GOP Primary in the 22nd District

Another test of Congressman Tom DeLay's strength comes this Tuesday with the GOP primary in the 22nd district. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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Four names are on the ballot in the 22nd district. Congressman Tom DeLay is the incumbant. The challengers are attorneys Tom Campbell and Mike Fjetland and school teacher Pat Baig. Observers see Campbell as the strongest challenger, but would be surprised if he's able to overtake DeLay in the primaries. Fort Bend Herald Coaster Managing Editor Bob Haenel says people in the district are curious as to what the result is going to be. He suspects that DeLay's troubles and media coverage may be more the talk around Washington D.C. than it is in the district right now.

"It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of people have started ignoring it, regardless of how they feel about Tom DeLay. So I'm not sure people are really thinking about. I think they're ready to get this over with and start focusing on November."

DeLay gave up his leadership post in the House after facing indictments in Travis County surrounding campaign finance activities in 2002 state house races.

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"His favorable ratings are very, very low but it's a big difference between a poll in January and turn-out on March 7th."

Rice University Political Scientist Bob Stein says DeLay gave up some of his Republican base in the redistricting and was willing to win his elections by narrower margins but that was before the legal problems surfaced.

"That was then and this is now and there are many, many bad stories. And I think the real test next Tuesday is not whether the Congressman wins his nomination to the Republican position, but whether or not he wins it by a big margin."

Because that will be the first indication of how much of a battle DeLay may have in the November election. Stein notes that DeLay has spent more time in the district than he has for any primary race.

"Should he be forced into a primary run-off I think it would be a disaster and should he fall well below 60 percent I think his opponent, in this case, Nick Lampson, will use it as a wedge against him."

At the same time, typical turn-out for primary races falls below ten percent of eligible voters and low turn-out tends to favor the incumbent. However, challengers are hoping to mount a strong grass roots effort that will buck that trend. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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