U.S. Rep. John Culberson easily won re-election, but his party lost the House, which means the Houston Republican could lose some of the committee influence that has made him a force to be reckoned with in Metro's transit plans.
But local House Democrats said it is virtually certain Culberson will keep his seat on a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that authorizes transit funds and will continue to have a strong say on projects in his district.
His influence could be diluted if Democrats succeed in placing newly elected Democrat Nick Lampson on the same subcommittee, where Culberson is now the sole Texan among 15 members.
"I think generally the new majority is much more sensitive to mass transit and light rail," said U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston. "But we still have to work to get our money, and Culberson is going to be on that committee, and we still need to have his help."
Green and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said they want Lampson on the subcommittee but also want Culberson to stay.
"He (Culberson) is there from Texas, and although he and I have some philosophical differences, he's helped me get money for some of my transportation projects," Green said.
"I want any Texan I can get to be well-received on any committee they might be on because that is an asset for Texas," Jackson Lee agreed. "What we want is to make sure that we are fighting for Texas and that the resources that Texas sends to Washington come back in full force to the state of Texas."
Despite the new majority, Green said he does not intend to press the issue of whether the University line segment west of Main should go on Richmond or Westpark.
"That's John's concern. It's his area, and we're pretty territorial," Green said. "I'm not going to get involved in the Richmond controversy as long as he stays out of my district."
Robin Holzer of the Citizens Transportation Coalition - a grass-roots group that has supported rail on Richmond and said Culberson should not interfere in the federally prescribed route-selection process - said Lampson's election will probably have little effect on the University line debate.
However, Holzer and Jackson Lee said the defeat of another Richmond rail opponent, state Rep. Martha Wong, R-Houston, could give Metro a freer hand in choosing a route.