Bid to unseat DeLay gets advertised early

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Democrats have begun an orchestrated campaign to unseat Republican U.S. House members in next year's midterm elections — elections that are a year-and-a-half away.

Republicans say the ads, which were placed in six congressional districts across the country, aren't likely to catch anyone's attention.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, is the target of an ad running locally.

He hasn't started running any ads of his own, but an anti-tax group ran television ads in May, defending DeLay and likening the media and their reporting on him to sharks in a feeding frenzy.

The Democratic print ads that ran this week say: "What's Happened to Tom DeLay?"

"Twenty-one years ago, we sent Tom DeLay to Washington to work on things Texans care about: more jobs, affordable health care, a secure retirement.

"Now, Tom DeLay's work in Congress is generating headlines ... on his ties to lobbyists, his foreign trips and his questionable fundraising.

"We knew Tom DeLay would leave Texas to work in Washington, We didn't know he'd leave behind his Texas values."

It ran in the Fort Bend Sun, a free weekly newspaper.

Ads question ethics
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $36,000 on that ad and five others, a small sum by the standards of 21st century campaign finance. The print ads question the ethics of six House Republicans.

The ads are similar in tone and style, essentially filling in blanks with the name of the congressman targeted and vague references to his particular situation.

Among them is California Rep. Randy Cunningham, who is under investigation by a grand jury looking into his ties with a military contractor.

Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he doesn't expect the ads to resonate.

"The ads are intended to make headlines and not sway voters," he said.

"One day of ads in July, when people are concerned more about vacations than elections that are 16 months away, is useless."

A constant campaign
Richard Morrison, who took 41 percent of the vote as a 2004 Democratic candidate against DeLay in the 22nd District but decided not to run next year, argues that campaigns are year-round.

"DeLay raises money every day of the year and has his own message machine," said Morrison, who unveiled the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad in Houston on Wednesday.

"To tell people about his true character, you have to start early.

"He has become the person he once railed against — the Washington insider. He's become the person he got elected to go up and fight."

Smear tactics alleged
DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said Democrats are relying on a strategy of smear tactics.

"Absent an agenda, partisan Democrats will always resort to angry, personal attacks," she said.

"Texans deserve more than these desperate political antics from a party that would rather gripe than govern."

DeLay won the 2004 general election with 55 percent of the vote against Morrison and two other candidates.

His only 2006 challenger so far is former Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, who served four terms in the House before his Southeast Texas district was redrawn to elect a Republican in redistricting engineered by DeLay.

Lampson, who represented 20 percent of what is now the 22nd District, has said he is hoping for a little poetic justice.


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