By Peter Savodnik - 03/09/06 12:00 AM EST
Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) has nearly $1.6 million on hand and many supporters will soon start “pounding the pavement,” his campaign manager, Mike Malaise, said yesterday.
Lampson is challenging Rep. Tom DeLay in the 22nd District, in the Houston suburbs. DeLay easily won the Republican primary Tuesday.
Malaise said that many Democratic volunteers had been preoccupied with Democratic primaries in recent months and that now they could focus their energy on defeating the 11th-term former House majority leader.
Those volunteers, Malaise added, would primarily canvass districts.
DeLay is under indictment in a Texas campaign-finance case, and he has also come under attack for links to GOP scandals on Capitol Hill. The ethical cloud that hangs over him has prompted Democrats to say their only hope of picking up the Republican-leaning seat is for DeLay to continue to be the Republican candidate by beating back his three primary challengers.
But DeLay’s strong showing Tuesday — despite some predictions to the contrary, he avoided a runoff, capturing 62 percent of the vote — has given the incumbent momentum heading into the general election, fellow Republicans said.
Democrats in Washington say the primary has changed nothing, adding that they have been running against DeLay from the beginning. In an interview in late 2005, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), argued that the 22nd District race boils down to one person: DeLay.
“Up to now we’ve had the luxury of being able to stow away a lots of resources in terms of money for use in the general election,” Malaise said. “Now we’ll start ramping up.”
DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty declined to say how much money the campaign has in the bank. In mid-February, it had roughly $1.3 million on hand.
Flaherty said the campaign would spend the next several months reminding voters of Lampson’s ties to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“We have one of the best gifts that any campaign can have, which is a liberal voting record,” she said.
Asked which bills or initiatives Lampson had pushed that counted as “liberal,” Flaherty said the campaign would get to specifics in due course. More generally, she said, Lampson has a liberal voting record when it comes to immigration, taxes, homeland security and port security. She noted that DeLay has opposed the Dubai ports deal since word of the agreement was made public.
Meanwhile, in Texas’s 28th District, about 200 miles west of the 22nd, former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez issued a concession statement yesterday after his loss Tuesday to Rep. Henry Cuellar in the Democratic primary.
“Last night, we didn’t receive the outcome we had hoped for,” Rodriguez said. “The end result was true to the intentions of Tom DeLay when he carved out this district for his friend — geographic rivalries won out over a true discussion of the issues for working families.”
The statement goes on to say: “I congratulate Mr. Cuellar on his victory, however, and I hold no bitterness or ill will.
“I do hope, however, that he takes seriously the message sent by over 47 percent of the voters — and by a community of progressive donors from across the country — that a Democratic congressman’s first responsibility is to stand up for the needs of seniors, of children and of working families.”
Colin Strother, general consultant to the Cuellar campaign, said Cuellar won by representing his district.
“It’s not every day that a Democrat in a primary goes up against labor, trial lawyers, environmentalists and bloggers and wins. You know, if you look at all the forces gathered against Henry, this is more than a victory. This is a really, really big victory.”
Cuellar was backed by the conservative Club for Growth.