Another Henry Bonilla challenger in CD23

Lukin Gilliland announced for Congress today as another Democratic challenger to Henry Bonilla. Gilliland has hired Democratic political operative Kelly Fero and has announced that he will contribute $500K to the race. He joins former Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez in the race.

Interestingly, almost exactly three years ago to this day, Gilliland gave Henry Bonilla $250*. Gilliland has also given Ciro Rodriguez money -- at least five times in the last few years, for a total of $2000. Gilliland has been a fairly consistent contributor over the past few years to Democrats running for president (Edward, Kerry, Clark) and to Dem congressional candidates, as well as several sizable soft money donations. So he'll have to explain why he's running against two candidates that were previously worth donating to.


1. Runoff more likely. Gilliland looks like a serious candidate. He's got money and he's willing to use it. He's hired a well-known Democratic consultant, which gives an imprimatur of being a serious candidate. But Rodriguez is a former congressman, with mail lists and contacts. He should be able to raise money himself, although his fundraising against Cuellar was mediocre until liberal blogs started hyping him in January 2006.

But with two Democratic candidates spending money, it seems more likely that they'll be able to aggregate 50% of the vote than with just one Democratic candidate against Bonilla.

2. Millionaires amendment. For US House races, when an opposing candidate contributes $350K of his own money, then the Millionaires Amendment of the McCain Feingold bill (I refuse to call it BCRA) is triggered and two things happen: (1) The increased limit for contributions by individuals is three times the applicable limit. (2) The national and State party committees may make unlimited coordinated expenditures on behalf of the candidate.

So Bonilla and Rodriguez will be able to raise up to $6300 per donor through November. And the NRCC/RNC/RPT and DCCC/DNC/TDP can throw money around with abandon.

On the whole, this doesn't really appear likely to change Bonilla's chances too much as of right now. I believe I estimated Bonilla's re-election chances at 75% recently, and I see no reason to change my estimate. This would all change if Gilliland decides he's willing to spend a few million on the race, (or the DCCC decides it wants to invest heavily in the race, but I think that Rahm Emmanuel will probably believe he has a better return on his investment elsewhere, especially if there's a self-funder). Then the race changes substantially. But the most likely scenario in November appears to be something like 50% Bonilla, 30%ish Rodriguez/Gilliland, and 20%ish Rodriguez/Gilliland. If Bonilla has to go to a runoff, he'd be a pretty good favorite under that scenario.

* It's possible that Gilliland's father gave this money -- his father appears to be a Republican donor -- but the address listed is the same as Gilliland used for his numerous other donations. I have an email in to Kelly Fero to find out.

UPDATE: Kelly Fero says that it is his father. Post is appropriately struck-through.

Full press release below the jump.

Longtime South Texas rancher and businessman Lukin Gilliland today said that he will enter the race for the U.S. Congress in CD23, saying it's time to set a new direction for positive change.

"Washington's values are upside down," Gilliland said. "They need a healthy dose of traditional Texas values and can-do spirit on Capitol Hill."

Gilliland opened his official campaign account today and seeded it with a $500,000 contribution to signal his commitment to run a competitive race.

"I will focus on the issues of critical concern in our communities," Gilliland said. "And I won't hesitate to defend myself or my supporters against the inevitable attacks from Washington D.C.-style politicians."

Gilliland said he will file his official paperwork on Friday, the deadline for candidates planning to run in the special November 7 election, which was triggered when a court overturned part of a controversial redistricting plan engineered by disgraced former U.S. Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his partisan allies.

Current leaders in the nation's capital have failed to address a whole range of critical issues, Gilliland said, from health care reform and pension protection to energy independence and finding an exit strategy from the quagmire of civil war in Iraq.

A recognized leader, businessman, and rancher with a deep interest in land- and water-use issues, Gilliland said one of his top priorities is to secure the natural heritage of the region, which sprawls from South San Antonio to El Paso County.

His successful business career and tradition of community activism underscores his conviction that "government should lead, set priorities, work in partnership with private and volunteer sectors, and stand up for the majority, not just the few," Gilliland said.

Gilliland graduated from Alamos Heights High School in San Antonio and the University of Texas at Austin, with a bachelor's degree in Government. He lives in San Antonio.

Posted by Evan @ 08/24/06 03:33 PM


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Lukin Gilliland has never contributed to a Republican against a Democrat. Period.

Posted by Cafe Tortoli @ 08/25/06 05:11 PM

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