Mack on DeLay
Chronicle politics writer Kristen Mack on DeLay:
U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's departure from the House leadership shrinks his national stature, but he is still likely to win his party's nomination in the 22nd District and will be a formidable candidate for re-election, supporters and a key opponent said Saturday.Here are my previous comments on the Republican primary.
"He had to [resign his leadership post] for the betterment of the Republican Party and to the detriment of the Houston area," said Fort Bend County Republican Party Chairman Eric Thode. "There's never been a question about his re-election. It's only been fomented by those that are delusional."
In November, he also may face former Republican Rep. Steve Stockman, who has filed as an independent. Stockman will need to petition for a place on the ballot — which also will include the Libertarian Party nominee and possibly one other independent who has already filed. It is too late for anyone else to file as an independent.
But DeLay's biggest challenge comes from former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Lampson and GOP leaders expect that DeLay easily will win his party's nomination over challengers Pat Baig, Tom Campbell and Michael Fjetland.
"Not one has any money, following or name ID," Thode said. "We are 100 percent behind DeLay and will continue to stand behind him."
In an unusual move last summer, the Fort Bend and Harris County Republican parties passed resolutions supporting DeLay. Traditionally party leaders remain publicly neutral about contests in their party primaries.
Primary opponent Campbell, a lawyer, said DeLay did the right thing by ending his bid for the House majority-leader position.
"Tom has become preoccupied with a whole series of issues that make it difficult for him to continue to serve in leadership positions," Campbell said. "If he hadn't made the decision, he would not have enough votes to become the majority leader. Tom's days as a Washington power broker are coming to a close."
DeLay should withdraw from the race and focus on his own issues while the Republican Party focuses on returning to its roots, Campbell said.
"We need to clean our house in March, and if we don't, we run the risk of losing the House in November," Campbell said.
Lampson, who expects DeLay to be his Republican opponent, said he anticipates a tough race but thinks the residents of the district are ready for new leadership.
The question now, [Rice professor Bob Stein] said, is whether residents of the district view DeLay's departure from the leadership as a significant political liability.
"The only thing that's ironic about it, is it leaves the state without a single member of the delegation, on either side, as part of the leadership," Stein said. "The very thing DeLay sought to provide, a place at the table for Texas, is all lost now. Texas is just as hurt by this as the Republican Party."
The best indicator of DeLay's strength: if Republican clubs and officeholders endorse his opponents. Right now, none have endorsed any of DeLay's opponents that I know of. If that changes, it will be a sign of weakness.
In other words, money won't be the best indicator of DeLay's opponents' strength. I expect one of his opponents, probably Campbell, to be able to raise a reasonable amount of money, but I don't believe that to be as reliable an indicator.