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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

TX-22: Any Special Election is Illegitimate

Posted by DavidNYC

Special elections ought to be held in special circumstances: If a candidate falls seriously ill, dies, or retires for a good reason early in an election cycle. When an incumbent uses legal loopholes to bail on his constituents late in the game, that most certainly does not qualify as an appropriate special circumstance.

Fortunately, Texas law recognizes that not all vacancies are created equal. The governor may choose whether or not to call a special election - holding one is not mandatory. Gov. Rick Perry must now exercise his discretion wisely and refuse to squander taxpayers' dollars on such a wasteful exercise. To do otherwise would be to blatantly serve the naked partisan purpose of forcing Nick Lampson, the Democrat, through two elections - and possibly three, since a special might require a run-off - in just a few months time.

Of course, I'm not naive - Perry will do whatever his Republican overlords tell him to do. Therefore, if he does call a special election, I think all Democrats - including Lampson - should boycott it completely. Don't run in it, don't vote in it, don't even talk about it. If the TX GOP wants to waste time and money on a special election, then we shouldn't accord the "winner" any legitimacy whatsoever. The real election - as it has been all along - is still in November, regardless of what the Texas Republicans try to do.

I realize this is a potentially radical and controversial path to take. But it's certainly far less radical than everything Tom DeLay has done to undermine democracy in Texas. Regardless of what DeLay does now, there only needs to be one election to determine who represents TX-22 in Congress, and that election will take place on November 7th, 2006 - and not a day earlier.

Posted at 06:55 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Texas | Technorati

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But would Lampson's name be on the special election ballot regardless?

Posted by: HellofaSandwich [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 10:24 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

No. No one gets automatically placed on a special election ballot. You have to apply.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 10:30 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Isn't that the GOP's plan, though? Use th majority qualification of special elections to put a GOP incumbent in office, so that Lampson isn't running for an open seat or against Delay's scandal-ridden ass?

Posted by: Craig McLaughlin [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 10:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

That may well be exactly the GOP's plan - exhaust Lampson through multiple elections. Which is precisely why I think we ought to do our best to de-legitimize any special election. That way, the trappings of "incumbency" will mean very little when November rolls around.

Put another way: If Lampson runs in a special and loses, he just faces another grudge-match in November. That didn't work out very well for Larry Dietrich against Stephanie Herseth in 2004.

And if Lampson runs in a special and wins, then he has to fight round two immediately thereafter. There's pretty much no way that a special helps Lampson, as I see it.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 10:45 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Sorry, David, but I couldn't disagree more on this point.
By having the Democrats sit out, by letting a Republican go unopposed in the special, you're leaving voters without any choice between candidates.
And if people show up to the polls with only one choice, then they'll be casting a vote for that one choice.
Then, by casting that vote for a particular candidate who will likely be running a few months later, it's the start of what will likely be a pattern. Part of the reason that incumbents win is familiarity. You cast a vote for a person, you make a commitment, and you want to see that commitment through to the end.
If Lampson runs in the special, then he gives voters an opportunity to make him a part of their pattern. Then he can take the voters that he already has on his side, carry them through to November, and just worry about winning new ones. And maybe he'll have help from those voters, as they tell their friends and family who they endorsed with their ballot.
Since the 2004 elections, we've had three special elections in Texas, all for State Representative. One rep was killed in a car wreck, but the other two - both Republicans - left the House to become lobbyists.
We're sick of special elections. Property taxes in the state are too high, school funding is at levels less than what is mandated by the constitution, and we'll be wasting our money on yet another special election.
Lampson should definitely run, and he should focus on how much Republican retirees have cost the state over the last two years.
By the way, in those special elections Democrats won two of the races, and narrowly missed winning the third. To let this one slip by without even trying would be a gross miscalculation.

Posted by: paulrobeson [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 10:48 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

This seems like a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't. Running in the special doesn't help him, but facing an incumbent doesn't help him either.

I had Dietrich-Herseth in mind as well, but a bit of a different read - Dietrich fared worse the second time around, despite Bush being on the ballot and a high-rpofile Senate race, which the Republican won. Running for an open seat is almost always easier than running against an entrenched opponent.

I'm also not convinced that an "illegitmacy" meme would actually pentrate. Special elections have low turnout as it is, so it's not like the missing would-be Lampson voters would be conspicuous in their absence. (There's also nothing to prevent a chunk of them from voting in the special.) I don't think Americans in general nor TX-22 voters in particular are likely to view "We didn't agree with having this election, so we didn't vote in it" as a reasonable or attractive statement.

Posted by: Craig McLaughlin [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 10:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

As a TX-22 resident, I'm not sure how DeLay's quitting affects Lampson yet, but I knwo who it does help

CA-50. We're 8 days from an election and what do we see, another GOPer resign from being corrupt. Busby could get a bump form this.

TX-GOV, if Perry calls a special election, Bell has lots of ammo to dump on Perry for wasteful spending and with our educational spending in the toilet begging for cash, then he's got a case.

Posted by: trowaman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 11:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm with David here. Lampson can point to a special election as yet another partisan stunt pulled by DeLay that ended up costing hard-working Texas taxpayers more money. Lampson should simply defer to the fact that both he and his opponent filed before the required deadline and won their respective primaries. As far as he's concerned, there's only one election that should count....the one that his opponent was too much of a coward to follow through with.

Granted, this is a gamble, but if Perry follows through with this maneuver (and we all know he will), Lampson runs the risk of looking weak by being forced to play by Tom DeLay's constantly evolving rulebook once again. It would be a show of spine for Lampson to say that the sheriff turned in his badge....and he's not gonna jump through hoops for him anymore. If anything will appeal to the unbridled outlaw individualism of conservative Texans, that should do it.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 11:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It would be a show of spine for Lampson to say that the sheriff turned in his badge...and he's not gonna jump through hoops for him anymore.

Why does this remind me of this recent post on MyDD, where Chris argues that if we aren't willing to get our hands dirty, then we're never going to win?

Taking the ball and going home, because we don't want to play by Delay's rules, is the absolute weakest choice you can make. A true champion adjusts to the situation, adapts to the environment, and succeeds no matter the circumstances. If Lampson wants to look like a winner, then he needs to start acting like one. So far, he has been. Flinching now only stops his momentum.

Posted by: paulrobeson [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 11:47 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think calling for an election boycott would be a pretty gutsy move - far from spineless. Chris' post was about being unafraid to do serious, sometimes harshly negative message coordination. If we can tar a special election as a corrupt, wasteful exercise, then we'd be doing precisely that.

Sure, we can talk about "true champions," but there's only so much time, money and resources available to Nick Lampson. One approach is to slog through three straight elections in the space of maybe 4 to 6 months. Another is to use jujitsu and only face one election. A "true champion" does not necessarily choose the first route.

As I say in my post, I realize this is a very radical and controversial suggestion. I'm not aware of anyone seriously calling for an election boycott anywhere in the US in modern times. And if Nick Lampson says, "Bring it on!", then I'll just as surely hop on board. But why not at least test the waters? That's what the blogosphere is good for, anyhow. I'm finding the comments to this thread very instructive.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2006 11:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

People like investing in a winner. If Lampson goes full-tilt and wins the special election, then more will start sending money his way.

If he abandons the special, he's surrendering the headlines to anyone else that wants to play the game. The only way he could really make it work is if he invests a ton of money into publicizing why he's not running. That could be just as costly as if he was running.

Posted by: paulrobeson [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2006 12:09 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

By the way, I do think that having Delay pull out of the race is very unfortunate for Lampson's campaign. Not being able to focus on how corrupt the Bugman was takes some of the wind out of his sails. However, I don't see how avoiding the special would help Lampson's cause.

Posted by: paulrobeson [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2006 12:18 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

With all due respect to you, David, I can appreciate the sentiment behind your suggestion but feel that actually doing it would be foolish. After rightfully proclaiming the need to run a Democrat in every district, it's hypocritical to say, "except for this one". Uh-uh! Don't care about it being a special election or the Machiavellian intentions behind it. Don't go there.

Instead, your legal analyses of Texas law suggest to me that someone (a constituent or Democratic party official, but NO ONE connected with the Lampson campaign) should legally contest the right to call a special election immediately when and if Perry announces it. Rationale? DeLay's alleged change of residence is merely a pretext to allow him to force a special election upon the District when he is simply withdrawing. His residences up to this point have not prevented him from being eligible or from performing his official responsibilities and duties. He is simply abandoning his candidacy; and his place of residence was no cause of that action, just an fabricated excuse. His rationale for his actions are transparent and public knowledge.

Posted by: phonatic [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2006 03:14 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

David, unfortunately, the special election may very well be held in November. The timing of this election is entirely up to Governor Perry. He let a Democratic State House seat stay empty for six months, through two special sessions, after Joe Moreno was killed in a car crash last May. If the consensus among the Texas GOP is that a November special is their best chance, that's when it will be.

Regardless, I have to agree with the dissenters on this post: Lampson must plan for a special, whenever it may be.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2006 07:17 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Regardless of who the GOP gets to run against him, I might not be a bad move for Lampson to basically just campaign against DeLay. This is still DeLay's seat, and the Texas Republican Party being what it is, the chances are about 98% that whoever runs against him will be heavy with DeLay's stink themselves. He should constantly draw parallels between any Republican opponent and DeLay, emphasis on the corruption angle. People in Texas like Republicans, sadly, and they like what they claim to stand for, but they don't like corruption and they don't like being lied to. If Lampson can make these things more important than party, he'll win.

Posted by: elakazal [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2006 11:31 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Not so sure Perry will hand over the ammunition.

Bell already gets a boost to his "ethics" profile as the one who started the ball rolling on Delay.

If Perry does call for this special ed election, he strengthens One-Many-Surnamed Grandma's position as the "independent" conservative candidate as well as brings Bell's ethics plank into even stronger focus (if the campaign plays it right.)

I think she's the only candidate Perry's really afraid of (the cordial mutual loathing doesn't hurt either), and I'm not sure he'll eagerly load the guns that could shoot his ambitions dead.

Posted by: boadicea [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2006 12:06 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment