November 17, 2006
Bettencourt v. Lampson?

Kristin Mack brings the news that Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt, who was once considered for the write-in slot before demurring, is contemplating a real run for CD22 in 2008.

Harris County Tax Assessor-Collecter Paul Bettencourt said he is seriously considering taking Lampson on in 2008.

Problem is, he would have to resign his county seat as soon as he announced for Congress. He has two years left in his term.

He says he's willing to do that because of the "magnitude of the (Republican) turnover" in Congress.

"Our public policy was a failure in Washington," he said. "It could take about six years to rebuild the national party. It's important to decide the best place you can make a difference in the conservative movement. We need to put our best foot forward in every contested race."

Bettencourt wasn't willing to take the risk this time because he would have faced an uphill battle as a Republican write-in candidate. Courts ruled the GOP could not replace DeLay on the ballot when he resigned the seat after winning the March Republican primary.

But two years from now, the race is wide open.

"He definitely goes in as a front-runner, given the high-profile position he has taken for the taxpayer," said Harris County Republican Party Chair and Bettencourt disciple Jared Woodfill. "We've done lots of polling, and his positive name ID is through the roof."

Bettencourt would certainly be a strong candidate. He'll excite the Republican base, he'll have good name ID and fundraising capabilities and he'll carry with him a certain gravitas that (shall we say) the current short-term occupant of the office lacks. I fully expect he'll still have to win a competitive primary, unless the powers that be can figure out how to stuff David Wallace, Shelley Sekula Gibbs, and possibly Andy Meyers into someone's basement for the duration. That matchup would make for a race worth watching.

But let me float an alternate reason why Bettencourt is considering this race, which would mean stepping down from his current post: Having read the tea leaves from the 2006 result, in which it can fairly be said that Harris County Republicans performed underwhelmingly and were likely only saved from electoral disaster by the utter lack of a coordinated and funded campaign on the part of the Democrats and the poor turnout in traditionally Democratic areas that resulted from it, he's less sure he can win re-election in 2008 than he is about his odds of knocking off Lampson. After all, if Harris County pulls a Dallas in 2008, it won't just be the judges that'll have to polish their resumes. It'll be folks like Bettencourt, Chuck Rosenthal, Tommy Thomas, and Michael Fleming as well.

I'm sure Bettencourt thinks he can win CD22 in 2008. I'm also sure he thinks there's a nontrivial chance he could lose his current job if he takes another go at that instead. The question is which one he thinks is more likely. We'll see.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 17, 2006 to Election 2008 | TrackBack