When Rep. Nick Lampson captured the feral and despicable Tom DeLay’s 11-term seat in the salt marshes southwest of Houston in 2006, many said it was an aberration. The Democratic "brand" (in both the "Mad Men" sense, "run it up the flagpole to see how it plays in Peoria," and the Texas cattle sense) was proclaimed, assumed and appeared to be moribund. This was conventionally said to be true not only in TX-22 but in all of the Old Confederacy, the Border States and the Mountain West.
What a difference two more years of an obscenely prolonged, illegally procured war makes. What a difference American torture makes. What a difference an illegally politicized Justice Department makes. What a difference unconstitutional signing statements make. What a difference illegal domestic wiretapping makes. And what a difference the implosion of the Reaganite Gospel of Deregulation makes when it shaves more than a trillion dollars off American households in the form of declining home values, rising unemployment, sinking salaries and retirement stocks in the tank.
Nowadays against all odds the Confederacy is no longer solid, the border is permeable, and the west is in revolt against lockstep Republicanism.
But it apparently comes as a surprise – even under these circumstances – that Nick Lampson, who had a target on his back the second he won, remains neck and neck with his generic Republican opponent, military lobbyist and Republican Senate staff member Pete Olson. This was the most Republican district to turn Democratic in 2006. It bore the added symbolism of DeLay’s having resigned under indictment to avoid defeat, and then having outsmarted himself by misreading Texas election law such that Republicans could not fill the ballot line for the general election.
Two weeks ago, the Lone Star Project presented evidence to the Fairfax County prosecutor that Olson, while living in Virginia, had violated Virginia law by being registered in both Virginia and Connecticut in 2003. Additionally, someone, on the face of it Olson, voted in a Newtown CT special election in 2003 in August, between the VA Republican primary in which Olson voted and the VA general election in which he also voted. At least, the Connecticut official record shows Olson’s name crossed off as having voted in person so, even if it wasn’t Olson, he has some explaining to do.
The Fairfax County prosecutor’s office is investigating but will apparently not bring charges before Tuesday. Meantime, Olson did so much explaining he came up with six different reasons why it could not have been he himself voting in his name in Connecticut. Seven, if you count the one truth Olson gave the AP’s Michael Graczyk and Suzanne Gamboa for a story that moved Friday, October 24, 2008 at 6:59 PM.
"’I don't have an explanation,’ he said of a Connecticut voting record that showed him voting then while he was registered in Virginia."
The other six remind you of a fourth grader wildly pointing in all directions away from himself beside the broken cookie jar in the kitchen.
EXCUSE #1: Pete Olson: "It was an imposter." FortBendNow (10/4/08)
EXCUSE #2: Pete Olson: "I was in DC." FortBendNow (10/4/08)
EXCUSE #3: Pete Olson: "I was with my kid." AP (10/15/08)
EXCUSE #4: Pete Olson: "I was in Texas." AP (10/15/08)
EXCUSE #5: Pete Olson: "I never lived in Connecticut." Olson Campaign Email (10/23/08)
EXCUSE #6: Pete Olson: "I was working for Senator Cornyn." Olson Campaign Email (10/23/08)
AP’s Graczyk and Gamboa also reported,
"DCCCommittee spokeswoman Kyra Jennings said that a Virginia prosecutor was investigating allegations of voter fraud brought by Democrats.’The last thing the people of the district need is another politician under criminal investigation,’ Jennings said, referring to DeLay."
Important though commission of voter fraud might be to evaluating a candidate’s character, the larger issues are more likely to prevail. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has, however, placed a hard-hitting 30-second commercial on the air. The Olson campaign’s protests against it merely prove how effective it is.
With the race essentially tied, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has cut Olson’s TV budget in half, pulling $800k worth of projected advertising in the last two weeks. This cannot be a sign of confidence.
And the Republican candidate’s involvement in voter fraud is one of the two things an internal Lampson campaign memo of Wednesday instances as leading to Olson’s vulnerability, the other being Olson’s support of a 23% national sales tax.
The last published poll in the District was the Houston Chronicle’s Zogby effort last weekend, which showed an impossible 17% Olson lead on a very high 5% margin of error. The Lone Star Project’s Matt Angle, though not involved with the Lampson campaign, is an old campaigner himself. He noted in an interview that the Zogby poll oversampled the Harris County portion of the multi-county district while undersampling the non-Harris County portion. In other words, the sample was skewed toward Republican voters and away from Democratic voters. Angle estimates that at least 12 of Zogby's 17% margin is due to the oversampling.
In addition, as the experts at fivethirtyeight.com note,
"There is one very, very significant concern with Zogby, which is that he has a longstanding rule to set his party weightings based on the exit polls from the most recent election."
That means he has inherently, by design missed the new registrants and the heightened turnout among young, Hispanic and black community voters who are not Republicans. This misestimate accounts for the remaining 5 of Zogby's 17% Olson lead.
Lampson’s own Beneson poll shows movement toward him since mid-July of 9 points, one point of them being from early to mid-October. The Beneson poll’s 42-42 tie was taken at roughly the same time as the Chronicle’s Zogby poll.
CQ’s Friday featured House race was Lampson’s, and CQ’s Claire Leavitt noted that
"Lampson spokesman Trevor Kincaid emphasized the Olson camp’s '...different stories about his whereabouts' on the day in question. ‘He’s obviously lying about something,’ Kincaid said."
Meantime Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson helped debunk a National Republican Congressional Committee commercial for Olson. She confirmed that the claims in the ad are untrue.
The ad falsely claims that Lampson voted against "Strengthening our border fence" and "Funding our military bases." In support of this attack the NRCC cites Roll Call Vote 1171, on which Lampson actually voted yes.
"The NRCC’s use of blatant lies to distort Congressman Lampson’s strong record is shameful; but the voters won’t fall for their dirty politics,"
"It’s no surprise that Pete Olson remains silent when matters of integrity are on the line after lying multiple times about criminal charges he faces in Virginia."
During a public appearance yesterday in Clear Lake Sen. Hutchison, Ranking Member on the Senate Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee that oversaw this legislation, went on the record against Olson. In response to a question,
"I’m concerned because there are some commercials that said a bill that went through your committee, the military construction subcommittee, is underfunding our military bases. Is that true?"
"No! You know I just heard about that about an hour ago. I cannot imagine."
It may be that decapitating the current House Republican conservative leadership, like defeating Rep. John Shadegg in AZ-3, will convince the Republicans of the depth of their humiliation. Well, so will keeping a DeLay clone out of TX-22. The wave that now makes beating Shadegg a possibility began with Lampson taking DeLay’s seat in 2006. It would surely demoralize the Republicans no end not to be able to recapture a district that went 64% for Bush and may go even more for John McCain.
As we began, so let us end. Let your last contribution on the last effective pre-election finance day be to Nick Lampson. Failing to take this seat back will really feel like an anchor tossed to the Republicans.