Texas Congressional Races Attract CU Money

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Credit unions continued to pour campaign funds last month into the chaotic congressional races in Texas, amidst the upheaval of the controversial redistricting.

CUNA said it contributed a total of $25,000 to 10 different Texas House candidates last month, making a total of $105,000 contributed to Texans so far in the 2003-2004 elections. Contributions last month went to: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay ($5,000) freshmen Republican Reps. Randy Neugebauer ($4,000) and Jeb Hensarling ($2,000); Ron Paul ($4,000); Kay Granger ($1,000); Kevin Brady ($1,000); and Democrat-turned-Republican Ralph Hall ($1,000); as well as Democrats Max Sandlin ($2,000); Ruben Hinojosa ($2,000); and Chris Bell ($3,000), who lost in last month's primary, the first victim of the redistricting.

Another victim of the redistricting, albeit an unexpected one, was four-term Democrat Ciro Rodriguez, whose close primary victory was reversed after a recount. But Rodriguez, who was originally elected with heavy credit union support, filed suit challenging the recount that erased his 142-vote margin over former Secretary of State Henry Cuellar and put him 203 votes behind. The race reflects some of the strategy behind the Republican-drawn redistricting as it pitted two popular Democrats, both Hispanics, against each other in this overwhelmingly Hispanic district surrounding San Antonio.

Credit unions got heavily involved on behalf of Rodriguez near the end of the campaign and CUNA provided the maximum $10,000 campaign contribution, according to Buddy Gill, political director for the Texas CU League. But Gill said he is confident they can build a relationship with Cuellar, the overwhelming favorite in the predominantly Hispanic district. "Whoever wins this race is going to need credit union support to get reelected," he said.

Meantime, the Supreme Court declined last week to review a lawsuit filed by Texas Democrats over a controversial congressional redistricting map drawn up by Republicans. The suit claims the Republicans violated the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters, because notices of the public hearings on the redistricting were not published in Spanish, the natural language for millions of Texas voters. Republicans are expected to pick up as many as six seats in the state's 32-member House delegation as a result of the redistricting.

CUNA, which has grown into one of the most active political funders, raised $142,000 and made a total of $233,000 in campaign contributions in March, leaving it with $479,000 in its campaign warchest.

The biggest contributions last month went to: John Lindner (R-GA), $7,000; Ed Schrock (R-VA), $6,000; Denise Majette (D-GA), $5,500; Barbara Lee (D-CA), $5,000; Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), $5,000; Vic Snyder (D-AR), $5,000; Steve Pearce R-NM ($5,000); Mel Martinez, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and now a Republican candidate for the Florida Senate seat ($5,000); Betty Castor, a Democratic candidate for the House from Florida ($5,000); and leadership PACs for Reps. Deborah Pryce (R-OH), $5,000; David Dreier (R-CA), $5,000; and Eric Cantor (R-VA), $5,000, as well as a $1,000 contribution to Cantor's individual campaign fund.

Among the other contributions by CUNA last month were to: Reps. Brad Miller (D-NC), $3,500; Steve Chabot (R-OH), $3,000; Jeff Flake, R-AZ $2,500; Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), $2,500; David Wu (D-OR) $2,500; Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), $2,500; Leadership PAC 2004, a leadership PAC run by House Financial Services Chairman Michael Oxley (R-OH), $1,500; and AMERIPAC, a leadership PAC run by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), $2,500.

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