Charles Stenholm was elected to the U.S. House in 1978, with 68 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Billy L. Fisher. The seat was being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Omar Burleson, who had held the job for 32 years.
Stenholm won re-election to six consecutive terms without Republican opposition.
In 1992, he defeated Republican Jeannie Sadowski with 66 percent of the vote. He defeated Republican Phil Boone in 1994 with 54 percent. In 1996, he was re-elected with 52 percent of the vote against Republican Rudy Izzard. Stenholm was re-elected in 1998, defeating Izzard with 54 percent of the vote.
In 2000, he was re-elected with 59 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2002 with 51 percent of the vote in a redrawn district that included more Republican voters.
His district became a central part in the Republican redesign of Texas' congressional districts. Texas House speaker Tom Craddick wanted a West Texas district based in Lubbock and not getting it would have been deal breaker.
With no chance of winning in the redesigned district, Stenholm jumped to District 19 to challenge freshman incumbent Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock. He had about 450,000 new voters to win over.