As this story went to press it was reported that former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat, had defeated his opponent, seven-term Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla, in a stunning upset on Dec. 12. The vote tally showed Rodriguez getting 54 percent of the vote to Bonilla’s 45 percent.

SAN ANTONIO — About 2,000 people filled the gymnasium at Palo Alto Community College Dec. 10 for a rally in support of Ciro Rodriguez in anticipation of the Dec. 12 runoff election pitting him against Republican Henry Bonilla for the 23rd Congressional District seat.

At the rally, Los Texmaniacs, regional favorites, provided music. The emcees alternated between South Texas television personalities Monclovio Herrera and Johnny Canales.

Supporters who took to the podium to express their support included U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, state Rep. Leticia Van de Putte, former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros and Boyd Ritchie, state chair of the Democratic Party. Their overall message was that the November elections and their progressive wins called for continued election of progressive lawmakers like Rodriguez, lawmakers who can work in the new country’s new political landscape.

Speakers pointed out the damage wrought over the last six years in the areas of education, health insurance, and employment. They pointed to the increased economic marginalization of working families and growing number of U.S. soldiers in harm’s way.

Van de Putte reminded the audience of former Rep. Tom Delay’s gerrymandering attempts that led progressive Texas lawmakers to leave for Albuquerque, N.M., to break the quorum necessary to do so. “We have the opportunity,” she said, “to fight the culture of corruption. We need someone who will work for working families, not rich corporate interests.”

Henry Cisneros said, “We had a political earthquake in November. [Washington] needs the support of people like Ciro Rodriguez.” He also indicated that, although Bonilla grew up in the working-class south side of San Antonio, “he has not been voting its interests.”

The already animated crowd became even more excited when former President Bill Clinton took to the stage with Los Texmaniacs playing the famous South Texas polka, “Viva Seguin.”

Clinton said the federal government under George W. Bush has acknowledged that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has created more terrorists than it has defeated. He also contrasted the gains won through by Rodriguez’s work as a congressman during Clinton’s administration with the exponential increase in poverty and unemployment since the congressman left office.

“Even in Tom Delay’s district they’re saying ‘We’ve had enough!’” Clinton said. He characterized Republicans in Washington as being such narrow-minded “ideologues” that “when they’ve dug themselves into a hole, they ask for a bigger shovel.”

Ciro Rodriguez said, “We will vote for a change for working families … and for veterans to get the respect they need … so senior citizens don’t have to choose between their food and their medication.”

He reminded supporters that the day of the election corresponded with the feast day of the Virgen de Guadalupe — a religious icon for many Mexicans, Chicanos and Native Americans, suggesting that it would be auspicious for people of Mexican heritage to vote.