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Watching the races

Some Congressional news and notes:

Here’s a profile of the race for CD19 between Rep. Charlie Stenholm and Rep. Randy Neugebauer.

Stenholm’s 17th District — which stretched from near the New Mexico border to the outskirts of Fort Worth — was a centerpiece in the Republican redesign of Texas’ congressional districts last year.

He chose to run in District 19, situated in the High Plains, the Panhandle and other counties in eastern West Texas. He faces U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, a freshman incumbent, in one of the most closely watched and most expensive House races in the country.

“It’s become a referendum on redistricting,” said Neale Pearson, a former political science professor at Texas Tech University.

The spotlight comes from there being few competitive races in the House. But moreover, Texans and others across the country are interested in the consequences of redistricting and they want to see whether Stenholm’s seniority in Congress can sustain him, said Brian Gerber, an assistant professor of political science at Tech.


The going got tougher for Stenholm, 65, in the past six elections as District 17 grew increasingly conservative. Beginning in 1980, Stenholm won re-election to six consecutive terms without Republican opposition. His margins grew smaller during most of the 1990s, and in 2002 he won by only 4 percent.

Gerber said that despite Stenholm’s name recognition, District 19 demographics favor Neugebauer.

“Neugebauer has a big advantage because this is such a Republican area but it is still is going to be a competitive race,” Gerber said.

Charlie Stenholm will be profiled in the coming weeks on Texas Tuesdays. You can donate to Stenholm here, you can donate to any and all Texas Tuesdays candidates here, and you can donate to the DCCC here.

The Morning News looks at the Texas races and their national implications, both legislative and financial.

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, said the GOP will “definitely” win the two incumbent pairings: the one in Dallas pitting four-term Republican Pete Sessions and 13-term Democrat Martin Frost, and the West Texas match between Democrat Charlie Stenholm of Abilene and freshman Republican Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock.

The Frost-Sessions race had attracted $6 million through the end of June, making it the costliest House race in the country.

And Mr. Forti predicted “excellent opportunities” in the three races involving challengers. In East Texas, former judge Ted Poe of Houston and Louie Gohmert of Tyler face, respectively, Democratic Reps. Nick Lampson of Beaumont and Max Sandlin of Marshall. And state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, is hoping to oust Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco.

Democrats say they’re in good shape in all five races.

“The common theme in each of these races is that each Democrat is a tried and true fighter for Texas, with the courage to stand up to anyone in either party when the interests of Texas are at stake,” said Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


Last week, Rep. Robert Matsui, the Californian who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told colleagues that not one Democratic incumbent outside Texas has poll numbers below 50 percent.

That’s good news for incumbents outside Texas. But it also means that “nobody’s in as bad a shape as the Texas Five,” said Amy Walter, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. But, she added, candidates matter, campaigns matter and the experience and power of incumbency matter.

Mr. DeLay admitted some anxiety about the three challengers, who lag in cash after costly primaries. “But,” said Mr. DeLay, who reportedly called political action committees last week to drum up funds for them, “they’ll be fine.”

Ms. Walter noted that four of the Texas Five – Mr. Frost is the exception – have won GOP-leaning districts. And the three facing nonincumbents are far more seasoned campaigners than their rivals.

So it makes sense for all of them to dig in their heels, even though districts are stacked against them.

“For many Democrats, it’s a sort of political Alamo – ‘We’re going to stand up and fight … and if I go down, I’m going to make them spend a whole lot of money coming to get me,’ ” Ms. Walter said.

But if the Democrats lose this fall, she said, “there’s not going to be any money going to Texas ever again.”

“Ever again” is a mighty long time. If you want to say that there will be no competitive big-money races outside of any of the ones in which an endangered Democratic incumbent survives in any election between now and 2012 when the next (scheduled) redistricting will take effect, I’d say you’re probably wrong. And let’s just say right now that the 2010 statewide elections, especially for Governor and Lt. Governor, will be extremely important.

Finally, Byron looks at a few races around the country in which candidates who have taken money from Tom DeLay’s ARMPAC, the PAC from which TRMPAC was sired, are being called on to give it back.

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