I think the race in CD 02 will be the hottest one locally, at least after the primaries. Rep. Nick Lampson surely won't go quietly, and he did represent a fair amount of the newly-drawn district. If former judge/huckster Ted Poe survives the GOP primary, there will also likely be a certain level of lowbrow entertainment.
The Press has a piece which notes that Poe, who was nototious for injecting shame into his sentences, may have some shame in his past.
In 22 years as a Harris County district judge, Lloyd "Ted" Poe garnered gallons of ink and miles of videotape from a fawning local media with his zany so-called shame sentences for defendants in his court. They all had a common theme: In addition to jail time and fines, the convict must own up in public to his or her misdeeds. That could be by marching outside the scene of a robbery wearing placards with hand-scrawled apologies or shoveling horse manure in an HPD stable to atone for stealing the Lone Ranger's guns.
"That's Ted Poe's claim to fame," sneered GOP political consultant Allen Blakemore back when Poe was considering running for district attorney in 2000 against Blakemore's candidate, eventual winner Chuck Rosenthal. "He makes folks wear sandwich boards and walk around the street."
Now it seems Poe may have been inspired to create his judicial trademark at least partially from his own personal experience.
The 55-year-old former prosecutor resigned his judgeship in October to run for the freshly drawn Second Congressional District, after years of toying with campaigns for higher office and then backing off at the last minute. Rumors have long circulated among GOP politicos and courthouse veterans that something in Poe's personal background was making him gun-shy of the intense media scrutiny that inevitably accompanies a high-profile campaign.
According to sources -- two of whom say they are eyewitnesses -- the skeleton in the candidate's closet may be a dramatic apology they say he delivered in the late '80s at an evening meeting at the Kingwood Church of Christ. According to some of the congregation, Poe had been threatened with expulsion by elders after they caught him having an extramarital affair with an unmarried female church member. They demanded their own version of shame sentencing: public self-flagellation in front of congregants.
Even after the alleged apology, the situation remained a volatile issue within the church, and Poe soon departed for another Church of Christ in the Humble area, where he and his wife, Carol, reside.
Candidate Poe refused to confirm or deny the account, saying as far as he's concerned his private life is not a campaign issue.
"I've never made it a policy to talk about my personal life…I'll talk about anything about the campaign, being a judge, issues -- but I don't want to get into any personal issues."
If Poe makes it to the general election, I don't know if Lampson should use this issue or not. As fun as the prospect of a Democrat bashing a Republican for being immoral may be, my gut says it would backfire on him.
What I'd like to see, or at least what I'd like to see someone do some polling on, is for the utter fiscal irresponsibility of Bush and the Republicans to be stressed. I'm quite certain that the nominee in CD 02, as with all of the other Democrat-incumbent-killer districts, will run at least in part on a message of "send me to Washington so I can work really really closely with President Bush". Seems to me that a Democrat might do well to say "We've got Republicans in all three branches of government and all we have to show for it is a half-trillion dollar deficit and a plan to maybe cut that in half in five years. Maybe what we need is someone who won't just be a rubber stamp for the President - maybe what we need is someone who'll challenge him when his policies cost too much." The Stenholm message, in other words. This probably won't be enough to overcome hardcore party identity, but I think it would have an effect on people who generally vote Republican in November but not in March. In any event, I think it would be worth it to try to find out.
One more thing from the Press story:
The pulpit minister of Kingwood Church of Christ at the time was Carl Power.
He disputed the accounts of Poe's making a public apology.
"I don't have any recollection of it," Power told The Insider. "I know of no such meeting with the elders, and I'm sure I would have known."