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A few words with Nick Lampson

I had the opportunity over the weekend to sit down and have a conversation with Nick Lampson at his campaign office in Clear Lake. I didn’t do this in formal interview fashion, we just shot the breeze for an hour or so.

When I asked if there had been any negative reaction to his moving into the district to run in the race, Lampson said no, quite the contrary. His roots run deep in Fort Bend County, and people there have responded to the story of his background in Stafford, which is where he’s now living and where his 90-year-old aunt lives. His history in the area goes back farther than DeLay’s – “There are things about the history of Fort Bend County that I know that he couldn’t possibly know.”

Much of the Harris and Galveston County parts of the district are already familiar with him. Lampson represented the Clear Lake area before and was the ranking member on the subcommittee that oversees NASA (the exact name of which escapes me). Patty Gray, a former State Rep from Galveston, once said of him “I see Lampson more often than I see my City Council member”.

What he’s been doing so far since becoming the de facto nominee is concentrating on fundraising and meeting people. The first part we know about – as has been widely reported, he’d raised about $500K by the end of the second quarter this year. This is a dead time of year for raising campaign cash, but Lampson tells me he continues to meet and exceed every goal they’ve set.

He’s also had a busy schedule of attending neighborhood meetings and introducing or re-introducing himself to the district. This was something he thought he could improve on from 2004, when much of his constituency changed via redistricting. His responsibilities as a sitting member of Congress at that time meant that he couldn’t spend as much time in the area as he wanted to, which was an advantage for his opponent. He notes that this advantage is his now, and he’s using it.

You can’t talk about Tom DeLay without talking about scandals. Lampson has told me before that he doesn’t intend to spend a whole lot of time emphasizing that on the campaign trail, and he reiterated that in this conversation. You can’t avoid the subject – people bring it up to him all the time – but he is focusing on the needs of the district and his past record of service. The Chronicle did a survey on constituent services for the area Congressional offices a few years back, and his came in first. “I have been, and I will be, an effective member of Congress,” is how he puts it.

We talked about DeLay’s recent “suggestion” that Houston police round up suspected illegal aliens and hold them in tents for the National Guard. Lampson pointed out that DeLay has voted against increased funding for Border Patrol agents and equipment, and now he’s trying to pass the buck to cities to make up for that failure. (Along the same lines, DeLay voted against adequate funding for the Coast Guard after 9/11, which led to coastal counties having to pick up the slack.) Lampson opposes revoking the citizenship of US-born children of illegal immigrants, and he opposes the bill to allow arming the self-appointed Minutemen, which he said would put lives (their own and others’) at risk. Lampson called for the federal government to do its job by properly funding its responsibilities.

Lampson says he would have opposed the CAFTA bill because it was not fair to American workers’ interests. “We need a fair playing field, with comparable conditions – environmental and labor – for all sides,” he said. He spoke at length about shrimp fishing in the Gulf versus imported farmed shrimp from Asia as an example. Imported shrimp are supposed to be tested for certain chemicals, but often aren’t because of a familiar problem – inadequate funding for the agency responsible, in this case the FDA. Make the importers play by the same rules that the Americans are subjected to and the Americans will be able to compete.

We talked about other races and candidates, and demographics in various areas of CD22, but I’ve gone on long enough. His campaign website is about to undergo a relaunch with a new design – I had a preview, and it looks pretty slick – so stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, andybody who wants to help can contact his campaign at [email protected] Volunteers are always needed, whether you live in the district or just know someone who does.

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