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Blog Home Page --> House -- Texas -- 22

TX 22: GOP's Got Hope

Don't despair, Republicans! You still have a chance to pick up a seat, and we're not talking about Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney's district. A Zogby International poll for the Houston Chronicle surveyed 404 likely voters 10/20-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Rep. Nick Lampson and former Congressional aide Pete Olson were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Olson........53 / 4 / 88 / 39
Lampson...36 / 84 / 5 / 45

Lampson occupies Tom DeLay's old seat in the Houston suburbs and only barely won against a GOP write-in candidate with a hard-to-spell name. The Democrat's campaign put out his own poll yesterday showing him gaining ground, but he's still running in an overwhelmingly GOP area.

TX GOP Gets Their Guy

A chief complaint about the National Republican Congressional Committee has been its unwillingness to play in primaries in order to get their preferred candidate. But after virtually the entire Texas delegation and top GOP leaders in Washington weighed in, Republicans got their top choice in the Twenty Second District runoff last night, as former Congressional aide Pete Olson beat out ex-Rep. Shelley Sekula Gibbs by a wide margin, giving the party a good chance at beating Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson in November.

Olson, who served as chief of staff to Senator John Cornyn, won more than 68% of the vote against Sekula Gibbs, who won a special election to replace Republican Rep. Tom DeLay in 2006 on the same day her write-in campaign failed to beat Lampson for a full term in the 110th Congress. Sekula Gibbs' brief tenure in Congress began as Delay's leftover staff walked out on her first day, and she has grated on fellow Republicans in both Texas and Washington.

National Republicans dreaded another Sekula Gibbs campaign, and had virtually promised to pull out of the district if she were the nominee. But with Olson as the party's standard-bearer, the GOP feels more confident they can defeat Lampson, who beat Sekula Gibbs' write-in candidacy by just ten points in 2006.

The district, based south of Houston around the Harris County suburbs and into Pearland, the Johnson Space Center and DeLay's native Sugar Land, remains heavily Republican. After new district lines were drawn earlier this decade, President Bush won 64% of the district's vote. Lampson knows he faces a difficult race; he's a member of the DCCC's Frontline program for endangered incumbents, and through the middle of February he'd raised a respectable $1 million, keeping about $740,000 cash on hand.

He will start with a big cash advantage over Olson, who through the March 19 pre-runoff filing deadline held cash reserves of just $115,000. But Olson has already proven he can fundraise, pulling in more than $800,000 so far, a number that will only grow now that he's got the Republican nomination to himself. Lampson has faced difficult races before, but this year will be especially tough, and to Republicans the seat represents one of their best pickup opportunities of the cycle.

GOP Gets Active In TX

After Republicans in a suburban Chicago district chose what some national GOP strategists thought was a fatally flawed nominee in the race to replace ex-House Speaker Denny Hastert, the national party is quietly getting involved in at least one primary to prevent the same thing from happening. House Minority Leader John Boehner has donated $10,000 from his PAC to Pete Olson, a former chief of staff to Senator John Cornyn, in Olson's bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson, The Hill's Aaron Blake reports.

The move is not unusual on its face: By the time this election is through, Boehner will have donated similar amounts to dozens of Republican candidates. What makes his backing of Olson remarkable is that it comes even as another Republican, former Houston City Councilwoman Shelly Sekula Gibbs, remains in the race, headed for an April 8 runoff with Olson.

Sekula Gibbs, who was elected to replace resigned House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for the remaining two months of the 109th Congress on the same day Lampson won the seat for the 110th, spent her brief tenure as a member of Congress royally irritating people. Her arrival in Congress was marred when DeLay's remaining personal staff walked out, and many Republicans think she would begin as an underdog heading into November. Her bid this year has also been marked by some staff dissension: Former Sekula Gibbs deputy campaign manager Matt Dabrowski, a Connecticut-based consultant, gave $250 to Olson, the Houston Chronicle reported last week.

Olson, should he survive the runoff, could give Lampson a run for his money in what is ordinarily a Republican seat. The 22nd District, based in the southern exurbs of Houston and parts of Harris County, voted heavily for President Bush twice -- by 34 points before the DeLay-inspired mid-decade redistricting and 28 points afterward -- and Lampson himself only beat Sekula Gibbs, running as a write-in candidate, by ten points after outspending her three and a half to one.

Perhaps more importantly, Republicans at the national level are actually getting involved in primaries to ensure that they have the best candidates running in November. While the National Republican Congressional Committee does not formally get involved in competitive primaries, they do everything but and encouraging certain candidates to get in or stay out, as does the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Boehner isn't the only House Republican leader to lend a hand to Olson's campaign. Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor and Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who may harbor hopes of running for NRCC chair next cycle, each handed over $10,000 from their PACs, and money came in from campaign committees representing Texas Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Kenny Marchant. Several top aides to other members of the Texas delegation pitched in as well.

Should Olson win the runoff -- he received 24% in the March 4 primary, to Sekula Gibbs' 28% -- he will likely be in better position to take on Lampson in November than Sekula Gibbs would be. But neither Republican will face an easy path: Pre-primary filing on February 13 showed Lampson had raised over $1 million so far this year, with $739,000 in the bank. Sekula Gibbs and Olson, in pre-runoff filings on March 19, reported just $85,000 and $114,000 on hand respectively.