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Frontrunners?

Fort Bend Now reports from the top secret, invitation only, you-don’t-need-to-know GOP candidates’ forum for the CD22 nomination from the weekend.

Two organizers of Saturday’s Harris County GOP candidates’ forum say state representatives Robert Talton and Charlie Howard are emerging as front-runners in the campaign for retiring U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s November ballot slot.

The two were among seven candidates interviewed Saturday by Harris County precinct chairs within DeLay’s 22nd Congressional District. Two other candidates slated to speak – Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace and former state representative Brad Wright – did not attend the forum.

Wallace said he didn’t attend because he wasn’t made aware of it until Thursday evening, and then was actually scheduled to speak to Harris County Republican precinct chairs after the meeting was supposed to adjourn – a half-hour before he had another scheduled speaking engagement.

“All I can say is that I was not invited,” Wallace said. “I did not receive any communication at all until late Thursday.”

First of all, Howard and Talton? Really? I’m sure their conservative bona fides are all in place, but what record of accomplishment do either of them have? Nick Lampson has a pretty impressive list of things he did while he was in Congress. How are those two going to stack up?

As for poor misunderstood David Wallace, how not plugged in can you be? This may be the funniest thing I’ve read in a political story this year:

As for Wallace, he said the first communication he had about the Harris County event came from a friend who’d read a political blog making note of the Harris County GOP forum, and told Wallace about it.

Advantage: blogosphere! Or something like that. Where would poor David be without friends who read blogs?

Anyway. Remember that Harris County, like Fort Bend, will have just one vote among the Gang of Four. I don’t recall reading anything recently about how Brazoria and Galveston will determine their choices, but there’s definitely a subcurrent of discontent that those two small-within-CD22 counties have such an outsized say on who gets to be the Chosen One. If they go their own way and cause an otherwise popular choice to get derailed, watch out.

This bit about fundraising was very interesting:

Wallace said his intent is to continue to campaign hard for the position, “regardless of what kind of roadblocks they put in my way.”

To date, he said, “things have gone very well. I’m above $1 million in commitments” for campaign contributions. That’s important because “this is a $3 million race, at least.”

[…]

[Clear Lake businessman Tim] Turner said fund raising for this non-traditional congressional campaign is going to be tricky, especially since DeLay has not yet resigned. While Turner said he’s filed with the Federal Election Commission, he hasn’t begun raising money.

Of Wallace’s fund-raising efforts, he said, “What happens if he doesn’t get the nomination? What is he going to do with that money?”

Turner said he will encourage all unsuccessful congressional candidates to return all campaign contributions, along with a letter urging the contributors to forward their contributions to the winning Republican candidate.

First, $1 million in commitments is not the same as $1 million in hand. I do expect the Chosen One will be able to raise sufficient funds for this race, but that takes time. If Lampson hits his eventual opponent with an immediate ad blitz, how will he or she be able to respond? Note Kathy Haigler’s comments here. Lampson’s warchest is definitely something the Republicans are worried about, however much bravado they may be giving forth in public.

Second, if we assume that David Wallace really really wants to be the Congressman from District 22, then the last thing in the world he would consider doing is directing his resources towards a Republican who isn’t him. Either he gets to be the Chosen One and takes his shot this year, or he (quietly) roots for a Lampson win and takes another shot in the 2008 primary. If Charlie Howard or Crazy Bob Talton winds up in Washington, who knows when he’ll get another chance.

No, if Wallace is not the Chosen One, I fully expect him to keep whatever cash and commitments he has for his next race. Maybe he’d run in a special election to fill Charlie Howard’s seat in the State House as a consolation prize, I don’t know. The point is that CD22 is what he’s been waiting for. As long as he still has political ambitions, it makes no sense for him to take one for the team and help out whoever kept him from grabbing that brass ring.

Anyway. Wallace’s no-show in Harris County, regardless of whose fault it was, did not help his chances to be the Chosen One, as these three reports indicate. Just remember that none of this really matters until Tom DeLay actually announces a departure date from Congress, something which he still has not done as yet.

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