January 07, 2006

DeLay's Sugar Land Rally

With only an hour's notice, Tom DeLay held a rally at Town Square in Sugar Land after his announcement that he was resigning his leadership position for the rest of this session of Congress.

Chris Elam has pictures and a report from the rally. 75-80 is pretty decent for an hour's notice.

DeLay resigns as Majority Leader

FoxNews has the text of Congressman DeLay's letter to Speaker Hastert:

I am writing to inform you of my decision to permanently step aside as majority leader, and of my belief that the best interests of the conference would be served by the election of a new leader as soon as possible.

The job of majority leader and the mandate of the Republican majority are too important to be hamstrung, even for a few months, by personal distractions.

I will continue to serve my constituents and seek re-election to a 12th term representing Texas' 22nd district while I work to clear my name of the baseless charges leveled against me. I will also be reclaiming my seat on the Appropriations Committee when the second session of the 109th Congress convenes later this month.

The AP also carries quotes of reactions.

Saturday morning is fortuitous timing for DeLay.

January 06, 2006

Majority Leader election petition is circulating


About two dozen Republicans have promised to sign a petition calling for elections to permanently replace Rep. Tom DeLay as majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, aides said on Friday.

"We have commitments for about 25 signatures. The letter calls for a leadership election for a permanent majority leader," said Matthew Specht, a spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake, a conservative Arizona Republican.

Fifty House Republican signatures are needed to call elections, which would occur after the House reconvenes on January 31.

Steve Stockman

John Gizzi writes in conservative magazine Human Events:

Nervous that the ongoing web of scandal surrounding disgraced Washington "superlobbyist" Jack Abramoff will cost Republicans enough seats to lose control of the House and convinced that Rep. Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.) might well lose his Houston-area district to a Democrat, former one-term Rep. Steve Stockman has decided to run for the seat as an independent.

The surprise announcement by conservative stalwart Stockman, who represented about one-third of what is now the 22nd District from 1994-96, was coupled by the decision of the former lawmaker to run for Congress as an independent.

"I'm not here to ensure a loss but to make sure that Nick Lampson is not elected," explained Stockman, referring to the Democrat who unseated him in 1996 and is now the likely Democratic opponent to embattled former Majority Leader DeLay.

In an exclusive interview, Stockman emphasized that, in running as an independent rather than challenging DeLay in the Republican primary March 7, he would be free to attack old nemesis Lampson "like a pit bull."


Voicing his friendship for his former colleague, Stockman nonetheless expressed his concern that "this Abramoff thing is hurting the party and we could lose Tom's seat."

With DeLay voluntarily relinquishing securely Republican portions of his district in the redistricting process that permitted the GOP to make major gains in the House from Texas in '04, Stockman observed, "He won re-election last time with only 54% of the vote while George Bush was carrying the 22nd by better than two-to-one."

Given the negative publicity now surrounding DeLay and the efforts of Houston-area Democrats to register displaced Katrina victims as voters, the 11-term GOP lawmaker could easily be in for the race of his life against Lampson (who served in the House in a neighboring district from 1996 until unseated by Republican Ted Poe in '04).

As to how running as an independent helps DeLay, Stockman told me that he would be free to keep attacking Lampson for his own "ethical lapses" while in local office before he came to Congress. "And that's something Tom can't do under the present circumstances," he added.

Other area Republicans have said that should DeLay abandon his re-election campaign in favor of another conservative Republican -- most likely Harris County (Houston) Judge Rob Echols [sic]. Stockman would almost certainly drop out of the race in favor of the new GOP candidate.

Stockman also said he tried to reach DeLay to discuss his strategy before announcing it, "but he never returned my call."
The Harris County Judge is Bob Eckels.

So, will Stockman get the 500 signatures he needs to get on the ballot?

Maybe I'm short-sighted, but I don't see how being on the ballot as an independent accomplishes what Stockman thinks it does. Still, it's interesting to see how Stockman views his entry.

The Republican primary

As it stands now, DeLay is very unlikely to have serious trouble in the Republican primary. Tom DeLay won't lose this primary unless local activists and party leaders start abandoning him. To date, no one is.

As of right now, I'd be surprised if any prominent Republican officeholders in the district endorse one of DeLay's opponents. Moreover, my experience and the people I talk to tell me the activists feel the same way. I recently attended the Christmas party of a Fort Bend Republican womens group (what a reporter I am!). Nobody I spoke to was any less than 100% for DeLay.

Most Republicans will probably follow President Bush, who issued his support for DeLay and said in mid-December that he believed DeLay to be innocent. It's hard to see GOP primary voters voting against DeLay when no prominent Republicans are leading them in that direction.

There are certainly things that could shake this analysis up. If DeLay were to be indicted by the DoJ over something related to Abramoff, that would probably be a different story. Many Republicans would take a DoJ indictment much more seriously than the indictment by Ronnie Earle in Austin. Likewise, if DeLay were found guilty in Austin.

But to date these things haven't happened, so DeLay would have to be considered a very, very strong probability for victory in the primary.

January 05, 2006

Catching up

I've been slow today because of some technical issues. I'm getting there.

I'll just go ahead and post some links.

1. Former Republican Congressman Steve Stockman filed for CD22 as an independent.
2. Houston Chronicle's article on GOP primary challenger Tom Campbell.
3. Long Houston Press profile of Campbell.

I'll get to these more in depth later.

Leadership election?

The Hotline's blog Hotline on Call reports (and here) that a leadership election is probable. It's not good for DeLay, as it means he loses his leadership position.

Will DeLay still want to run for re-election if he isn't in the House leadership anymore? He'll still be on Appropriations, I believe**, so he'll certainly still have power within the House. If re-elected, he could possibly weather the storm. But many officeholders have decided to come home when they lose their leadership position, because Congress doesn't seem nearly as interesting as before.

** DeLay isn't on any committees right now, because he's Majority Leader, but I believe his slot is reserved on Appropriations.

If DeLay does retire: If DeLay were to drop out now, then there would be the three remaining candidates to vie for the GOP nomination. If DeLay wins the primary and then retires, then the state party would choose who would run on the GOP ticket.

DeLay has acted in the party's best interests over his own before. Instead of running for Speaker post-impeachment, he chose to remain majority whip because he was too "radioactive." Perhaps he was just counting votes, but he didn't put his colleagues through a difficult choice at that time. He supported Hastert instead. So it is quite possible that DeLay will at some point choose to step down from his leadership post, despite the fact that it would be a large blow to his power.

Bennett Roth from the Houston Chronicle has quotes from a senior GOP leadership aide (there aren't many options for who this is):

"Under the current circumstances, with the (Texas) indictment and the now ballooning Abramoff scandal, there are very few members eager to see DeLay back in the leadership post," said a top aide to a House GOP leader.

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because the leadership has yet to decide how or when to broach the matter of electing a permanent leader.
Gingrich has also been calling for DeLay to step down as majority leader, though that's not too surprising, as DeLay and Gingrich are...not particularly close.
Gingrich, still an influential voice in the GOP establishment, said he is among those concerned about the fallout.

"You don't have to render any judgment on Congressman DeLay to conclude that over the next six or eight months, he is going to be very busy and that it's important for the House Republican Party to have an effective majority leader," Gingrich told reporters.

If members do not want DeLay to reclaim his post, they could force a new election by gathering a petition with the signatures of 50 lawmakers or convince DeLay that he should relinquish the position.

Of course, it's also possible that nothing will happen. DeLay has certainly persuaded his colleagues before; they might give him another few months. Time will tell.


With the news of Abramoff's plea deal yesterday (but for technical difficulties, this post would have been up already), let's take a look at how it's playing in the media. Keep in mind that there are two sides to this: political and legal.

A typical local report went something like KHOU's:

A high-powered lobbyist with ties to congressman Tom Delay cut a tell-all deal with the Feds.

What does Jack Abramoff's guilty plea mean for DeLay?

No question that's the big question now. How will this impact the former House Majority Leader and word is, about a dozen other congressmen.

None of Tuesday's charges connect Abramoff and DeLay, but Travis County's prosecutor is now issuing subpoenas for records linking the Sugar Land Republican to the lobbyist.

Insiders believe the noose is tightening on some after Abramoff's guilty plea.
Jack Abramoff's guilty pleas, revealed among other things, a stunning fraud scheme. He admits to bilking Indian tribes of more than $60 million and getting nearly half of that in kickbacks.

"Abramoff admitted today to his participation in an extensive corruption shceme. Abramoff gave things of value to public officials including foreign and domestic trips, campaign contributions, excessive meal and entertainment," said Justice Department spokesperson Alice Fisher.
Meanwhile, Todd Gillman wrote in the Dallas Morning News that:
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff had been friends for years, trading easily on each other's success. One rose to the pinnacle of power in Congress. The other became the most sought-after lobbyist in town. They built a politically potent network of former aides, lobbyists and comrades-in-arms.

The question hanging over Washington on Tuesday: Could Mr. Abramoff's plummet and plea deal drag down his longtime ally?


During the Marianas visit, Mr. DeLay called Mr. Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends," though by early 2004, when a Senate committee had begun investigating the lobbyist, Mr. DeLay tried to distance himself, telling reporters that "if anybody is trading on my name to get clients or make money, that is wrong and they should stop it."
That's contradicted by one of the Washington Post's articles (who has generally done the deepest reporting on Abramoff) that said:
Soon [Abramoff] developed a key alliance with Rep. Tom DeLay, a conservative Republican from Texas who was working his way up in the House leadership. The two met at a DeLay fundraiser on Capitol Hill in 1995, according to a former senior DeLay aide. The aide recalled that Edwin A. Buckham, then DeLay's chief of staff, told his boss: "We really need to work with Abramoff; he is going to be an important lobbyist and fundraiser."

DeLay, a Christian conservative, did not quite know what to make of Abramoff, who wore a beard and a yarmulke. They forged political ties, but the two men never became personally close, according to associates of both men.
More from Gillman's DMN article:
Jan Baran, a Republican ethics lawyer who once represented Speaker Newt Gingrich, said the plea deal might carry no implications for Mr. DeLay.

"There's nothing in [Abramoff court documents] that involves him or suggests his involvement. ... If the Justice Department has some information about other public officials, they presumably would have included it by now," he said.

He noted that courts are strict when it comes to enforcing bribery law. Prosecutors must prove quid pro quo -- Latin for "something for something." Mr. DeLay got favors from Mr. Abramoff. But so did several hundred colleagues.

Bribery would require proving the legislators offered a specific legislative favor in exchange for the power lunches, golf outings, trips and campaign cash. Accepting such dining and activities without the promise of legislative action is routine and legal in Washington.

As I said before, there are two elements to this: legal and political. Wonkette herself, Ana Marie Cox wrote today in the New York Times:
But who is actually going to receive Jack Abramoff's Lady-and-the-Tramp-style kiss of death? The only plausible candidate at the moment is Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican who appears to be a rather ham-fisted bungler. Mr. Abramoff had dealings with dozens of Washington bigwigs, yet Representative Ney is the only one to make a (pseudonymous) appearance in the indictment.

What Mr. Ney did was either very bad or very stupid, likely both. But he hardly needed Mr. Abramoff to besmirch his reputation: he has recently drawn scrutiny for the unlikely feat of winning $34,000 on an initial $100 bet during a London casino romp, and on another junket he met with a convicted con artist whom MSNBC reported had "cheated on his taxes and was involved in a deal to swindle Elvis Presley." Mr. Ney refused to discuss these issues with the press because of "national security implications." Well, Richard Nixon did give Elvis a federal drug agent's badge.

Despite the desperate glee of the editorializers and the almost-as-desperate rinsing of Abramoff funds from Republican coffers, the smell in the air is panic, not blood. In order to cast their net beyond Diamond Bob Ney, the feds would have to, as one Republican source told the Times, "pursue a different definition of bribery" - that is, prove that "if somebody were to give a gift or a campaign contribution in the same time period as a member took an official action, that in and of itself would constitute bribery." And you thought Patrick Fitzgerald was criminalizing politics.

Sad to admit it, but most of what Jack Abramoff did with politicians (as opposed to his outright fraud with Indian tribes) wasn't criminal so much as extreme. The Hollywood arc would have a chain-gang of Congressmen breaking rocks by the final reel, but we are unlikely to get such satisfaction outside of celluloid.
Legally, Cox is very likely right. The conventional wisdom right now is that Ney ends up not running for re-election, but is the only one right now who seems likely to take the fall in regards to Abramoff (unless there are "smoking guns" in Abramoff's files, which I rather doubt). On the other hand, Abramoff's plea deal requires him to provide evidence about lawmakers. Abramoff has a strong incentive to do whatever he can to make prosecutors pleased with him.

DeLay's opponents are likely to bring the issue up again. There are probably two ways they will try to frame it:
1) "aura of corruption." That is, despite lack of legal problems for Delay re: Abramoff, the fact that some of DeLay's former aides turned out to be bad apples, it de facto is a problem.

That was the basic charge that Newt Gingrich kept alive in his ethics allegations against then-Speaker Jim Wright in the 80s, but then it turned out that Wright had actually done something wrong. He'd sold lots of his books to people as a way to make money for himself, and so he had to resign because Democrats began to abandon Wright. (Incidentally, this story, along with the rest of the story behind Wright's rise and fall as Speaker of the House, is told in The Ambition and the Power, which just happens to be over on my sidebar.)

DeLay's opponents will almost certainly try to combine the Earle indictment with his ties to Abramoff. I've always been skeptical about arguments that this will win elections by themselves. Absent actual legal problems (that is, assuming DeLay wins on the Earle indictment...because if he doesn't, then the issue is moot), then ethics issues aren't usually as successful as their proponents hope. Remember IranContra and Whitewater? Reagan and Clinton both went on to be very popular presidents, despite the scandals. I could probably do a post examining the recent history of ethics issues in campaigns...and in fact I might.

Of course, if current events make the story is fresh in voter's minds during a general election, it is definitely dangerous for DeLay. Timing is everything.

2) DeLay's opponents can charge that DeLay has changed from the guy who attacked Democrats for accepting lobbyist-paid trips. This is probably easier to get voters to accept -- lots of voters think people change as soon as they're elected, whether it's true or not -- but it's much less persuasive and motivating to voters.

Now, when I've been saying "DeLay's opponents," I don't necessarily mean DeLay's GOP primary opponents. I think DeLay's primary opponents they will be much more careful, because if they go too far, they won't help themselves with GOP primary voters. His primary opponents are likely to be much more careful, choosing instead phrases like "we should have a Congressman we are proud of."

January 04, 2006


1. The Fort Bend Sun covers Tom Campbell's announcement. Headline reads: "Tom Campbell, an attorney who worked in President George H.W. Bush's administration, has announced that he will run against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay for the District 22 seat in the House of Representatives."

2. The Clear Lake Citizen covered Lampson's announcement:

Before his announcement, Lampson, a lifelong resident of Beaumont, spoke about his wish to make his run a non-partisan candidacy.

"It's not about right or left - but moving forward," he said.

Lampson insists his opponent's current difficulties will not play a part in the campaign and plans to instead concentrate on his own political agenda.

"It isn't about voting against DeLay," he said.

Mike Malaise, a spokesperson for Lampson, emphasized the candidate's wish to highlight the core issues in spite of the media's inevitable focus on DeLay.

"DeLay's ethical problems are something that always comes up, something we're always asked about, especially when there's media showing up," he said. "He (Lampson) may touch on this issue but that's certainly not going to be the focus of his entire speech, he's going to give very specific policy issues on which he's running."

Lampson counted fiscal responsibility at the top of the list in his agenda.

"I think we have seen a great deal of wasteful spending occur under my opponent's leadership while he was majority leader in the House of Representatives," Lampson said.

New CD22 vs. old CD22

I've seen lots of partisan bickering back and forth about whether Tom DeLay's district was strengthened or weakened in the redistricting for the 2004 Texas Congressional maps. So hopefully I can set the record straight.

In 2004, Tom DeLay won 55%-41%. He substantially underperformed Bush, who won CD22 64%-36%.

In 2002 (the old district), DeLay won 63%-35%.

However, in the parts of old CD22 that are in the new CD22, DeLay won 74,243 - 39684 in 2002. The parts of the new CD22 that were NOT in the old CD22 were in old CD25 (Chris Bell v. Tom Reiser) and old CD9 (Paul Williams v. Nick Lampson). Those parts voted 19,160 Republican to 17,850 Democratic in 2002. Meanwhile the parts of old CD22 that are NOT in new CD22 voted 26,256R - 16,032 Democratic in 2002.

Confused yet? OK, I'll make it as simple as I can.

New parts of CD22 voted 51.8% GOP in 2002 congressional races, and 49.6% GOP in 2000 congressional races. The parts DeLay gave up in new CD22: 62.1% GOP in 2002 congressional races, and 56.2% GOP in 2000 congressional races.

The bottom line: DeLay's new district is about 2-3% less Republican than it used to be. Redistricting removed areas that voted around 60% GOP and added areas that vote around 50% GOP.

Admittedly, the sample size is small, because I could only easily find data from the 2002 and 2000 congressional races. However, I don't know of any reason to think that the 2002 and 2000 congressional races should have produced odd results.

Based on numbers alone, there isn't much support for claims that DeLay's new district is significantly less Republican than his old district. There is absolutely no support for claims that redistricting strengthened DeLay's district. Anyone who claims that is flatout wrong.

DeLay substantially underperformed his district in 2004 by about 7%. This isn't too surprising, because DeLay had just been admonished by the House Ethics Committee in the month before the election.

However, DeLay may have a valid claim, because about 30% of the new CD22 is new to him. Most of those 30% are over in southeastern Harris County, which isn't familiar with Tom DeLay. Most of the new 30% of voters are likely to only know DeLay through Houston Chronicle/Houston TV news. Depending on the reporter in that particular cycle, I think unsympathetic would be a reasonable description of the Chronicle's news coverage of DeLay. However, the Chronicle's editorial coverage would probably be best described as openly hostile. That's actually rare: generally, newspapers are supportive of local House leaders because they wield great influence for the local metro region and state.

So, DeLay's district is less Republican, but where DeLay is really hurt by the new district is that almost 1/3 of his current district wasn't very familiar with him in 2004. Still, the powers of incumbency are appreciably greater the longer you've represented an area, and DeLay hasn't represented this new section very long, leaving those areas more likely to split their tickets.

UPDATE: Welcome Chron opinion readers! This blog (main page is here) is just getting started, so if you're interested in hearing about the latest on the CD22 race, then bookmark us and come on back soon.

January 03, 2006

CD22 Demographics

This post is a bunch of basic information and demographics about the 22nd congressional district. I apologize for not presenting it in a more attractive way.

District 22 covers Fort Bend County, the top part of Brazoria, a bit into Galveston County and the southeastern portion of Harris County.

Major cities by population in CD22: Houston (109k), Sugar Land (63k), Pasadena (57k), Pearland (38k), Missouri City (33k), Deer Park (28k), La Porte (26k), Rosenberg (24k).

Voting Age Population in district by county / % of county's population in CD22: Harris (190k / 9%), Fort Bend (130k / 69%), Brazoria (40k / 25%), Galveston (34k / 21%).

Voting Age Population by County as % of CD22: Harris 48%, Fort Bend 33%, Brazoria 10%, Galveston 9%.

Voting Age Population by ethnicity: 63.2% Anglo, 9.3% black, 18.3% hispanic, and 9.3% "Other" (often meaning Asian).

12.9% had spanish last names in 2002, and that percent increased to 13.4% in 2004.

Composite scores:
2002: 65.9% Republican (composite)
2004: 62.8% GOP (composite)

Election results 2004:

Bush 64.4%
Kerry 35.6%

Delay 55.2%
Morrison 41.1%

Railroad Commissioner
Carillo 62%
Scarborough 38%

Texas Supreme Court
Brister 63.2%
Van Os 36.8%

Election Results 2002:
Cornyn 63.8%
Kirk 36.2%

Perry 66.7%
Sanchez 33.3%

Lieutenant Governor
Dewhurst 61.7%
Sharp 38.3%

Attorney General
Abbott 66.6%
Watson 33.4%

Rylander (now Strayhorn) 73.3%
Akins 26.7%

2000 election results:
Bush 67.2%
Gore 32.8%

Hutchison 72.4%
Kelly 27.6%

1998 election results:
Bush 76.3%
Mauro 23.7%

Lt Gov
Perry 59.2%

58.6% Native Texan
14% Foreign Born
25.5% Don't Speak English at home
10.2% Moved to Texas since 1995
7.3% of the district is 65+
32.5% have graduated from college

Per capita income: $25,000
7.3% of population living in poverty
15.5% of the district is on Social Security (low)
1.4% of the district is on welfare (low)

4.8% less than $10k household income
12.2% 10k-25k household income
24.8% 25k-50k household income
58.1% 50k+ household income

53.6% of housing is worth 100k+

94.2% of of the district lives in an "urban" area

.1% is currently in the armed forces (relatively low)

You'll note that Harris County is now 48% of CD22, so the district is no longer guaranteed to be represtented by a native of Fort Bend County (only 33%). This is interesting, because I believe that all of the people who have filed in CD22 are claiming Fort Bend as home.

CD22 is basically a normal Texas suburban district. When you split up CD22's employment into general categories (eg, mining, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, finance, etc), then CD22 is close to the state average in almost all of these, except that not much of CD22 is agricultural. That's not surprising, of course, because the majority of the district is very clearly suburbs.

CD22 is a diverse, growing middle-class suburban district with a high rate of home ownership.

Abramoff pleads guilty

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in a plea bargain that is expected to lead to his testifying against members of Congress or congressional staffers.

Meanwhile, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle subpoenad a bunch of documents from Abramoff's former law firm and from the tribes that he represented.

UPDATE: link added. DeGuerin's reaction:

DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin says Earle is an opportunist who issues subpoenas to try to make a connection between his case and the latest scandal -- whatever it happens to be.

DeGuerin says Abramoff has nothing to do with the case in Texas.

January 02, 2006

About and disclaimers

About this blog: This blog will track the primary and general election of Congressional district 22, both in current events and my thoughts on what is happening.

I'm a Republican, but I've learned to separate emotion from reason when it comes to politics. In 2000 and 2004, I correctly predicted how 49 of 50 states would cast their electoral votes (I got NM wrong in 2000 and WI wrong in 2004). Also, in 2002 and 2004, I successfully predicted the results of every US Senate race but one each cycle.

If you want to know the most recent news and gossip, then this is the place to be. However, if you want to read long screeds on why Tom DeLay or Nick Lampson or another candidate is evil, immoral, or a danger to the country, then this isn't the place for you.

Oh, and I recognize that DeLay has primary challengers, and the name of the blog isn't intended to slight them. But what did you want me to call this blog? "DeLay and Challengers vs. Lampson" doesn't have the same ring to it.

If you want to read more about me, then try here.

Disclaimers: I'm not a big fan of disclaimers. You should judge my words based on the ideas behind them, not what you suspect my motive is in writing them. However, I promise you that my opinions will always be my opinions. At the moment I write this, I can think of nothing I could disclose that would be deemed relevant.

One more caveat: I don't intend to update this disclaimer. The only thing I promise is that anything I write here will be my honest opinion.

UPDATE: I wanted to add that I've met both DeLay and Fjetland. Some of you might think this is relevant. I don't, but I'll mention it anyway.

Disclaimer addendum

I've met both Tom DeLay and Mike Fjetland, but none of the other candidates.

I met Fjetland at Rice. He shook my hand as I walked into a debate between Orlando Sanchez, Chris Bell, and Lee Brown (although if memory serves, Lee Brown didn't show).

I met DeLay in DC during the summer of 2001. I was walking around the basement of one of the House office buildings with two friends. DeLay came charging out of the elevator, and one of my friends yelled, "hey, it's Tom DeLay!" so DeLay came over and introduced himself to us. He introduced himself, and talked to us for about 10 minutes, and then offered to put us in the Majority Whip's box in the House. We accepted, so he walked us over there. All in all, he probably spent 20-25 minutes with us, despite the fact that we weren't in his district, or even particularly close to it. Considering that the House was in session, I was surprised he was willing to waste that much time with three kids.

Of all the politicians I've met, DeLay was one of the easiest to talk to. So if you're one of those people who thinks is worth this is necessary for a disclaimer, then take that into account.