January 26, 2004
A tale of two Charlies

If you're wondering what kind of message some of the redistricted Democratic Congressional incumbents might try on their new, more Republican constituents, Charlie Stenholm provides a glimpse.

I have always attempted to do what I believed was right for the people I was elected to represent, regardless of pressure from either political party, special-interest groups or even the White House.

As a conservative Democrat, I have not agreed with the Democratic leadership on a number of occasions. At such times, I have expressed my views and voted accordingly.

An honest assessment of my voting record throughout my career will demonstrate that I have not hesitated to cross party lines and vote with Republicans when I agreed with them.

In addition, I have served five presidents, supporting them when I thought they were right and opposing them when I believed their policies were wrong, regardless of party.


[T]he Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization that holds both parties accountable on fiscal responsibility, placed me on its honor roll in 2003 for the sixth consecutive year. Likewise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has awarded me its Spirit of Enterprise Award for my strongly pro-business voting record throughout my career.

The fact that some special-interest groups have given me lower ratings than they have in the past says more about these groups than it does about me.

I have continued to represent the same moderate-conservative viewpoint that I have always brought to issues, while many groups have shifted -- at the instruction of the House leadership -- dramatically to the right.

Some of the groups that had praised me in the past for my vocal opposition to extreme liberal proposals now criticize me for staying with the same middle-ground, common-sense solutions. They would prefer that I follow the ideological political winds toward the extreme right.

And some criticize me for not blindly supporting the right-wing agenda of the Republican leadership in Congress.

I will not be a rubber stamp for economic policies that have produced a national debt that is soaring out of control, leaving our nation ill-prepared to meet our growing commitments to Social Security and Medicare.

I have consistently taken a conservative, common-sense approach to all issues that have been considered by Congress. By the same token, I have avoided taking an inflexible, ideological approach, keeping an open mind on all issues.

I feel quite certain that Stenholm would have been reelected with a message like this in his old district, which was about 2/3 Republican. I can't say this message will enable him overcome party differences among people he's never represented before, but it seems to me that if any message can resonate, it's one of fiscal responsibility and common sense. The Republicans may come to regret putting one of their own incumbents up against Stenholm. Via Greg Wythe.

Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Rep. Charlie Gonzalez faces an entirely different kind of opposition - his ex-wife.

She helped him get elected to Congress in 1998, but now Becky Whetstone wants to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez.

For an ally to turn foe is hardly unusual in politics, but Whetstone's role reversal is noteworthy because she was married to Gonzalez for five years, until their bitter divorce a few months ago.

Amid the breakup, Whetstone began writing a book and publishing stinging criticisms of Gonzalez on her Web site. This week, Whetstone began arguing her case as a candidate at www.beckyforcongress.com as she transforms from wounded former spouse to upset-minded political challenger.

The independent candidate for District 20 bristles at Gonzalez's suggestion that she's motivated by revenge and greed in her uphill campaign. Whetstone asserted she's trying to "right a wrong" by challenging Gonzalez, who took the seat long held by his legendary father, the late U.S. Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez.

Whetstone, a counselor, said she's compelled to point out flaws in what she calls Gonzalez's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality. And the sheer novelty of her effort has grabbed national media attention, adding an unpredictable dimension to what might have been a dull campaign for the three-term incumbent.

Before Whetstone made her intentions known Jan. 2, Gonzalez's Democratic re-election bid was shaping up as a nominally competitive post-redistricting matchup between the entrenched San Antonio Democrat and Republican candidate Roger Scott.

Whetstone must gather 500 signatures by May to be listed as an independent on the November ballot, and she was busy trying to do so at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day March on Monday in San Antonio. Her offbeat candidacy quickly set off a buzz in Washington, D.C., and has sparked overtures from movie producers.

But some local pundits predict Whetstone won't unseat Gonzalez in a made-for-Hollywood climax.

"Becky Whetstone has very little, if any, understanding of the issues of domestic affairs or foreign affairs, really only private affairs," said University of Texas at San Antonio political science professor Richard Gambitta.

An editorial in the San Antonio Express-News called her candidacy "merely pathetic" and a "sad soap opera."

"Her qualifications for the job are lacking, and ill will toward her former spouse is a weak reason to run for Congress," the newspaper opined.

Whetstone is a former Express-News reporter.

"Charlie is one of the most popular politicians in San Antonio, extending back to the days when he was a district judge," editorial board member Bruce Davidson said. Gonzalez also has a huge fund-raising advantage and can use incumbency to tout new committee assignments, Davidson said.

Personally, I'd rather face a bunch of Republicans. We'll see what happens here.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 26, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

Gonzalez vs Whetstone sounds like a mud-slinging festival. The campaign ads alone should be worth the local (and national) press it will receive.

Posted by: William Hughes on January 26, 2004 8:32 AM

Sounds like Whetstone is sharpening the knives...

Posted by: Steve Bates on January 26, 2004 12:37 PM