In March, 2006, General Wesley Clark interviewed Nick Lampson, who was challenging Rep. Tom Delay for the Texas 22nd District seat, home of Ellis Air Force Base, and NASA. During the "Clarkcast", Clark praised Lampson, saying:
I think that the greatest threat to the American people, what they really have to be worried about is the threat to liberty and democracy here in America and Nick we're real proud of you. You're running hard, you've got a great campaign organization. You've got people that really believe in you and yours is a race to see who can best take care and meet the needs, represent the feelings and the interests of the people of the 22nd Congressional District in Texas. This is a contest of national significance. [...] Nick Lampson, he's a “Beacon of Hope” in south Texas.Lampson won the seat with the help of John Edwards and progressive fund-raisers such as ActBlue. It was a narrow win (15,000 votes) against a write in candidate, but it was nonetheless a win for a Democrat in a district that hadn't backed a Democrat for President since Lyndon Johnson. With Tom Delay mired in controversy, it was a moment of triumph for Texas Democrats who saw the win as a rejection of corruption in the GOP and a turning point for progressive politics in the state.
But in 2007, Lampson voted to extend the power of the Department of Justice to spy on Americans.
A successful moderate Democrat in Texas' 9th district, Lampson had served as congressman in the Beaumont district since 1996. In 2004, he lost the seat to a 2003 redistricting scheme backed by Delay himself, which many also attribute as an ironic factor in Lampson's victory in 2006, as the state GOP found itself spread thin and spending more in their own districts. Since the election, Lampson has performed much as you would expect from a Democrat narrowly (51%) elected in conservative district. Progressive Punch gives him 75.05%, and he votes with Democrats 86% of the time (having missed 14% of the votes so far). Critics argue Lampson has not capitalized on the bad taste left in constituents' mouths after the Delay scandals.
Lampson, a former school teacher, has campaigned aggressively for the protection of children and education, and was largely responsible for the creation of the national Amber Alert service. He supported family planning aid from the US abroad, but received a 30% approval rating from NARAL, which constitutes a pro-life position on a woman's right to choose. He voted to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage, but supports stronger penalties for hate crimes. He received a 64% rating from the ACLU on issues involving civil rights, and is a staunch proponent of border security, calling on his peers often to increase moneys for border patrol agents, while opposing military involvement in border security. Voted yes on criminalizing the oil cartels, no on removing oil and gas exploration subsidies. Yes on eliminating the "Estate Tax", no on making Bush's tax cuts permanent. Yes to authorizing the war, no on redeploying troops within 90 days, stating:
"There are those who advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And there are those who want to send in more troops and continue with an open-ended commitment," Lampson said in a prepared statement. "Somewhere in the middle exists a practical and realistic solution that honors the commitment and sacrifice of our troops. That is type of solution I will support and work towards."You see where this is going...
Lampson's role as a Bush Dog in congressional capitulations may be best understood by exploring his district, the events leading up to his win in 2006, and his precarious future.
The new Texas 22nd includes around 130,000 people from Lampson's old 9th district, all victims of the 2003 "Tommymander." Despite having a history with them, his small margin implies most did not back him in the election.
In the 2006 general election, Lampson won 52-42 over write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who garnered more votes in the special election for the 7 week remainder of Delay's term than Lampson did in the general, and who he outspent 6 to 1. Lampson had announced his candidacy early in the year, but stepped up his campaign when it became apparent in May of 2006 that Delay would step down.
Sekula-Gibbs still has $191,000 left over from her 2006 campaign, and Dean Hrbacek, Robert Talton, and Pete Olson are also running (or strongly considering) for the Republican spot on the '08 ticket. The seat seems to be a sore spot for the Texas GOP.
"Regaining that district hovers around the top of our list of priorities for 2008," said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, which will not take sides in the GOP primary.Lampson's slight lead in 2006, amidst Republican corruption, and write in candidates with names amazingly difficult to pronounce was still just that; slight.