By Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
AUSTIN, March 7 -- Rep. Tom DeLay, facing an unusual four-way Republican primary, won the party's nomination Tuesday, calling his victory a rejection by voters of "the politics of personal destruction."
"I have always placed my faith in the voters, and today's vote shows they have placed their full faith in me," DeLay, 58, said in a statement issued by his reelection campaign.
"Democrat attacks and the politics of personal destruction were heavily used by my opponents in this Republican primary, and they were rejected just like they will be in November," he said.
The 11-term congressman, who voted in his suburban Houston district Tuesday morning and greeted voters at several polls, spent the rest of the day in Washington, voting to renew the USA Patriot Act in the late afternoon and attending an evening fundraiser held by two Capitol Hill lobbyists. The event raised money for DeLay's reelection campaign -- a race that will pit him against Nick Lampson, a former congressman. Lampson had no opponent in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
With 86 percent of the 216 precincts reporting in congressional District 22, which includes all of Fort Bend County and part of three other Houston-area counties, DeLay had 62 percent of the votes, allowing him to win the GOP nomination outright without a runoff. His closest GOP opponent, Tom Campbell, had 30 percent, followed by Mike Fjetland with 4.7 percent and Pat Baig with 3.3 percent.
DeLay -- under criminal indictment on a money-laundering charge; rebuked three times by the House ethics committee; and linked to former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to political corruption charges -- faced his toughest primary race in his 22-year congressional career. Although he spent about $2 million, DeLay ran a low-profile primary campaign, focusing on reaching the most dedicated voters through direct-mail pitches and phone calls. He did not run any radio or television ads, reflecting the campaign's belief that they would heighten the profile of the GOP primary and bring out anti-DeLay voters.
But Tuesday night, the tenor of DeLay's campaign changed dramatically.
"I'm honored . . . to defend this district from the funding and activism of America's most radical Democrats," he said. "Liberal activists like Barbra Streisand, George Soros and Nancy Pelosi all have a dog in this fight, and his name is Nick Lampson."
DeLay and Lampson begin the battle for the November general election virtually tied for cash on hand. According to campaign finance reports filed in mid-February, DeLay had $1.3 million in the bank to Lampson's $1.4 million. According to a Houston Chronicle poll taken in early January, Lampson also had a lead over DeLay of eight percentage points.
District 22 is now also more Democratic by DeLay's own making. Under a 2003 redistricting plan that he guided and that the Texas legislature passed, DeLay agreed to surrender GOP voters to bolster some other congressional districts in Texas and get more Republicans elected to Congress. That redistricting plan ultimately led to DeLay's legal and ethical problems in Austin and Washington.
Lampson, who represented Beaumont and parts of East Texas in Congress, was ousted from office in 2004 under the new redistricting map. He moved into District 22 last year and soon began his campaign against DeLay. Sailing to the Democratic nomination, Lampson ended primary day swinging, too.
DeLay "gets headlines for all the wrong reasons," Lampson said, according to the Associated Press. "I'm looking forward to that headline on November 8th: 'No Further DeLay.' "