Will GOP Disarray Send the First Libertarian Party Candidate to Congress?
(Washington, DC) ““ Despite desperate attempts by Republican politicians, events unfolded last week in the hotly contested race for Texas’ 22nd Congressional district, confirming that Libertarian Bob Smither remains a formidable candidate that neither party can afford to ignore.
As both influential local newspapers ““ including The Houston Chronicle and The Austin American-Statesman ““ and national news outlets ““ including The New York Times and National Journal’s “House Race Hotline” ““ have taken note of Libertarian Bob Smither’s indisputable impact on this race, both his Democratic and Republican opponents have made abrupt shifts in campaign strategy as they attempt to stave off Smither’s momentum.
Bob Smither is well known in Texas 22 for his long history of community service as co-founder the Laura Recovery Center for missing children. Shortly after election officials confirmed that only Libertarian Smither’s name would face the Democratic former Congressman Nick Lampson on November’s ballot, Lampson went on the air with commercials that seek to associate his name with those very same issues.
At an informal gathering of precinct chairs Thursday night, Tom DeLay, the scandal-tarred former Majority Whip who resigned in disgrace from representing this district earlier this year, felt the need to address local Republicans to counter support voiced by some Republican leaders for Bob Smither. The online community newspaper “Fort Bend Now” reported that DeLay told precinct leaders that Libertarian Smither is “a Lampson plant,” insisting that Bob Smither’s campaign is a stalking horse for the Democrat Lampson.
In fact, despite Tom DeLay’s insinuation, Bob Smither and Nick Lampson have met only briefly in public when the two men were working as advocates for missing children. The fact that Libertarian Bob Smither has sought to coalesce support behind his candidacy for a head-to-head run against Lampson only further refutes DeLay’s scurrilous innuendo.
“Fort Bend Now” reports that Smither responded to DeLay’s accusation with “I am telling you that is a vicious lie,” a point which he confirmed to national Libertarian Party officials in a teleconference earlier today. Smither also expressed his appreciation for the “multiple precinct chairs that have contacted me indicating some support,” as well as thanking “those precinct chairs that chose to ignore Mr. DeLay’s lie.”
Republicans are trying to present a picture of unification following the “nomination” of Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, howeverbelies their claim. With a minimum of two Republican write-in campaigns and some Republicans clearly supporting Smither, local GOP unity is far from certain. An additional factor to be considered is the potential negative impact of being associated with or implicitly endorsed by Tom DeLay, who only received 60% of the Republican primary vote before his forced resignation.
In addition to Sekula-Gibbs, Republican David Wallace has also been confirmed as a write-in candidate in the race. The Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster recently raised questions about Wallace’s investment practices. While correctly entering Wallace’s name on the eSlate electronic voting equipment will provide a minor challenge to elderly and handicapped voters, the task may prove close to impossible for Sekula-Gibbs’ supporters.
The DeLay factor combined with the complexities of multiple disorganized write-in campaigns isn’t likely to encourage much support from out-of-state fundraising sources or inspire voter turnout on Election Day. Despite his current financial advantage, Lampson will face a monumental battle in a district which election analyst Charlie Cook handicaps at R +15 (Republican base performance plus 15%).
Thanks to the uniquely favorable dynamics of this race, Bob Smither starts this campaign with a double-digit support base, an unusual position for a Libertarian candidate. Based on the analysis of political experts, the winner of this race may well win with only a plurality of the vote. This could add up to a virtual “perfect storm” which just might send Mr. Smither to Washington.
[NOTE: The preceding is a press release, reproduced in it's entirety, from the Libertarian Party]