April 20, 2004
Congressional roundup

Another long newsie roundup. Hey, at least I'm sparing you the agony of long page-load times, right?

Democrats unite to defend House seats

Five Texas Democrats targeted for employment extinction by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, are banding together in a high-stakes mission to keep their jobs.

The five -- U.S. Reps. Martin Frost of Arlington, Charles Stenholm of Abilene, Chet Edwards of Waco, Max Sandlin of Marshall and Nick Lampson of Beaumont -- are embarking on a series of joint fund-raisers beginning Monday in New York.

The Democratic Party has made saving the targeted Texans a top priority nationwide and is helping in every way it can. Party leaders even successfully pushed millions for pet projects to the five Texans in the transportation bill being hammered out in Congress.

To keep themselves competitive in districts redrawn by Republicans to favor GOP candidates, the targeted Democrats are focusing heavily on raising money for their campaigns. According to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission, as of March 31, Frost has $1.18 million cash on hand; Edwards has more than $800,000; Stenholm has nearly $600,000; Sandlin has about $375,000 ; and Lampson has $490,000.

Democrats are on track to spend millions of dollars in the Texas races. So are Republicans.

Monday's fund-raiser is the first in a series of national fund-raisers for the Texas Democrats. It will be hosted by several House members from the area. Next will be a Washington event May 12, hosted by the top Democrats on the House committees. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., will sponsor a fund-raiser May 15 in Los Angeles, and Illinois Reps. Rahm Emanuel, and Rep. Janice Schakowsky will follow with a Chicago fund-raiser June 7.

All five Texans are touting their records and experience, and they are criticizing DeLay at every opportunity for his role in trying to run the Democrats out of office through redistricting. They are also, to varying degrees, distancing themselves from the expected Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.


None of the targeted Democrats is exactly rushing to embrace his party's presidential candidate. Frost, who endorsed retired Gen. Wesley Clark during the primary, said he would "of course" support the Democratic ticket, although he added that he did not expect Kerry to campaign for House members in Texas.

Stenholm, who also supported Clark, has "no plans at this time" to endorse Kerry, press secretary Anne Keller said. In a statement, Edwards said, "I will support the Democratic ticket but intend to continue my role as an independent-minded voice in Congress for my district."

Sandlin, who endorsed Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., until he dropped out and then campaigned for Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., is "focusing on his own race," spokesman Ellis Brachman said. And Lampson, who did not endorse any candidate in the primaries, "will support the nominee" spokesman Bobby Zafarnia said.

Just a thought here - how about getting Wes Clark down here to campaign for both these guys and John Kerry? I know, it makes too much sense.

Via TalkLeft: this WaPo article on BlogAds and how candidates who are using them now are faring in comparison to Ben Chandler.

More than two dozen candidates, meanwhile, have placed orders for similar ads with Henry Copeland, a North Carolina entrepreneur who handled Chandler's ads.


Most of his clients, Copeland said, are Democrats. Some are unknown, such as Jeff Seemann, 35, a music programmer who is running for the House in Ohio. Others are more established. Reps. Martin Frost (D-Tex.) and Brad Carson (D-Okla.) have bought blog ads. So have Sen. John F. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and Tony Knowles, the former governor of Alaska who is vying for the Senate.

Bryan Coffman, a Republican who is challenging Chandler in this year's election, has stolen a page from his playbook, placing ads on a handful of conservative blogs. So has former representative John Thune, a Republican who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.).

The ads, not surprisingly, tend to focus less on local issues than on national trends and storylines. There are frequent references to the candidates' favorite bogeymen. Carson, for example, does not actually name his Republican opponent in one of his ads. But, he assures viewers, the candidate is "Jesse Helms and Phil Gramm rolled into one." A Democrat running in Texas says, "I've got the guts to take on Tom DeLay."

Sheesh. Would it have killed them to have mentioned Richard Morrison's name?

Most of the campaign representatives interviewed declined to estimate how much they have raised through their ads. But a few said they have yet to match Chandler's success. A spokesman for Joseph M. Hoeffel III, a Democratic senatorial candidate from Pennsylvania, said his campaign has raised between $8,000 and $10,000. Seemann, the House candidate in Ohio, said he has raised about $9,000 from a single $400 ad he placed.

Those all sound like pretty good returns on their investments to me. It's consistent with what these candidates told me awhile back.

Colleagues add to Frost’s war chest

Rep. Martin Frost (D) has won the first round of the member-to-member fundraising contest against fellow Texas Rep. Pete Sessions (R), in a race that pits two members of the House Rules Committee against each other.

But Sessions still maintains an overall fundraising advantage, drawing heavily on the Dallas business community to show $1.9 million cash on hand at the end of the first quarter reporting period, compared to Frost’s $1.18 million.


Frost has received donations from 58 members, for a total of $65,000, drawing on his 25 years of Washington connections and tapping the goodwill of many members he helped elect as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1996 and 1998 campaign cycles.

Sessions has not done nearly as well with his fellow lawmakers, receiving donations from 39 House Republicans, for a total of $55,000.

However, among Texas lawmakers, Sessions clearly has the advantage, as Frost has been rebuffed by many of the lawmakers who know him best. Frost has received donations from only four of the 15 Texas House Democrats, many of whom face tough races themselves.

By contrast, 12 of Sessionss 15 GOP colleagues have donated to him, either through their personal campaigns or their leadership PACs, said Guy Harrison, Sessions’s chief of staff.

Both candidates have benefited from the party’s leadership PACs.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s PAC to the Future donated the maximum $10,000 to Frost, while Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) PAC also gave $10,000 and Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) PAC donated $5,000. Sessions has also fared well by his party leaders, receiving the maximum amount from nearly every leadership PAC.

Frost’s current lead in member-to-member giving might be washed away when GOP lawmakers become aware that Sessions is trailing in member-to-member giving.

Sessions can also rely on the support of Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), who has been actively working to defenestrate Frost, the ranking member on his committee.

Edwards kicks off re-election campaign in Aggieland

U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards on Wednesday officially kicked off what may be the most difficult race of his career.

The seven-term Waco Democrat is trying to win over voters in the new heavily Republican District 17, one of several in Texas redrawn last year to increase the chances of GOP victory. His old District 11 didn't include deeply conservative Brazos County, home to Texas A&M University in College Station.

But the county isn't exactly enemy territory: Edwards is an Aggie.

"To be an Aggie is a terminal disease, and they never get over it," said Charles Elliott, a political science professor at Texas A&M-Commerce. "How much of an advantage it will be to Edwards, I don't know. But there is a long tradition of very intense loyalty by the students and graduates of Texas A&M."

Edwards traveled to College Station on Wednesday for his first campaign event, a reception hosted by four retired Army generals and three veteran leaders. Edwards also launched a television ad in Brazos County touting his record on national defense — and mentioning that he's a 1974 A&M graduate.

"It's a key swing county in this district," Edwards told The Associated Press. "I have supported A&M research projects, and I think I've earned the support of a lot of Republicans and Independents in the Brazos County area."

Edwards didn't want to kick off his campaign until he had a Republican opponent, which was decided in Tuesday's GOP runoff election. State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, defeated former Waco school board member Dot Snyder after a contentious race.

Edwards said some Snyder supporters plan to support him in the race for the district that includes Waco and President Bush's ranch in Crawford.

Snyder, asked Tuesday night if she was ready to support Wohlgemuth and work toward defeating Edwards, said she had "not even thought about that" and would not decide her plans until returning from a vacation.

But Wohlgemuth said Wednesday that she is confident she will be able to reunite her party despite the negative ads leading up to the GOP primary and runoff.

"I have been in politics long enough ... and you cannot take these things personally," Wohlgemuth said. "We have to keep the goal in mind of defeating Chet Edwards in November."

It's interesting that Dot Snyder didn't fall right into line behind Arlene Wohlgemuth. That must've been a nastier primary than I thought - it was certainly an expensive one, and Edwards starts out with a hefty financial edge because of it. I'd expect her to give at least a lukewarm endorsement of Wohlgemuth when all is said and done, though. And for what it's worth, Edwards has at least one Aggie's support.

Lampson campaigns in Beaumont

BAYTOWN — U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson chatted with local officials and businesspeople and made a bid for re-election during a meet-and-greet at the Baytown Chamber of Commerce Friday.

The Beaumont Democrat, currently serving in the 9th Congressional District, is running in the newly drawn 2nd District, which was created during the redistricting battle last year in the Texas Legislature. He faces former Harris County Criminal District Judge Ted Poe, who won the March 9 Republican primary.

Lampson said that the new district, which stretches from his home base of Jefferson County to the “FM 1960 corridor” in northeast Harris County and includes the central third of Baytown, is “about 50 percent new” to him.

“I’ll get to know it, whatever happens,” he said.

Lampson said he felt that the Republican-drawn redistricting map was intentionally drawn to weaken representation of the state’s non-metropolitan areas.

Many of the new districts “radiate” out from the large cities, pairing suburban areas with far-flung rural areas.

The effect of this, he said, is that the new districts “break up a lot of communities of interest.”

Lampson then talked about several of the issues he has been involved in since he first entered Congress in 1996. A member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Science, he said he was committed to addressing issues of infrastructure, “those things that give us the ability to grow our economy.”

Last but not least: from Roll Call, a look at some potential future standard-bearers in Texas.

At the top of that list is Hispanic state Rep. Richard Raymond (D), who from his seat on the House Redistricting Committee emerged as the chief antagonist to state House Speaker Tom Craddick (R) during the remapping.

Raymond was one of more than 50 state House Democrats to flee the state for Oklahoma during the Texas legislative session to deny Republicans a quorum, a maneuver that blocked passage of the redistricting bill. The group later became known as the "Killer Ds."

After a federal court finally OK'd the map, Raymond called it a "gross injustice and a slap in the face to minority voters." The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would not hear further challenges to the map.

Raymond represents part of Webb County and lives in Laredo. His 42nd state House district is overwhelmingly Hispanic.

That area is within the boundaries of the 28th Congressional district, where former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar (D) defeated Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) in the March 9 primary by just more than 200 votes.

Rodriguez has since filed suit, alleging that the discovery of more than 400 untallied ballots in the recount defies logic.

To the north of Raymond's Laredo-based district lies Bexar County, which is dominated by San Antonio.

That area has long been the political base of state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, who held a San Antonio-based state

House seat from 1990 to 1998 when she was elected to the Senate. She is now chairwoman of the state's Senate Democratic Caucus.

Van De Putte was the instigator of a walkout by Senate Democrats during the second special session of the Legislature in order to keep the redistricting bill from passing. The 11 Senate Democrats bunkered in New Mexico.

She also told a local newspaper that a Republican state Senator had said "if you're going to act like Mexicans, we're going to treat you like Mexicans" in regard to the redistricting fight.

All 19 Republican state Senators denied making the remark and Van De Putte retracted the accusation, though she has never denied its veracity.

Van De Putte revealed last fall that she is suffering from a thyroid disorder related to Hashimoto's disease but insists it will not interfere with her political career.

Another Hispanic legislator seen as an up-and-comer is state Rep. Pete Gallego (D), who is the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

Gallego represents 13 counties in West Texas; most of that territory is located in Rep. Henry Bonilla's (R) 23rd district.

Bonilla was seriously challenged in 2002 by Cuellar but won that race by 5 percent.

Republican redistricters took the Democratic bastion of Laredo out of Bonilla's district thereby reducing the Hispanic population by 12 percent.

There appears to be little room for upward mobility elsewhere in the state as Democratic incumbents scrap to simply keep their heads above water.

Those not directly endangered by the Republican redraw seem unlikely to leave Congress in the near future.

The only Democratic incumbent seen as a potential retirement in the next few cycles is Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D).

The Dallas-area Member will turn 69 on Dec. 3.

The likely heir to Johnson's majority minority 20th district is black state Sen. Royce West (D).

West has held a state Senate seat since 1992 and played a high-profile role as a member of the loyal opposition in redistricting.

Perhaps more important than the Democratic politicians who gained notoriety during redistricting were those pushed out of office by the new map.

Leading that list is Rep. Jim Turner, who will retire at the end of the 108th Congress after the remapping split his East Texas 2nd district into six separate Congressional seats.

Turner has stated publicly that he will run statewide in the near future with both a gubernatorial or Senate run seen as options.

Turner's decision likely depends on whether Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) challenges Gov. Rick Perry (R) in a 2006 primary.

If she does make that leap, state and national Democrats expect Turner to run for the open Senate seat.

Another name mentioned in an open-seat scenario is freshman Rep. Chris Bell (D).

Bell was crushed in the March primary by former Houston Justice of the Peace Al Green (D) in the 9th district, which took in significant new population. Green is now all but certain to join the 109th Congress.

Bell ran for Houston mayor in 2001 before winning the open seat of retiring Rep. Ken Bentsen (D) in 2002.

Other Democratic names mentioned for a statewide run down the line include Bentsen, now a Houston-area lawyer, and former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson. Watson served as mayor of the state capital from 1997 until 2001; he resigned that post to run for state attorney general in 2002 but lost.

Watson is now the chairman of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Thanks to JD for the info on that last excerpt.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 20, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack