HOUSTON – Republican candidates were already lining up for the chance to take on U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson two years from now.
Even before the last votes were counted to confirm Lampson's victory over Republican write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, GOP officials were already preparing Lampson's political obituary for 2008.
"There's no way that Mr. Lampson can keep this seat," predicted Fort Bend Republican Chairman Gary Gillen. "This is a very conservative district, and Mr. Lampson is a liberal."
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Gillen said he had been contacted by two Republicans in Fort Bend County who had already decided to run for the seat in 2008. Sekula-Gibbs said Tuesday that she "absolutely" intends to run for the seat again in 2008.
Sekula-Gibbs called Lampson on Wednesday morning to concede defeat and to congratulate him on his victory, according to Sekula-Gibbs' spokeswoman, Lisa Dimond.
President Bush told a White House news conference that it's hard to win elections when it requires winning a write-in election "in our state of Texas."
"I had to go down to Houston, in Sugar Land, and act as Secretary of State — 'Take your pencil into the box and then write it in.' I'm not sure Iraq had much to do with the outcome of that election," Bush said.
Texas uses electronic voting machines and Sekula-Gibbs' name had to be dialed in to the voting machine.
Because of its heavy conservative Republican character, the district is certain to attract interest from other well-known Republicans in and around Houston as well. The district has been represented in Congress by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay since 1984, and DeLay remained popular here despite the fundraising scandals and criminal investigations that led him to resign his seat in June. President Bush's re-election campaign captured 64 percent of the district's voters in 2004, and GOP candidates can count on 50,000 consistent straight-party Republican voters — compared with about 30,000 for Democrats.
Gillen said Lampson's victory came only because DeLay's resignation forced the GOP to mount a write-in campaign. Soon after DeLay's resignation, the courts ruled that the GOP could not replace him on the ballot, leaving Sekula-Gibbs to her ill-fated write-in campaign.
"They (Democrats) can't win in a straight-up election in this district," said Gillen. "He had to use the courthouse to win instead of the ballot box."
Lampson, 61, has heard the predictions that he is doomed to be only a one-term caretaker congressman until the Republicans take back the seat in 2008, but he's not buying it. He said he won election in a Republican district in 1996 and was re-elected three times by concentrating on constituent services and avoiding being overly partisan.
Lampson served eight years in the House, but was drawn out of his district in 2004 in a redistricting plan that DeLay engineered.
"If I go and do what I said I would do, they're going to like my service and send me back," he said.
Lampson's victory came in the most watched of all Texas congressional races. Despite polls claiming the race was in a statistical tie, Lampson won by nearly 15 percentage points.