Strange parallels

This Chron story about the primary challenges to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee goes out of its way to try to find parallels to Jackson Lee’s own successful primary election of 1994. A little too far, I think.

The district looks different: Its 228 square miles, mostly in the center of Houston, were reshaped in 2003 at the behest of Texas Republicans.

Its voters are different: African-Americans account for 40 percent of the eight-term Democrat’s estimated 652,000 constituents now, compared with 51 percent 16 years ago. Hispanics have doubled their share of the population to 36 percent. And the political power centers have shifted from the inner city churches to the neighborhoods like Windsor Village that ring Houston’s central core.

What’s more, the way candidates reach voters is different: When Jackson Lee first ran for Congress, she appeared with African-American ministers. On the day Houston City Councilman Jarvis Johnson declared his intent to replace Jackson Lee, his first interview was a roundtable with liberal Houston bloggers.

Then there’s the volatile political climate of 2010, similar in many ways to the 1994 wave that swept away three dozen incumbents, including Jackson Lee’s predecessor, Craig Washington. Just last week, two senior Democrats, Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, abandoned their re-election plans after finding themselves trailing in early polls.

Okay, as someone who has lived in CD18 since Mickey Leland was its representative, this is quite the stretch. It’s true that Rep. Jackson Lee has gotten some bad press recently. One can argue, as I’m sure Johnson and Roberts will, that she’s lost touch with the district. But Craig Washington spent the better part of 1993 dealing with stories about how he was paying his ex-wife’s rent with campaign funds, which were also allegedly being used to help him out of personal bankruptcy; and about how he missed a committee hearing that he himself had called for to attend a charity golf event; and how his attendance record was the fourth worst in all of Congress. To put it mildly, there’s nothing remotely like that in Jackson Lee’s record.

The Dodd and Dorgan comparison is equally flimsy. The reason for Dodd dropping out (lousy poll numbers that stem from his abortive 2008 Presidential run and a sweetheart deal from Countrywide Financial) and Dorgan dropping out (popular Governor John Hoeven decided to enter the race) are very different. Other than a general narrative of “2010 is likely going to be a rough year for Democrats” – which doesn’t have much relevance in a Democratic primary – it’s hard to see what that has to do with Jackson Lee’s situation. I at least am not aware of any polls that suggest Jackson Lee is in any danger. This doesn’t mean that she isn’t, but it would be nice to have some objective data before we start comparing her to incumbents that actually are on their way out.

Finally, while it’s true that CD18 looks different now than it did in 1994, Jackson Lee has won re-election three times since the 2003 re-redistricting. It’s not like she has to re-introduce herself to the voters, who showed her plenty of love in 2008. Again, I’m certainly not saying she can’t lose – Jarvis Johnson represents the strongest challenge she’s faced since 1994, and with two opponents, it’s that much harder to get a majority. What I am saying is that if she does lose, it won’t have anything to do with the reasons why Craig Washington lost to her all those years ago, and it won’t have anything to do with the politics of Connecticut or North Dakota. As is often the case in a primary, it’ll be a referendum on her, and she’ll win or lose on who she is and what she has or has not done while in office. That’s the story that we should be focusing on.

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3 Responses to Strange parallels

  1. Bruce Wayne says:

    John Faulk for Congress 18th Congressional District. He is fighting against Sheila Jackson Lee. He is for lower taxes, Less Government, States Rights, Border Control, Energy Independence, Balanced Budget, Legal Immigration. He is a good man. And upright man. He only wants to give the people of the 18th Congressional District a strong voice. Something they have not had for quite some time. Please get out and vote!
    Early voting starts Feb 16- 26th. The Primary is Tuesday, March 2, 2010. You Tea Party members out there. Here is your chance. Get a voice in Congress. Vote John Faulk. Sincere, Upright, Honest.
    John got into race late last time. This time he’s better prepared to take on the Queen – not to mention the multiple incidents of embarrassment Queen Sheila caused Houston this year – the Michael Jackson fiasco? PLEASE! Jackson was a pedophile and she wanted Congress to honor him? Then she flies to his memorial service on the TAX PAYER DIME to bow at his feet? PLEASE! Next – let me remind you over her callous behavior at a town hall meeting – taking a phone cal during a Q & A? OMG! I could go on and on…her behavior at the Airport with the Airlines…she’s luck she’s not on the “No Fly” list herself. Faulk will send this carpet bagger back to New York where she should never have left.
    Faulk for Congress on Facebook (
    Faulk for Congress on Twitter (

  2. trowaman says:

    Now why would a district that is at it’s heart very liberal and very Democratic be interested in a conservative Republican? This is not TX-23 or TX-17, competitive districts held by democrats. Good luck clearing 30% in the general, I kinda doubt you will due to your lack of understanding of the district and its constituents, Mr Wayne.

    BTW, in DC’s election special they did a year ago, Bruce Wayne endorsed the moderate/business friendly Democrat. He ain’t no teabagger.

  3. Tex Revere says:

    John Faulk is definitely a viable candidate. The climate is definitely changing. New Jersey, a solidly Democratic state, elected a Republican governor even though they voted over 60% for Obama. Independents are abandoning the Democrats in droves. They see the damage done by these tax and spend Democrats in states like California, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York that have been mismanaged by the Democrats for so long.

    John Faulk strongly opposes the government Healthcare bill that Sheila Jackson Lee voted for
    voted for to jail and fine the uninsured, force people out of private insurance and into government insurance if they lose coverage after 2013, give the government access to our bank accounts to pay medical bills, and set up a government board to choose our elgibility to receive care.

    He also strongly opposes the ridiculous spending going on in Washington, amnesty, corporate bailouts, Cap and Trade, and higher taxes that are all supported by Sheila Jackson Lee. Republicans have been getting their clocks cleaned because they haven’t distinguished themselves as being that much different than Democrats in an attempt (That doesn’t work) to attract the independent and moderate votes. John Faulk won’t be making that mistake. People in the 18th District have a real choice between a man who has real convictions versus a Washington insider who felt a cell phone call was more important to answer than a constituent’s question at a town hall meeting.

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