January 09, 2004
Congressional roundup

Our daily tour of the Congressional scramble continues...

Chris Bell has drawn a primary opponent for the new 9th CD.

Justice of the Peace Al Green, former president of the Houston NAACP, announced Thursday that he will run for the new 9th Congressional District -- giving himself a jump on at least one other prospective candidate, City Councilwoman Ada Edwards.

At a hastily arranged news conference, Green, a JP for 26 years, said he will resign that position next week and file in the Democratic primary for the U.S. House seat.


At least one Republican, former University of Houston basketball player Lyndon Rose, is considering the race. He recently was appointed to the UH board of regents.

Green is the first black candidate to announce.

U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston, the first-term white Democrat whose 25th District moved to south-central Texas in the redistricting, also plans to run in the 9th.

Edwards, an African-American community activist who just began her second term on City Council, said only that she is talking with constituents about running. The filing deadline is Jan. 16.

Green declined to discuss other candidates Thursday as he made his announcement standing in the foyer of his south Houston JP office. He said he wanted to focus on issues including Social Security, transportation, education, flood control and national security.

Among supporters present were the Rev. Bill Lawson of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and former Harris County Democratic Party Chairman David Mincberg.

"The diverse population of the new district needs someone in Washington who knows and understands them and who can serve as a strong advocate for them," said Green, who headed the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for almost a decade until stepping down in 1995.

The article notes that Nick Lampson is still considering a run in the new 2nd CD. There are six Republicans so far in that primary, with former judge/eccentric Ted Poe being the only one known to me. Lampson might have a decent shot there on name recognition, but the partisan orientation of the area guarantees it'll be an uphill battle.

In Austin, State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos will not run in the new 25th CD against Lloyd Doggett, but will back District Judge Leticia Hinojosa instead.

Hinojosa, according to Barrientos, has the background needed to represent the sprawling, diverse district.

"She knows Austin both in terms of its potential and its problems," he said, noting that she attended the University of Texas and its law school and worked for Legal Aid here for two years after earning a law degree in 1981.

"The fact that a qualified candidate has emerged from the most populated southern part of the district made my decision easier," Barrientos said.

Barrientos said nothing about Doggett until asked.

"I think he has represented Austin well," he said in a terse assessment of Doggett's five terms in the U.S. House.

Then why not back him?

"We've got to stand back and look at the fact that this is a district," Barrientos said. "It's not just Austin, Texas, folks."

Campaigning Thursday in Hidalgo County, Doggett said he was "disappointed but not surprised" by Barrientos' support of Hinojosa.

"Last year was a challenging time for some of us to support him, and I pitched in and did it," Doggett said in a reference to Barrientos' 2002 re-election campaign that came after he pleaded no contest to driving while intoxicated.

Doggett rejected talk by Barrientos and Hinojosa that she has the "experience" to best represent the district.

"If it's experience in challenging the power structure, that's what my life's work has been about," Doggett said, adding, "This election is a referendum on my life's work."

Hinojosa, at an event at an East Austin restaurant, said she knows the Travis County portion of the district from her time at UT and working for Legal Aid.

"I don't see myself as necessarily being from 300 miles away," she said. "I think geographically that might be the case, but I think when you look at my background and my experiences they are very similar to the ones of this particular portion of Austin."

I received a spreadsheet from reader Bill T which showed that in Democratic primaries from 1994 to 2002, Hispanic candidates have always done better than non-Hispanic candidates in the non-Travis counties in this district, by margins ranging from 7000 to 16000 votes. Based on that, Bill thinks Doggett starts out in a 10000 vote hole against Hinojosa, and he'd put his money on her. This could be a nasty race.

Chet Edwards will run in the 17th CD, which contains his hometown of Waco, instead of the 31st CD which now contains Fort Hood.

Mr. Edwards, a Democrat, went to Killeen to unveil his plans an apparent attempt to underscore Republican efforts to thwart him under the new, GOP-backed congressional redistricting plan.

Referring to normally supportive Fort Hood-area residents, he said, "I wanted to tell them in person" of the plans. With 17,000 local soldiers in Iraq, he said wanted to reassure voters that he will keep fighting for them in Congress even if he can't court their votes or represent them.


"The Republican Party does not have a lock on these districts," U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, said Thursday in Arlington while announcing his re-election bid.

He could face Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington, whose old district was splintered among six districts. Arlington falls within the new District 6, where Mr. Barton is running.

Citing personal ties, Mr. Edwards said he reluctantly was giving up representing the Fort Hood area. He is the ranking Democrat on a subcommittee on military construction spending but would have faced GOP incumbent, Rep. John Carter of Round Rock.

"I knew that we could win in both congressional districts but that each would be a challenging race. This was really a personal family decision," Mr. Edwards said. "My wife and I met in Waco, we married here, our children were born here and we're not going to let some map-drawers in Austin change our home."

The new District 17 stretches from Burleson to College Station. Mr. Edwards represents a third of that turf already, and he represented other parts as a state senator. He predicted a $2 million race. He spent $1.6 million in 2002, when he won by a few thousand votes.

Two Republicans have stumped for months for the right to face Mr. Edwards in November: state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth of Burleson and Dot Snyder, former Waco school board president. Ms. Wohlgemuth said she looked forward to contrasting his record with her own. She said the district which includes President Bush's ranch in Crawford deserves someone who will work with the president rather than against him.

"Chet Edwards has been a part of the Democrat leadership team looking to thwart the Bush agenda," she said.

The Waco Trib has more.

The new District 17 has no clear power base. Its most populous areas are in Johnson and Hood counties in the north, McLennan County in the center and Brazos County to the south.

Edwards predicts state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, will win the GOP primary in a bid to face him in November. If so, he believes he can win the election by gaining 35 percent of the vote in her home county of Johnson and 58 percent of the vote in McLennan County.

As for the other end of the new district in College Station, the Texas A&M graduate believes he has enough standing in that community to sway voters there as well.

"I have never shied away from a tough campaign and I've never lost a November election," Edwards said. "And I do not intend, after 21 years in office, to begin doing that this year."

Wohlgemuth is of course famous for killing a whole calendarful of bills in 1997 in a fit of pique known as the Memorial Day Massacre. I think Edwards could have a shot against her, but as with all of these districts, it'll be tough.

Joe Barton, mentioned earlier, is not worried about a potential faceoff with Martin Frost.

Barton said he will seek re-election to District 6, which has been redrawn to include Arlington. He said he has amassed $850,000 toward his campaign.

Frost is weighing his options after a new congressional map, drawn by Republicans and upheld by the U.S. Justice Department and a federal judicial panel, split up his District 24 and forces him to run in a district with far fewer Democrats.


Frost, who has $700,000 on hand and expects to spend as much $3 million in his re-election bid, declined to comment Thursday. But he has said he was waiting to publicly pick his opponent because "I'd like to see my Republican colleagues sweat a little bit."

During a news conference in Arlington on Thursday, Barton laughed off the notion that he, or any local Republican for that matter, is afraid of Frost, now that the congressional districts tilt in favor of the GOP.

A Barton-Frost duel, the Republican said, would be a "fun campaign ... because we've both been in Congress for a while and we're both hardworking."

"But I wouldn't trade places with him; I wouldn't trade my people for his people," Barton said.

And now for something a bit different: An emeritus professor at Texas Tech, Richard "Chip" Peterson, will run in the 19th CD as a Libertarian.

Peterson, who has a doctorate in economics and is finance professor emeritus at Tech, said he want to address important issues being ignored by the major parties.

Peterson said he is an advocate for lower, simpler taxes, less wasteful government, less intrusive regulations and Constitutional rights. He also said he wants to fix Social Security.

"Under both major parties, the federal government has frequently ignored these Constitutional guarantees in recent years as it has increasingly intruded into people's private lives and ignored or overridden states' laws," Peterson said.

He has worked for the Federal Reserve, authored books on Social Security and finance and discussed with congressmen various facets of a gov ernment proposal to reform the country's financial system.

While a professor at Tech, Peterson received the President's Excellence in Teaching and Academic Achievement Awards.

Peterson said he was a member of the Lubbock County Republican Executive Committee, but realized Libertarian Party values were essential after writing his book on Social Security.

He believes in the Libertarian principles of low-tax, low-regulation and no wasteful spending, he said, and wants to fight growth in government spending and the outside influence on members of the two major parties.

He was the Libertarian Party candidate for the District 19 spot in last year's special election to replace Larry Combest.

Hey, if he peels off a few votes from Randy Neugebauer when he runs against Charlie Stenholm (who I'm presuming will run here), then more power to him.

Finally, on a housekeeping note, I suppose at some point I need to switch the category on this to Election 2004, but I think up till the filing deadline next Friday I'll keep these posts where they are. Such is the downside of categories.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 09, 2004 to Killer D's | TrackBack