The DeLay problem
Delay perp walk
Primary for DeLay's Seat Is Shaping Up as Referendum on the Incumbent
By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
Published: March 6, 2006
SUGAR LAND, Tex., March 5 — "I am not a hammer," Tom Campbell has been telling voters in this old plantation-turned-boomtown, where his long-shot Republican bid for Congress is closely tied to who he is not: Representative Tom DeLay.
Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, at a Republican dinner last Tuesday, has drawn three challengers in the primary race. They have tried to capitalize on his recent troubles, which include an indictment in Austin.
Mike Fjetland, another Republican in Tuesday's unusual four-candidate primary, has a similar message on his business cards: "Don't DeLay."
If there is an issue in this closely watched contest over the suburban Houston seat Mr. DeLay has held since 1985, it is the powerful incumbent and former majority leader himself — the Hammer — whose influence in Washington, lobbying entanglements and indictment in Austin have polarized the 22nd District.
Embraced by Republican leaders, Mr. DeLay is unabashed. At a dinner in Houston last Tuesday that drew Gov. Rick Perry and other state officials, Mr. DeLay raised thousands of dollars for the party by rattling off a polished performance as auctioneer, luring bidders for a puppy and custom-made cowboy boots by declaring, to laughter, "I'm like a cemetery, I'll take anything."
But if the primary is a referendum on Mr. DeLay, the lines are not always easy to discern in Sugar Land, the fastest-growing Texas city. The population has tripled since 1990 to 75,000, pacing the rest of the district, which includes the Johnson Space Center and is the very image, some say, of 21st-century America.
With three Republican challengers, Mr. DeLay, 58, is in "a highly unusual battle for an incumbent, particularly a senior, powerful member of the majority," said Prof. Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Mr. Campbell, 51, is former counsel to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, appointed by the first President Bush, and a conservative making his first bid for public office with the quip, "I'm unknown, but Tom DeLay is known." Mr. Fjetland (pronounced FET-land), 56, is an international lawyer who opposed Mr. DeLay as a Republican in 2000 and 2002 and as an independent in 2004. The third challenger is another political neophyte, Pat Baig, 57, a former oilfield services paymaster and teacher.
Also, a former one-term conservative Republican congressman, Steve Stockman, said he would collect signatures to put himself on the November ballot as an independent.
If Mr. DeLay wins at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff next month, other uncertainties remain. There will be a summer Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the disputed Congressional redistricting map that Mr. DeLay was instrumental in pushing though in 2003. There is his pending trial in Austin on state money-laundering charges relating to campaign contributions. And there are likely to be further revelations from the federal investigation involving the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is cooperating with the authorities and whom Mr. DeLay once called "one of my closest and dearest friends."
The most recent poll, taken for The Houston Chronicle in mid-January, suggested that Mr. DeLay would probably win the primary without a runoff but would lose in November to Nick Lampson, a former congressman who was ousted in the redistricting and is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Mr. DeLay, questioned at the dinner party in Houston last week, dismissed that finding, calling Mr. Lampson "way too liberal for the district." In a fiery speech to hundreds of party delegates and donors, Mr. DeLay said the Democrats had "nobody running, or nobody good."
"We're going to beat them and beat them big," he said, although he cautioned, "we can't be arrogant about this majority."
He'll be lucky to escape a primary
posted by Steve @ 1:31:00 AM