Libertarian Gets Boost from DeLay Absence

From the Star-Telegram...

By dropping off the ballot, Republican Tom DeLay may have given a boost to a Libertarian candidate in the race for the former majority leader’s House seat.

Bob Smither said voters in the Houston-area district have been pledging support in phone calls. He also said he has seen a spike in contributions as the GOP wrangled over who to back as a write-in candidate.

Smither now thinks there’s possibility in a once-near impossible situation.

“Clearly the fact Mr. DeLay has been removed from the ballot is a huge benefit to me,” he said.

“This is a very conservative district and although I’m a Libertarian I’m fiscally conservative. I share a lot of values with what the Republicans purport to stand for and if I can get that message out there to what I would call the Goldwater Republicans, I think they’ll support me,” he said.

Barry Goldwater was an Arizona senator and failed 1964 presidential candidate considered a founder of the Republican conservative movement.

Despite the burst of energy for his campaign, Smither recognizes he still faces long odds.

Republican precinct chairmen voted to back the write-in candidacy of Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a Houston city councilwoman. David Wallace, mayor of DeLay’s former hometown of Sugar Land, also is running as a write-in, but won’t have official party backing.

The Democratic nominee is Nick Lampson, a former congressman who has raised at least $2 million.

Smithers’ improved chances is the latest bizarre twist in a bizarre race.

After the March primary, the race for the 22nd Congressional District seat was lining up to be a tight competition between DeLay and Lampson.

But then DeLay resigned and moved to Virginia to allow Republicans to replace him with another Republican on the Nov. 7 ballot. Democrats won a court battle that forced DeLay withdraw, leaving no Republican name on the ballot.

Republicans wanted one write-in candidate to avoid splitting the vote, but Wallace filed as a write-in before they decided who they’d back. At a private meeting Thursday night, Sekula-Gibbs won a straw vote for the party’s backing. But Smither said some who attended that meeting told him he also received some votes. The tally was not revealed.

“The default party for conservatives often is the Libertarian when Republicans are in trouble or not doing well,” said Julian Zelizer, a Boston University history and politics professor.

“Libertarianism is the genuine anti-government conservatism Delay talked about,” he said. “The party is in disarray. The candidate is not even running. The party is betting on a write-in. It’s predictable some people are going to float over to the Libertarian.”

But he was skeptical Smither could win.

Smither and the national Libertarian Party are hoping voters will realize that few write-in candidates are successful and vote Libertarian.

“It’s their only chance or choice to beat a liberal Democrat,” said Shane Cory, the Libertarian Party’s executive director.

Smither, 61, is an electrical engineer from Friendswood, a Houston suburb.

This campaign is his first for public office. He said he’s raised about $7,500, a paltry sum for what should be an expensive race. But he says his message is one that will resonate with the conservative Republican district.

“The people that look to government to solve their problems will support Mr. Lampson,” Smither said. “I offer a choice to the rest of us,” Smither said.

He’d have company if he wins.

Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican from Surfside, ran for president on the Libertarian ticket in 1988, finishing third. Although he belongs to the Republican party, he sticks to Libertarian principles of restricting government spending and interference in American’s personal lives.

Smither’s daughter, Laura Kate, was abducted in 1997. Her body was found in a retention pond about three weeks after she disappeared and just days before what would have been her 13th birthday. He founded the Laura Recovery Center that helps search for missing children and teaches families how to avoid abduction.

Her death inspired Lampson to start a Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus while he was in Congress. Smither said some people in the district have thought he was in the race to help Lampson because of that connection, but he said that is a misconception he hopes to correct.

One Response to “Libertarian Gets Boost from DeLay Absence”

  1. Joey Dauben Says:

    Austin, here’s some coverage of the candidate forum between Lampson and LP Smither:

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