I mentioned before that John Culberson has been whining about Michael Skelly trying to "buy" the election against him. That's a pretty silly claim, given that Skelly has attracted far more donors than Culberson has, but it is the silly season. In any event, Team Skelly is doing a push today to get as many new donors as it can to further demonstrate the ridiculousness of that argument. If you want to show Culberson how deep the doo-doo is, go give a little coin to Skelly. Any amount is fine, it's the number of the givers that really matters.
Meanwhile, Roll Call has paid some attention to the two hot Congressional pickup opportunities for Dems in Harris County.
Republican operatives who follow Texas Congressional races concede that neither the 7th district nor the 10th will be the easy ride they've been for the Republicans since being redrawn in 2003 as part of the redistricting of Lone Star State House seats engineered by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
But these same GOP insiders say that both Culberson and [Mike] McCaul are taking nothing for granted, working harder to win re-election than they did in 2004 and 2006. Even the [Larry Joe] Doherty and Skelly campaigns predict that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will beat Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in their districts in the presidential contest, acknowledging that their candidates can't win without attracting a significant bloc of crossover votes.
Culberson has represented suburban Houston in Congress since 2000. The 7th district in its current form is a mixture of social conservatives and practical, business-minded Republicans, and Culberson has never scored less than 59 percent of the vote, which he earned last cycle while spending just under $735,000.
Skelly's strategy is to parlay his background as an energy executive -- and the personal fortune he earned launching and running a wind-energy company -- into a November victory over an incumbent who hasn't committed a fireable offense and is a better political fit for the district.
As of June 30, Skelly reported $1.1 million in cash on hand, $200,000 of which were personal funds that he loaned to his campaign. He raised $412,000 during the second quarter. Culberson raised less during the same period, $394,000, to finish with $550,000 on hand. In a telephone interview on Thursday, Culberson said he now has more than $700,000 in the bank.
Culberson said he takes every race seriously, and is treating this contest no differently. The Congressman said he has an "extraordinary network of grass-roots volunteers," emphasizing that his campaign is already hard at work on the ground to ensure the voter turnout he'll need to overcome Skelly's financial advantage and prevail on Election Day.
"I always expect to be outspent when facing a multimillionaire like this," Culberson said. "But, they don't count dollar bills on Election night."
But Skelly's team believes a district whose economy relies heavily on the energy industry will respond favorably to a candidate with his background, and they predict that fiscal conservatives disappointed with Congress' record on spending and the deficit could help him win an unexpected victory. Skelly, on cable television with his second ad, is already courting voters; Culberson intends to wait until after Labor Day to launch his air war.
"This is the perfect year and the perfect district for a successful wind-energy businessman who has spent his career working on the issues that people care about most," Skelly campaign spokesman Dylan Loewe said. "I like our chances."