October 17, 2004
A whole lot of Congressional stories

The Statesman gives us a CD31 overview.

When Jon Porter introduces himself on the campaign trail for the District 31 seat in the U.S. Congress, he laments, it's not his name that's important.

"A lot of people go, 'OK, great, you're Jon Porter. Are you a Democrat or a Republican?' " he said.

When they hear "Democrat," he said, the response is often, "OK, I'll vote against you."

"That's frustrating," he said. "You're labeled already."

The scenario illustrates the tough road that Porter has hewn since he decided to run for Congress in a heavily conservative district dominated by incumbent John Carter. The newly reconfigured district includes all of Williamson County, part of Robertson County and six other counties to the north. It includes Fort Hood in Killeen.


Democrat Porter refuses to believe that resistance is futile. He entered the race after no one else from the party stepped forward.

"I knew it was going to be difficult," he said. "I don't know any rich people. I'm not politically connected. I have no name recognition — no one knows who I am. Finally, I came to the conclusion that no one was going to run; (the Democrats) were going to give up the seat."

But the campaign, which Porter runs himself, soon took over his life.

"Unfortunately, I don't have the psychological makeup that I like to lose," he said. "My first priority is to win. You don't do this to lose."

Porter said that he has driven so many miles through the district, which stretches more than 150 miles north to south, that his car, a 1994 Saturn SL, "died on me." He has since taken over his wife's car for the cause.

Porter said he takes great pains to assure voters that he's not a "liberal-pinko-commie," but a "traditional Texas Democrat": fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

He believes the war in Iraq was wrong but said American troops need to stay until that country is stabilized. He's concerned about how insurance regulations "handcuff" doctors, not surprising for a lawyer who represents health care workers in cases against the government. And he said he wants to simplify the tax system by reducing the number of credits and exemptions, which he said allow the rich who can afford to hire tax lawyers to benefit.

One subject of Porter's continuing dismay is Carter's refusal so far to debate him in public. "My theory is, he doesn't want to give me legitimacy," Porter said.

Carter said that he has simply been too busy to engage in any debates. However, the two are scheduled to debate at 6 p.m. Oct. 27 at Round Rock City Hall.

According to federal campaign filings, Porter's campaign has garnered about $16,000 between January 1, 2003, and June 30, and his mother and father are his largest contributors.

By contrast, Carter has raised about $865,000 in that same time period. Updated financial filings are to be released today. Adams has not filed any statements with the Federal Election Commission because, she said, she has not raised any money.

This isn't a high profile race, and it's not a race that should be competitive - I'd expect Carter to get in the neighborhood of 65% of the vote. Still, I think it's important for there to be coverage of every race, including the less exciting ones like this one for the simple reason that it may be the only way some people will know anything about them. Needless to say, the Chron has failed miserably in this regard this year.

The Chron does have a story today about the race in CD01 between Max Sandlin and Louie Gohmert. Don't know why they took a few weeks off from profiling races, and I have no idea at all why they haven't written squat about the races in CD07, CD08, CD09, CD10, or CD18, all of which were contests in which they made endorsements today. I've learned to take what I can.

The Statesman gives an update on some campaign finances.

The five targeted Democrats collected a total of $12 million, compared with $10.2 million for Republicans, a figure that shows the power of incumbency but also displays confidence in their prospects despite having to run in heavily Republican districts.

Among the five races:

•Sessions, a Republican with nearly $2.3 million in the bank, is ideally set for a last-month push in the expensive Dallas-Fort Worth media market.

While his Democratic opponent has outraised Sessions by almost $350,000, he has spent most of his nearly $4.2 million haul, leaving the Frost campaign with $576,872 available as of Sept. 30 — about one-fifth of Sessions' bankroll.

"That creates a situation where we can get our message out there without a response from him, " said Chris Homan, Sessions' campaign manager.

The figures, however, hide a $1 million media buy, closed just before Frost filed his fund-raising documents, for TV and radio commercials through Election Day, spokesman Justin Kitsch said.

•The other battle of incumbent representatives, Democrat Charlie Stenholm and Republican Randy Neugebauer, is a $4 million race that has already flooded voters with hundreds of TV commercials in the relatively cheap Lubbock and Abilene markets.

Stenholm's $2.1 million is the most he's raised in 14 campaigns, though Neugebauer had a slight edge in available cash.

•Challenger Arlene Wohlgemuth had less than $163,000 remaining on Sept. 30, the smallest amount among the five races. That could be a looming factor in a contest in which her opponent, Waco Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards, had almost $668,000 in the bank.

The discrepancy becomes even greater if a Democratic poll proves accurate in its findings: a 50 percent to 40 percent lead for Edwards.

•Poe, criticized by Republicans for anemic fund-raising, added luster to his campaign by collecting almost $459,000 in the third quarter. Still, Democrat Lampson collected $100,000 more, pushing him beyond the $2 million mark, almost double Poe's total.

•In the Piney Woods of Northeast Texas, GOP challenger Louie Gohmert outraised Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall, by more than $100,000. Sandlin, however, continued to hold an advantage in available cash, up more than $150,000 on Sept. 30.

They also endorsed all of the relevant incumbents plus Mike McCaul. Elsewhere in endorsement news, the Express News also goes with the incumbents plus the unknown Republican Jim Hopson over Henry Cuellar in CD28. The Star Telegram endorsed Charlie Stenholm. Neither they nor the Morning News has offered an opinion on the Frost-Sessions race yet, as far as I can tell.

Finally, a site called Vote Kids has a big spread on CD17 and Arlene Wohlgemuth. Here's a great quote:

When asked how the hundreds of thousands of children and 17,000 pregnant women would get treatment, Wohlgemuth said "just out of the goodness of the American soul." (San Antonio Express News, 4/1/03)

Boy, that's sure the kind of representation I'd want in Congress. How about you? Check it out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 17, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

When they hear "Democrat," he said, the response is often, "OK, I'll vote against you."

True and unfortunate, Mr. Porter, but let's not pretend that straight-ticket Democrats don't do the same thing to Republican candidates, regardless of the specifics about their positions.

Posted by: Tim on October 17, 2004 8:02 PM

Chuck, is your takeaway from the Porter story the same as mine: run for Congress in a big ol' district, kill the Saturn in the process, and claim Olivia's wagon for the cause?

Posted by: Ellen on October 20, 2004 8:52 AM