Whenever I see the name of Tom DeLay’s congressional district — “Sugar Land” — it puts me in mind of something like this. It’s the kind of name that can only be ironic. It belongs in a children’s book warning tykes against the dangers of tooth decay.
DeLay won his primary on Tuesday, which should come as no surprise. What is surprising, though, is that in November he’s likely to be facing not just former Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson but also independent candidate Steve Stockman — a former Republican congressman. Stockman, a conservative, says his campaign is aimed at Lampson, which makes sense, since it was Lampson who beat Stockman in his 1996 re-election bid.
But is the entry of an independent conservative candidate into what’s shaping up to be a tight race between DeLay and Lampson really likely to help DeLay? Stockman isn’t exactly going to peel Democrats or independent moderates away from Lampson. He can only cost DeLay votes on the right.
Cragg Hines of the Houston Chronicle suggests what Stockman might have in mind: to enter the race, attack Lampson, and then withdraw from the race in August, leaving Lampson damaged and DeLay relatively better off.
That’s plausible, but wouldn’t it be easier just to use a 527 or some other “independent” outfit to attack Lampson? Or is there some fear among the friends of Tom DeLay that too much national scrutiny of the race will make that inadvisable?
Alternatively, Stockman could be in the race to make a point on behalf of fiscal conservatives who’ve had enough of DeLay’s pork and others on the right who see the former majority leader as an increasing liability — which he is. Some Democrats might like to keep DeLay around for a while as the living totem of Republican corruption, but they would be ill advised to do so, since DeLay is one of the GOP’s most accomplished practitioners of hardball politics.
DeLay deserves to lose, of course, and lose hard — just like the rest of the Republican leadership.