October 12, 2006
Endorsement watch: Two for Chet

There was a time when I was worried about Rep. Chet Edwards' chances of surviving a second election in the DeLay-drawn world. He ran a great campaign against the flawed former State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, successfully attacking her on local matters like Waco's water quality, and pulled off a narrow win in a district that went for President Bush by a 70-30 margin. You need a lot of things to go in your favor to do that, and while they all start with being a great and well-funded candidate, they sure don't end there. I fretted that a Republican without Wohlgemuth's baggage, even one who wasn't all that strong overall, would be able to ride the district's red wave to a win.

And when the GOP nominated Iraq war veteran Van Taylor, I got really nervous. He was an ideal candidate on paper - a young vet, which would blunt Edwards' strength in military matters, with no record to weigh him down. As the last man standing from the DeLay gerrymander, in a district the Republicans viewed as theirs, and with fewer high profile races elsewhere to distract attention from CD17, things looked grim.

Now? I'm not so worried. Taylor has proven to have no grasp of the issues beyond boilerplate soundbites. Edwards has been successful in making an issue of Taylor's nonresidency in CD17 prior to 2005. The national mood is much more favorable to Edwards, he continues to enjoy a substantial fundraising lead, he's picked up endorsements (or at least avoided opposition) from former adversaries, and once again he's gotten the big newspaper recommendations. From the Morning News:

Mr. Edwards' steady, pro-defense record and years of dependable service to constituents are reasons enough to return the Democrat to Congress for a ninth term. The fitness of his Republican opponent, Van Taylor, is another reason.


Mr. Taylor, 34, a Waco real estate investor and Iraq war veteran, is one of the GOP's top prospects for knocking off a sitting Democrat. A district newcomer - he says he moved to the district 16 months ago - he's received an infusion of outside money and fundraising help.

But that hasn't helped Mr. Taylor's grasp of the issues. In an interview, he stressed an urgent need to trim spending but was vague on where to start, despite several invitations to outline priorities. On immigration, he opposed "amnesty," yet lacked a thought-out proposal and was unclear about ideas on the table in Washington.

Credibility is another concern. Mr. Edwards, 54, of Waco, says his opponent has used Willie Horton-like ads, a charge close to the mark. The ads say one Edwards vote helped dangerous immigrants avoid deportation, including some who later committed "rape and murder." That's a stretch. The measure in question threatened Homeland Security money for cities; Mr. Edwards voted with most of the Republican-dominated House.

Mr. Edwards' centrist politics have helped him survive as a Democrat in GOP territory and build seniority that helps his district. His senior position on the House Appropriations Committee gives him muscle in the fight for Waco's threatened VA center.

And from the Star Telegram:

Chet Edwards brings experience, understanding and the closest thing to statesmanship one can find in Washington these days.

In his more than 15 years representing Central Texas, Edwards has distinguished himself through his passion for the men and women who serve in the armed forces.

From championing investments in the nation's military infrastructure to voicing concerns about healthcare for veterans, Edwards has been a constant advocate for the country's military personnel. He is the senior Democrat on the Veterans Affairs and Military Quality of Life Appropriations subcommittee and co-chairs the bipartisan House Army Caucus. He also serves on the Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee.

Van Taylor of West, Edwards' Republican challenger, is a personable and likable young man who deserves thanks for serving his country in the Marines, with duties in Iraq and along the Texas-Mexico border as part of Joint Task Force 6. Taylor, 34, should be encouraged to continue his education into the issues beyond the war on terror that are important to District 17 -- land and water use, agriculture, environment and education.


In the 2006 Voter's Self-Defense Manual published by PVS, Edwards received 100 percent ratings on educational issues from the National PTA, senior and social issues from the Alliance for Retired Americans and veterans' issues from Disabled American Veterans.

The conservative Eagle Forum rated Edwards at 53 percent; the liberal Americans for Democratic Action rated him at 85 percent. (For context, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, rated a 20 percent from Eagle Forum and 100 percent from the ADA; U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Abilene, rated a 87 percent from Eagle Forum and 0 from the ADA.)

I certainly have issues with some of the votes Edwards has made, but on balance he's still strong, and when the choice is a Wohlgemuth or a Taylor, it couldn't be clearer. Thanks for making this less of a race, Chet!

UPDATE: Kos has some poll numbers that show Edwards leading by a 55-38 margin. Sweet.

Drilling down into the crosstabs, it claims a partisan split of 38R/32D/30I, which seems off to me. On the other hand, it shows Bush with a healthy 51/36 approve/disapprove rating. So who knows? I think Greg is right to suggest that the end result will be closer than that, but since he found a second poll that shows Edwards up 54-33, I'm still feeling good. Now if only we could get some polls in other districts...

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 12, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

I live in the center of District 17 in China Spring about 10 miles NW of Waco. Gotta say the feeling I get around here is that Taylor is a complete washout. He doesn't seem to have any ground game. Edwards has a massive organization going which is logical because he needs one every 2 years just to hold this district. Taylor doesn't seem to be doing much but buy really ugly negative ads about illegal immigration that Edwards is answering ad for ad.

Driving around Waco I'd say that Edwards has about a 10-1 advantage in terms of yard signs. In the rural ranch areas outside Waco it's more like 3-1 but I do see a lot of huge billboard sized Edwards signs on a lot of ranches and farms. Clearly he has deep support in what is very Republican territory.

Around here he's just the hometown boy and Taylor is very much not. I don't see this race being as close as the Wohlgemuth race. Edwards will win the Waco area easily. Being an A&M grad, he should also be able to win the College Station area. That leaves the southern suburbs of Fort Worth like Burleson. I don't have a good feel for those areas but they aren't a major part of the district.

Posted by: Kent from Waco on October 12, 2006 11:05 PM