June 03, 2005
DeLay starting early

Via The Stakeholder, I see that the DeLay '06 campaign is already getting into gear.

With Democrats gunning for him and an ex-congressman already working to take his seat, Majority Leader Tom DeLay is wasting no time getting into campaign mode, rallying campaign volunteers and kicking off a ballot petition drive – seven months before the deadline.

The campaign has invited volunteers for petition training tonight at his campaign headquarters in Sugar Land, aides said. The event is two nights after Mr. DeLay personally rallied the troops at a similar session in Clear Lake, at the other end of his district.

"Signing petitions is Politics 101, and our grass-roots operation is up and running, and it's a great way to highlight DeLay's support in the district," said spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty.

She said the campaign hadn't planned to collect signatures so early, but so many supporters offered to pitch in that it made sense to channel their energy.

Democrats called the early petition drive a sign of someone scrambling to survive.

"Tom DeLay is in trouble. His support at home is at a historic low," said Bill Burton, communications director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, predicting: "He's in for the toughest fight of his congressional career."


To secure a spot on the March 7 primary ballot, Mr. DeLay must submit 500 valid voter signatures or pay a $3,125 fee. The Texas secretary of state's office says signatures can be collected at any time, although the filing window runs from Dec. 3 to Jan. 2.

"He knows that if he's in trouble, he'd better begin to organize earlier to solidify his base," asserted Tom Matzzie, Washington director of the MoveOn political action committee, which is running radio ads in the districts of seven vulnerable members – none in Texas – linking them to Mr. DeLay's "stench of corruption."

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, dismissed assertions that Mr. DeLay's early campaign activity reflects anxiety.

"Look, whenever the campaign wanted to go out and collect signatures they could do it. I don't see how it can be considered a sign of weakness at all," he said. "If anything I think it's a sign of strength if he's got the kind of organization in place to combat all the third-party activity."

Somebody help me out here. Is it at all common for incumbent Congresspeople to gather petition signatures for ballot access instead of just paying the filing fee? I mean, $3125 is chump change, and not just for a moneybag like DeLay. If the petition route really is standard "Politics 101", then the only remarkable thing here is the early start, which at least means DeLay is taking nothing for granted this time around. If it's not, then why the change? In this case, I don't think it would be unreasonable to conclude that DeLay is taking seriously the allegations from last time that he's out of touch with the district.

As it happens, potential DeLay primary challenger Mike Fjetland has seen some of this petition activity already. Here's one report from a local GOP event, in which a resolution in support of The Hammer was read and approved:

Then they passed around a petition, saying it was "required" to get x number of signatures. That was news to me. I sat in the back. When it came by, I noticed it was a "Petition in lieu of filing fee" - something I had done before to avoid paying the $3,000 filing fee. Why circulate it? It isn't really required unless you want to save $3,000 by turning in 500 signatures from voters in the district. But for a guy like DeLay with millions of donations in the bank, why bother with it?

My best guess is that it is a way of polling people. If so, the results should be of concern to the incumbent -- what surprised me was how few signatures the petition had, despite passing through nearly everyone else in the room before I saw it. It had maybe four or five signatures. When I did my own petition drive in 2002, I usually got nine signatures for every 10 requests I made.

Some people were asked more than once to sign, and refused, according to a friend of mine who was there and saw it happen.

Here's another from earlier, on a slightly different matter.

I went to a Hispanic Republican event last Thursday, May 5, for "Cinco de Mayo." I arrived late -- and noticed a couple of interns walking around with clipboards wearing "Tom DeLay" stickers.

It turned out they were asking people to sign a "commitment" for Tom DeLay. From across the room, I watched them make their pitch to people at various tables, then I noticed a look of terror from the person approached, something like: "Oh my God, they want my signature! Egads!"

Maybe I was wrong about that look, but maybe not. When the young lady walked by me with her clipboard, I could not help but notice that -- despite her low cut dress -- that she had only about 3 signatures, despite a room full of party regulars (mostly non-Hispanic).

Since when do you need a commitment to run against a Democrat? What is DeLay afraid of if he is campaigning already -- nine months before the March '06 primary?

Make of that what you will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 03, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Please do not let it go unnoticed that the impetus behing this effort was a post by Eric Thode Fort Bend County Republican Chair who importuned members in a newsletter to gather the signatures. Isn't it a tad unusual for the County party to pre-select its candidate and damp down the prospects of any opponent? Any suggestion that it would not be unusual for the party to so favor an incumbant underlines all of the reasons that DeLay's brand of politicing is inconsistent with basic precepts of liberty freedom and the American way. Would a fair election in America be too much to ask for? Would Americans support a war to bring this type of free election to Afghanistan or Iraq?

Posted by: RJHaas on June 3, 2005 2:45 PM

New district director.

Big new petition push that hasn't happened previously.


Beats me, Elam's the blogger/expert in that district. Maybe he'll fill us in.

Posted by: kevin whited on June 3, 2005 5:00 PM

Not sure about the new district director / petition connection. Seems to me like this activity should fall more under the realm of the campaign. There is probably some blurring of the lines happening, but I'm not sure how much. On this matter, I don't care to speculate.

Personally, I'm really worried if we're in for another flurry of DeLay catch-up, last-minute TV ads / DAILY direct mail pieces in the two weeks before the election. This summer SHOULD represent a prime season for reaching out and spending time connecting with the voters. I guess gathering petition signatures might qualify as such... but I really hope that this does not represent the entire scope of campaign activity/strategy for the summer.

They only need 500 signatures! There should be that many available just from GOP precinct chairs and spouses! Throw in a few elected officials, and bam! Five Hundy!

Re: the training events. I don't understand why you need to TRAIN people to collect signatures unless the event was also a rally. I haven't heard yet how many people attended in Clear Lake or Sugar Land. My impression is that this was most certainly not organized or proposed by supporters, but instead by the campaign.

Getting someone to sign a petition is no way to identify supporters. The e-mail invite for the training get-togethers this week only went out to hard-core supporters ALREADY identified. I've had lunch with Homan, conversations with Dani DeLay, and contacted the campaign by their website last fall. I run the only pro-DeLay blog in the district, and I know the D.C. and Houston staff read on a daily basis.

Yet I didn't get an e-mail. It was forwarded to me from a friend. If I were a lesser man and preoccupied with such things, my ego would be crushed. =)

I just don't know. I'm not the majority leader, or currently working for the majority leader, so perhaps I have no place to criticize. But to me, just to me... getting supporters to sign a petition, which will become a matter of public record, is not the best way to identify your "people".

It raises more questions than it provides answers and it looks undeniably odd. All to save a measly $3K. If you check the FEC spending reports for the last year, the campaign spent nearly double that amount at some of Houston's finer steakhouses in the months of October and December.

I wonder if the folks at those events signed the petition.

Posted by: Chris Elam on June 3, 2005 6:58 PM

The petition is actually a "nominating petition." The candidates (for lower offices) that I have worked with generally want to submit a petition rather than pay the filing fee because it looks more democratic to be "nominated by the people" than just plunking down the money.

Delay's previous applications for election would have been filed with the state Republican Party Chair. It would be interesting to know how he handled the filing in the past.

Posted by: cwr on June 3, 2005 7:13 PM

At the RNHA Fort Bend (Republican National Hispanic Assembly) Cinco de Mayo Party Red headed Terese Raia (SREC SD 17,God Mom of Sugar Creek/Fort Bend GOP) asked activists if they live in Tom DeLay's district and then asked them to sign her petitions supporting him for 2006.

I witnessed a number of activists tell her they wouldn't incl a recent FBYRs Vice President. She was repelled by such a response.

Since then I've seen SREC for SD18 Cress Ann Posten, Fort Bend County Commish Andy Meyers and GOP Pct. Chair Paul Ware taking the petitions to Fort Bend Republican Club, Fort Bend Republican Women's Club and Spirit of Freedom Republican Women's Club mtngs all in Sugar Land and all getting very few signatures at every attempt.

(these mtgs are all open to all public and all should to attend to see their elected officials and candidates-even if your're not GOP the folks there impact your gov't if you live in Fort Bend)

I was told it's the Majority Leader's practice to collect signatures and then pay the fee but in my 12 yrs of activity in the Fort Bend GOP I I don't recall seeing this before. I did get the email asking activists attend the DeLay office in Greatwood Thursday for a petition training party and it was copied in Republican Party Chrmn Eric Thode's weekly Republican News:


The liberal Democrats have wasted no time in attacking Tom DeLay and the Republican
Majority with baseless allegations and expensive media campaigns. We too are starting
early and have already cranked up our own campaign machine. As a loyal supporter of Tom
DeLay, you are an integral part of this machine and we need your help!

We are in the process of circulating ballot petitions which ensure that Tom DeLay’s name
appears on the 2006 Republican primary election ballot. This is an extensive endeavor and
we need your help to obtain petition signatories within your circle of influence. A potential signatory could be a friend, neighbor, colleague, or perhaps someone you know is a fellow supporter of Tom DeLay. Their only qualifications are that they must be a registered voter in Congressman DeLay’s district (District 22) and do not plan to vote in the 2006 Democrat Primary Election.

To further explain the ballot petition process, we are hosting a series of orientation sessions. The campaign will provide petition materials, refreshments, and a short tutorial on obtaining signatures. We currently have two such events scheduled – details are listed below.

We hope that you are able to attend one these events. For our planning purposes, please RSVP to campaign@tomdelay.com or 281.343.1333.

Fort Bend County – Sugar Land
Thursday, June 2nd
6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Tom DeLay Campaign Headquarters
7002 Riverbrook Drive, Suite 200
Sugar Land, TX 77479
(The office is in Greatwood)
On-site contact: (281) 343-1333

BTW I bet they found it critcal to put TX afr Sugar Land to insure all know wht state they're talking abt esp since Greatwood isn't in Sugar Land anyway but uses an SL post office.

Posted by: Burt Levine on June 4, 2005 5:45 PM