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October 17th, 2004:

A whole lot of Congressional stories

The Statesman gives us a CD31 overview.

When Jon Porter introduces himself on the campaign trail for the District 31 seat in the U.S. Congress, he laments, it’s not his name that’s important.

“A lot of people go, ‘OK, great, you’re Jon Porter. Are you a Democrat or a Republican?’ ” he said.

When they hear “Democrat,” he said, the response is often, “OK, I’ll vote against you.”

“That’s frustrating,” he said. “You’re labeled already.”

The scenario illustrates the tough road that Porter has hewn since he decided to run for Congress in a heavily conservative district dominated by incumbent John Carter. The newly reconfigured district includes all of Williamson County, part of Robertson County and six other counties to the north. It includes Fort Hood in Killeen.


Democrat Porter refuses to believe that resistance is futile. He entered the race after no one else from the party stepped forward.

“I knew it was going to be difficult,” he said. “I don’t know any rich people. I’m not politically connected. I have no name recognition — no one knows who I am. Finally, I came to the conclusion that no one was going to run; (the Democrats) were going to give up the seat.”

But the campaign, which Porter runs himself, soon took over his life.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have the psychological makeup that I like to lose,” he said. “My first priority is to win. You don’t do this to lose.”

Porter said that he has driven so many miles through the district, which stretches more than 150 miles north to south, that his car, a 1994 Saturn SL, “died on me.” He has since taken over his wife’s car for the cause.

Porter said he takes great pains to assure voters that he’s not a “liberal-pinko-commie,” but a “traditional Texas Democrat”: fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

He believes the war in Iraq was wrong but said American troops need to stay until that country is stabilized. He’s concerned about how insurance regulations “handcuff” doctors, not surprising for a lawyer who represents health care workers in cases against the government. And he said he wants to simplify the tax system by reducing the number of credits and exemptions, which he said allow the rich who can afford to hire tax lawyers to benefit.

One subject of Porter’s continuing dismay is Carter’s refusal so far to debate him in public. “My theory is, he doesn’t want to give me legitimacy,” Porter said.

Carter said that he has simply been too busy to engage in any debates. However, the two are scheduled to debate at 6 p.m. Oct. 27 at Round Rock City Hall.

According to federal campaign filings, Porter’s campaign has garnered about $16,000 between January 1, 2003, and June 30, and his mother and father are his largest contributors.

By contrast, Carter has raised about $865,000 in that same time period. Updated financial filings are to be released today. Adams has not filed any statements with the Federal Election Commission because, she said, she has not raised any money.

This isn’t a high profile race, and it’s not a race that should be competitive – I’d expect Carter to get in the neighborhood of 65% of the vote. Still, I think it’s important for there to be coverage of every race, including the less exciting ones like this one for the simple reason that it may be the only way some people will know anything about them. Needless to say, the Chron has failed miserably in this regard this year.

The Chron does have a story today about the race in CD01 between Max Sandlin and Louie Gohmert. Don’t know why they took a few weeks off from profiling races, and I have no idea at all why they haven’t written squat about the races in CD07, CD08, CD09, CD10, or CD18, all of which were contests in which they made endorsements today. I’ve learned to take what I can.

The Statesman gives an update on some campaign finances.

The five targeted Democrats collected a total of $12 million, compared with $10.2 million for Republicans, a figure that shows the power of incumbency but also displays confidence in their prospects despite having to run in heavily Republican districts.

Among the five races:

•Sessions, a Republican with nearly $2.3 million in the bank, is ideally set for a last-month push in the expensive Dallas-Fort Worth media market.

While his Democratic opponent has outraised Sessions by almost $350,000, he has spent most of his nearly $4.2 million haul, leaving the Frost campaign with $576,872 available as of Sept. 30 — about one-fifth of Sessions’ bankroll.

“That creates a situation where we can get our message out there without a response from him, ” said Chris Homan, Sessions’ campaign manager.

The figures, however, hide a $1 million media buy, closed just before Frost filed his fund-raising documents, for TV and radio commercials through Election Day, spokesman Justin Kitsch said.

•The other battle of incumbent representatives, Democrat Charlie Stenholm and Republican Randy Neugebauer, is a $4 million race that has already flooded voters with hundreds of TV commercials in the relatively cheap Lubbock and Abilene markets.

Stenholm’s $2.1 million is the most he’s raised in 14 campaigns, though Neugebauer had a slight edge in available cash.

•Challenger Arlene Wohlgemuth had less than $163,000 remaining on Sept. 30, the smallest amount among the five races. That could be a looming factor in a contest in which her opponent, Waco Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards, had almost $668,000 in the bank.

The discrepancy becomes even greater if a Democratic poll proves accurate in its findings: a 50 percent to 40 percent lead for Edwards.

•Poe, criticized by Republicans for anemic fund-raising, added luster to his campaign by collecting almost $459,000 in the third quarter. Still, Democrat Lampson collected $100,000 more, pushing him beyond the $2 million mark, almost double Poe’s total.

•In the Piney Woods of Northeast Texas, GOP challenger Louie Gohmert outraised Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Marshall, by more than $100,000. Sandlin, however, continued to hold an advantage in available cash, up more than $150,000 on Sept. 30.

They also endorsed all of the relevant incumbents plus Mike McCaul. Elsewhere in endorsement news, the Express News also goes with the incumbents plus the unknown Republican Jim Hopson over Henry Cuellar in CD28. The Star Telegram endorsed Charlie Stenholm. Neither they nor the Morning News has offered an opinion on the Frost-Sessions race yet, as far as I can tell.

Finally, a site called Vote Kids has a big spread on CD17 and Arlene Wohlgemuth. Here’s a great quote:

When asked how the hundreds of thousands of children and 17,000 pregnant women would get treatment, Wohlgemuth said “just out of the goodness of the American soul.” (San Antonio Express News, 4/1/03)

Boy, that’s sure the kind of representation I’d want in Congress. How about you? Check it out.

DeLay to duck debate

No debate, says DeLay.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Friday said that he would not debate Democratic challenger Richard Morrison before the Nov. 2 election.


As a challenger with no experience in electoral politics, Morrison, an environmental lawyer, is trying to raise his profile.

On Friday, DeLay said that his latest poll put his support at 56 percent, while Morrison’s was much lower. “His name ID is nothing,” DeLay said.

Morrison says he has raised $500,000 — more than all of DeLay’s past challengers put together. In a bid to introduce himself to voters, Morrison has been running television spots portraying himself as a regular guy.

A debate with DeLay also would raise Morrison’s profile. There is also the fact that some voters might like to see the candidates go head to head before deciding whom to vote for.

“I want to know why he’s ducking me,” Morrison said last week in a visit to The Daily News. “What’s he scared of?”

At least so far, DeLay, the No. 2 man in the House, has calculated that Morrison has more to gain from a debate than DeLay has to lose by avoiding one. “A debate would be for his benefit, not for mine,” DeLay said of Morrison.

What a chicken. Apparently, he’s afraid that if people have the opportunity to directly compare his positions with Morrison’s, he’ll lose support. Of course, he probably has a good reason for believing that, doesn’t he?

He also said that a debate with Morrison would go largely unnoticed. “Unfortunately, debates in this area have never had an impact because media doesn’t cover them,” DeLay said. “Television never covers them. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and you show up to a forum where there are more candidates at the forum than constituents. I’d much rather be out with constituents, meeting them and going to events.”

Given that this story is in the Galveston News and not the Chronicle, I have to agree with him about the impact of a debate. And that’s a damn shame, too. Whoever you support, we’d all be better off if there were more real debates that had real attention paid to them. Of course, given all the controversy surrounding DeLay and the fact that Morrison has given him his strongest challenge ever, maybe this time there’d be more interest in a debate. But we’ll never know, will we?

Oh, and though the story doesn’t specify, I wonder if this means DeLay is ducking out of the candidate forum in Clear Lake on Tuesday? I’ll try to find out.

Thanks to reader Burt for the tip.

Endorsement watch: Congress

This one I called correctly: The Chron goes for Richard Morrison, Al Green, Mike McCaul, and all of the other incumbents. Here’s what they say about Morrison:

District 22, Richard Morrison — A Democrat who promises to place the district’s interests above grasping for partisan power in Washington, Morrison seeks to unseat the long-serving Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay. Morrison, an environmental lawyer and Sugar Land resident, vows to do a better job in securing federal funds for Houston-area transportation and homeland security. Morrison says he would work to close corporate tax loopholes and invest more in education and health care. He is personally opposed to abortion.

DeLay is the powerful House majority leader, perhaps more influential than the House speaker. The District 22 election thus has national implications that bear heavily on the race.

DeLay has been reprimanded several times by the House ethics committee for an indifference to the rules that reflects poorly on the House and on Texas. Most recently, the committee’s bipartisan membership admonished DeLay for offering a favor in exchange for a colleague’s vote; giving the appearance of wrongdoing by exchanging access on the golf course for campaign contributions from energy executives; and improperly trying to use federal aviation officials to locate Democratic legislators who had fled Texas.

DeLay’s misplaced priorities were most evident in his previous ban on federal rail transit funds for Houston, causing the funds to go to other cities. DeLay was behind the redistricting effort in Texas that displaced badly needed property tax relief and school finance reform as the Austin leadership’s top priorities.

Morrison faces an uphill battle in this race. The Houston region and the entire country will be better off if he succeeds.

Indeed we will.