Cuellar was preparing for another run at Bonilla when the redistricting effort placed half of Webb County in Rodriguez's heavily Democratic district. At that point Cuellar turned his sights on Rodriguez, a former friend and colleague in the Texas House.