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Texas Republicans Wrestle Over Write-Ins

From Fort Bend Now...

Texas Republican Party Chairman Tina Benkiser, resigned congressman Tom DeLay and local members of the state GOP executive committee met Wednesday to lay plans for bringing the party behind a single write-in candidate to run for the congressional seat DeLay just vacated.

While that meeting unfolded, Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace sent out an announcement saying he is mounting a write-in campaign for Congressional District 22.

Sent to regional newspapers and wire services, the timing of Wallace’s announcement startled some executive committee members and drew a stinging attack from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C.

In a prepared statement, the DCCC also quoted ABC News as reporting that DeLay “is expected to endorse David Wallace as a write-in candidate.” That report could not be verified, nor could it be verified that ABC had released such a story. A DCCC spokeswoman later said the report came from an ABC podcast on Tuesday.

“I do not believe that is true,” Benkiser said Wednesday afternoon.

“ABC is completely wrong,” DeLay spokeswoman Dani DeLay Ferro said.

Meanwhile, Benkiser is working to gather input from party members in CD-22 to assess who might serve as a lone write-in candidate to face Democrat and former congressman Nick Lampson, and Libertarian Bob Smither in November.

“We are only going to get behind one candidate, and when I say ‘we,’ I mean the entire Republican family,” Benkiser said.

That task might be made the more difficult as news reports suggested Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs also is preparing to announce a write-in candidacy. Sekula-Gibbs did not answer phone calls for comment Wednesday.

Wallace and Sekula-Gibbs are two of seven or eight candidates who were vying for the right to replace DeLay on the general election ballot for CD-22 until the courts put a halt to that plan.

GOP attorneys filed an application Monday with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for stay of enforcement of an appeals panel’s ruling that either DeLay must remain on the general election ballot, or the GOP can field no candidate.

About two hours after it was filed, Justice Scalia denied the application.

After winning the Republican Party Primary, DeLay announced in April he had decided to retire from Congress. He became a resident of Virginia, and then officially left Congress on June 9. Benkiser declared DeLay ineligible to appear on the general election ballot, based on his Virginia residency.

But the Texas Democrats filed suit, arguing that Benkiser’s declaration of DeLay’s ineligibility violated a provision of the U.S. Constitution. A Travis County District Court judge, a federal judge, a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel and, apparently, Justice Scalia, agreed with the Democrats.

On Tuesday, DeLay announced he’ll withdraw from the ballot rather than attempt to revive his congressional campaign.

“Earlier this year, I resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives and became a resident of the state of Virginia to establish my new business, and where I now legally reside, pay taxes and vote,” DeLay said Tuesday. “This decision was and is irrevocable, which I made clear from Day One.”

Attendees at the Wednesday meeting with DeLay, Benkiser and members of the SREC said DeLay did not mention any specific candidate for his former seat in Congress.

“He’s expecting there to be a write-in candidate, but he wants the party to make that decision,” one attendee said. “He’s going to stand behind the party.”

Dani DeLay Ferro confirmed that Tom DeLay expressed his intention at the meeting to support whatever candidate the GOP chooses.

“Obviously, I have talked with Congressman DeLay,” Benkiser said. “This race is not about him. This race is about giving voters a choice.”

She was not specific about how a single candidate will gain the party’s favor in serving as the write-in challenger to Lampson and Smither. She said holding a meeting with the precinct chairs from within CD-22 “is certainly an option.”

While Sekula-Gibbs and Wallace have been most often mentioned as becoming the GOP’s lone write-in hope to retain the congressional seat DeLay held for more than 20 years, Benkiser said new candidates are emerging.

Among them, she singled out Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt.

Both Benkiser and others who attended Wednesday’s meeting strongly suggested that whoever emerges as the party’s favored write-in candidate can expect enough money to run a vigorous campaign.

That would include the National Republican Congressional Committee, “some of the larger fund raisers from Washington, D.C.,” and assistance from the Texas delegation of Republican members of Congress, one SREC member said.

“I absolutely believe that when we come behind one candidate, we are going to have the support of the Republican family,” Benkiser said. “We are going to have the resources to win this.”

Whoever the GOP chooses as its favored write-in candidate, party officials have made it clear that once a selection is made, other write-in candidates will be expected to withdraw for the good of the party.

On Wednesday morning, Harris County SREC member Kathy Haigler said that expectation could be enforced by telling “anyone else if they run” as a write-in, “they’ll be blackballed forever” in future races by the Republican Party. “They’re only going to hurt the party by spitting in the wind,” she said.

The move by Wallace to announce his write-in candidacy while party leadership was discussing how to rally behind a single candidate was seen as an affront by some.

“If David Wallace is our nominee, then good for him, he got a jump on everyone,” one attendee of Wednesday’s party meeting said. “If he’s not, he just shot himself in the foot or the head, I don’t know which.”

Benkiser strongly suggested later Wednesday that party discipline would be enforced.

“I think any candidate who would be of a caliber to represent Congressional District 22 has to understand that we must rally behind one candidate,” she said. “If the party rallies around Candidate A, and if Candidate B cannot accept that…it would be political suicide.”

Wallace said in announcing his write-in campaign, “this could be the largest write-in effort in Texas election history. In addition to announcing the campaign to media outlets, he announced it to CD-22 residents in an email asking for support.

“There is too much at stake to allow the liberals to win and the differences between Democrat Lampson and I are crystal clear,” Wallace said in his email to the district. “We intend to build the largest grassroots army ever assembled for a Texas congressional race. We will fight these out-of-district liberals in every precinct and on every street as we identify and turn out mainstream voters who categorically reject Nick Lampson’s brand of liberalism.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fired back.

Calling him “DeLay’s hand-picked candidate,” the national Democratic campaign organization said Wallace “has made a career of shady business practices and politically expedient personal connections.”

In a statement reproduced on its web site, The DCCC cited what it called Wallace’s “long-standing business dealings” with Mark Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, which the Democratic organization said “has been accused of arms trafficking and even pleaded guilty to a coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.”

The campaign organization maintained that former Wallace companies “were investigated for illegal arms sales,” and said Thatcher and Wallace also were accused of tax evasion and racketeering.

Wallace did not respond to calls seeking comment about the DCCC statement.

Adrienne Elrod, regional press secretary for the DCCC, said everything published in the organization’s statement about Wallace “has been backed up by facts. It’s all been sourced.”

The campaign committee is “very focused on this race,” Elrod said. “Nick Lampson wants to restore integrity to that seat, something that’s been lacking for years.”

20 Responses to “Texas Republicans Wrestle Over Write-Ins”

  1. Phil Says:

    If they have two people running as write-ins, there’s no question that they’re going to lose. Finally, GOP hacks getting what they deserve.

  2. Eric Dondero Says:

    They completely miss the story. Bob Smither is a top-notch Libertarian candidate. He’s no typical line-holder Libertarian. He’s got Republican consultants working on his campaign. And he’s about to pick up GOP endorsements all around the District. Smither is also running a major ground offensive with signs and precinct walks.

    But, it’s all well and good. Watch the media have major egg on their face when Smither beats Lampson in November. Best in a way that they’re not paying much attention to him.

  3. Mark Says:

    “...when Smither beats Lampson in November.”

    This from the man who thought CD22 was 70% Republican (It was, in 2004, only 54% Republican, and even less so today). Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound? If Third Party organizations don’t start speaking in realistic terms, then voters will never take them seriously. If you had said:

    “Bob Smither is now positioned to make significant gains for the Libertarian party and bring our message to thousands of GOP voters.”

    Then maybe you’d have a shred of credibility left. But as it stands, it’s just spin gone mad. Smither has raised $2,500. Lampson has raised $2.5 million. Smither has no name ID. And if he has signs or a campaign staff, than his FEC filings are woefully incomplete, because they make no mention of any such expenditures.

    Smither will drawing from the same pool of votes as a GOP candidate who will have the official support of the Republican party. Please give us an explaination of how Smither has a snowball’s chance in hell, because I imagine it will be quite entertaining.

  4. RJ Says:

    “But, it’s all well and good. Watch the media have major egg on their face when Smither beats Lampson in November. Best in a way that they’re not paying much attention to him.”

    Put your money where your mouth is. Thousand dollar bet straight up says the Libertarian does not win.

  5. Eric Dondero Says:

    Those FEC reports are dated. Smither has raised considerably more since then. As for signs, as I was just at Campaign HQ yesterday, and there were plenty, as well as bumper stickers, brochures, you name it.

    You seem to miss something here. Yes, there are as of this writing 2 GOP candidates; the Mayor of Sugarland Dave Wallace, and some Houston City Councilwoman with a funny name. The GOP is split right now between the two.

    Both of them are running a write-in effort.

    When voters go into the booth they will see only two names:

    Nick Lampson, Democrat

    Bob Smither, Libertarian

    As for name i.d., you are obviously unaware of Bob’s background. Bob is the Founder and Chairman of the Laura Recovery Center. It is a very well-known Houston-based Child Protection organization. I won’t go into details, but Bob and his Family were victimized 7 years ago.
    The whole community rallied around them.

  6. Eric Dondero Says:

    Another quick point:

    The National Libertarian Party has prioritized this race and is currently making phone calls in the District to sway GOP voters.

    Let’s all remember that Ron Paul was elected in a fluke election like this way back in 1974. Nobody ever dreamed he could win.

  7. Chris Moore Says:

    My hope is you are right, Eric. My gut tells me you are wrong.

    Though, even with a Republican write-in backed by the GOP and significant money, my bet would be that Smither still beats the write-in effort. He will not win. But he will come in second.

    Of course, I would not bet $1,000 even on that.

  8. George Whitfield Says:

    I’m betting on Bob Smither winning by sending him another contribution.

  9. NewFederalist Says:

    I have to agree with Mark and RJ. Saying Smither has a realistic chance to win is counter productive. If the GOP can settle on one write-in candidate even that individual will out poll Mr. Smither. Sorry but years of listening to these wild stories of Libertarians getting elected to Congress and then watching single digit results have just made me cynical.

  10. Eric Dondero Says:

    Ahh, New Federalist, but this Libertarian campaign is different. Smither has Republican consultants assisting his campaign. That makes a huge difference.

    And he may get some major GOP support here shortly.

    Keep in touch with www.mainstreamlibertarian.com for the latest. In fact, there’s a new post on there about Bob being invited to speak to the Houston YRs. How many Libertarian candidates do you know of who have received such an invite?

  11. NewFederalist Says:

    Eric- If the GOP were to somehow ask all their prospective write-in candidates to “take a pass” on this race AND endorse Smither for Congress AND help with serious $$$ to prevent this seat from being the ONE that makes Nancy Pelosi Speaker, I might see some hope but absent that… I’ll stick with my previous assessment. I am not saying I hope I am right because I would sure like to be wrong. I have just been around since before there was a Libertarian Party and I have heard soooo many compelling stories that turned out to be rubbish.

  12. Eric Dondero Says:

    Yes, I agree. But then again, people never thought Ron Paul could get eleted to Congress, twice. They doubted him way back in 1974, and then they doubted him again in 1996 when he jumped back into the GOP after the LP Presidential run. And he got elected both times.

    This is a major fluke election. NOBODY was expecting this. Extreme times call for extreme actions. I bet when most go into that voting booth, they’ll pull the lever, not necessarily FOR Bob Smither, but AGAINST Nick Lampson. Thus, Smither wins by default.

  13. Eric Dondero Says:

    BTW New Federalist,

    Perhaps you are not familiar with my background? I’m the very guy who got Ron Paul elected to Congress in 1996. I served as his Campaign Coordinator from the very beginning of our efforts, when it was still an Exploratory Campaign, back in May of 1995.

    Not to boast, but with individuals such as myself, and another Top Republican Consultant from the area, who was also a higher-up in the Ron Paul efforts, trust me, Smither has some excellent advice and consultation at the moment.

    Finally, Bob has got an outstanding Campaign Manager. Usually, Libertaran Party people are Geeky and non-political. But Kevin, Vice-Chair of the Texas LP, is a first class guy.

    Bob is surrounded by talent.

    And that’s not even mentioning the candidate himself. Who is in short, among the best and brightest and most committed I’ve ever seen in a Libertarian Party Campaign.

  14. Darcy G Richardson Says:

    I thought media consultant Jay Bryant was the person responsible for Ron Paul’s stunning upset victory in 1996. Didn’t he mastermind and produce the 12-minute video depicting Paul as the “Taxpayers’ Best Friend?” I guess victory does have a thousand fathers.

  15. citizen1 Says:

    I am not a Libertarian but I hope Smither wins. We need to break up the single party system in Washington.

  16. Phil Says:

    Eric—You are either sadly in the dark or trying to sell a load of fiction.

    Smither’s is an ardent supporter of Lampson. Lampson co-founded the “Congressional Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children in memory of Laura Kate Smither…”

    http://www.guidrynews.com/04GCEN/32304November18.html

    Smither is not a Libertarian…he’s a liberal plant in the race to take votes away from Delay and now the write-in Republican(s).

    What a disgrace to his daughter’s memory.

    Don’t believe it? Google “Lampson” and “Smither” and looks to 2004 or 2003 will see how close they are…a sad attempt to deceive voters in CD 22.

  17. George Whitfield Says:

    I don’t think Bob Smither is an ardent supporter of Lampson. He appears to be a long-time Libertarian. Smither served on the Executive Committee, Libertarian Party of Texas, 1994-1998. The Libertarian Party in District 22 nominated Bob Smither, founder of the Friendswood-based Laura Recovery Center, to be its candidate for the seat now held by Republican Tom DeLay. Smither edged out Stan Norred an operator for BP for the nomination by seven votes. To be eligible to nominate at the convention registered voters must not have voted in either the Democrat and Republican primaries.

    What may be more likely is that Phil is a Republican partisan. I don’t think that he should be talking about Smither’s deceased daughter’s memory. That is innappropriate.

  18. Chris Moore Says:

    Is it a typical Republican belief that one cannot be a good guy and a Democrat at the same time?

    Lampson may very well be a good guy and sympathetic to Bob Smither’s work with the Recovery Center. But that doesn’t mean that Bob Smither and Lampson are idealogical brothers.

    Phil, are you suggesting that Republicans DO NOT support the Laura Recovery Center and its goals and mission?

    Does Laura Bush’s support of Kinky Friedman’s Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch mean that Kinky is a conservative plant in the race to take votes away from Bell?

  19. Rev Bill Williams Says:

    You missed the big story:

    Movement News

    REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN ENDORSES LIBERTARIAN BOB SMITHER

    Tue-Aug. 15—“With the departure of Tom DeLay, it is important to do everything we can to ensure the 22d District continues to be represented by a conservative. Bob Smither is that conservative. Bob is a genuine fiscal conservative with a firm desire to see a return to constitutionally-limited government as intended by our Founding Fathers. Write-in campaigns rarely succeed, and that is also why I ask that you join me in supporting Bob Smither as the only candidate who can defeat the liberal Nick Lampson.”—BOB BARR, Former Member of Congress

  20. K D Tunstall Says:

    Phil

    While it is true that Lampson and Smither consider themselves “friends,” their political ideology is quite different. As far as your blatent attempt to smear both my candidate and my friend, perhaps you should stop accepting those phone calls from K. Haigler and T. DeLay. Thanks for the kind comments Eric.

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