Red State Recruitment: Senate Dems Look to Texas, Oklahoma

I noted yesterday that Republicans were having difficulty recruiting candidates even in some districts and states in which they would be expected to at least be competitive and potentially even win. But what of the Democrats? Reports this morning out of two fairly red states indicate that Democratic recruitment efforts are moving forward at full bore even in areas in which Democrats have had difficulty winning in recent years.

First, out of Texas Michelle Mittelstadt reports for the Houston Chronicle that one able fundraising member of the Texas Democratic congressional delegation is looking towards a possible challenge to the surprisingly vulnerable John Cornyn, the state's freshman Republican Senator.

It may be up or out as Congressman Nick Lampson ponders his political future.

The Stafford Democrat is giving serious consideration to entering the U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent John Cornyn, well-connected Democrats in Texas and Washington say.

Lampson's jaunt last weekend to San Antonio to mingle with donors at a fundraiser for the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hasn't done anything to discourage the speculation -- particularly since he underwent major heart surgery less than a month before and has yet to resume a full work schedule.

[...]

The calculus is fairly simple, several Democratic strategists say: Lampson faces a battle to hold on to his House seat, and, since he'll have to raise millions of dollars anyway, he might as well go for the brass ring.

Any Democratic challenge to Cornyn will cost serious money, and although Lampson only has about $260,000 on hand at the moment, he has proved to be quite the proficient fundraiser in years past, for instance raising a staggering $3.7 million for his race for Congress last cycle. Yet despite the fact that Cornyn would no doubt be able to raise serious dollars towards a reelection bid and Texas has tended to support Republicans in statewide elections in recent years (the last Democrat to win a Senate race in the state was Lloyd Bentsen in 1988), there is reason to believe that a Democrat, perhaps Lampson and perhaps someone else, could at the least give a scare to the Republicans. As of this month, Cornyn's approval rating stands at a weak 43 percent, with 40 percent disapproving, according to SurveyUSA.

Texas is not the only red state in which the Democrats appear to be getting closer to finding a Senate candidate. The Tulsa World has the story.

State Sen. Andrew Rice said he is considering a run against U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.

Rice, an Oklahoma City Democrat who is in his first term in the state Senate, said he met at a function in Dallas last week with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

He said he told Schumer he was considering a run against the veteran Republican incumbent.

"I said I was open to it," Rice said, adding that the two discussed polling that has been done.

Rice, 34, said he has not made a decision but is flattered by the interest that is being shown in his possible candidacy.

There hasn't been a terribily large deal of public polling on Inhofe in recent months, but the existing polling does not inspire much confidence in the Republicans' popularity. A SurveyUSA poll from back in November found just 46 percent of Oklahomans approving of Inhofe and 41 percent disapproving.

The potential interest of Rice and Lampson in Senate races in Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, is not necessarily a sign that Democrats are going to pick up seats in these states. However, they are reflective of the general optimisim of Democrats this cycle -- an optimism that might prove self-fulfilling as more good candidates opt to run, more donors opt to make contributions and more volunteers opt to give their time to help elect Democrats, whether to the presidency or a county commission.

Tags: OK-Sen, Recruitment, Senate 2008, TX-Sen (all tags)

Comments

30 Comments

Re: Red State Recruitment: Senate Dems Look to Tex

I'd rather Lampson run for re-election.  He's the only one who will be able to win that house seat and I think he will if he runs.

by Marylander 2007-04-30 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Red State Recruitment: Senate Dems Look to Tex

OTOH, that district's WAY Republican.  There was always a good chance that even if we won it last year, we'd only hold it for one term.  But in the battle to win back Congress, we thought that every seat might be critical.

That's not true anymore.  We can afford to not spend millions hanging onto this seat.  But making the GOP spend the big bucks defending Cornyn's seat will keep them from spending it elsewhere.  I think it's a wise move.

by RT 2007-04-30 09:47AM | 0 recs
Poll the district

Rather than have the DCCC and DSCC compete for candidates, they should poll the district and find out how popular Lampson is there.  If he is polling well there, he should stay, but if it looks like an uphill battle for reelection, he should run for Senate.

I wouldn't be too surprised to see Lampson hang on.  Gene Taylor of Mississippi, Jim Matheson of Utah and Chet Edwards of Texas all have more Republican seats than Lampson, yet all have been reelected many times.

by lorax 2007-04-30 10:13AM | 0 recs
Lampson is by no means a progressive Dem.

But he votes well to the left of those three...

by Ramo 2007-04-30 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Lampson is by no means a progressive Dem.

Lampson votes as I would, which is good seeing as though he's my Rep.

Moderate lefty, emphasis on local issues and consituent services, wants to let the party fight it's own problems, he's there to represent the needs of people in South Houston, not just those of his activist base (waves hi!)'

I've said this before though and I will say it again, if Lampson runs for Senate, he needs, neeeds, NEEDS a new media outreach coordinator, someone who can get the media to look at him and tell his story. His race agaisnt Sekula-Gibbs, even though she was a write in, she had a signifigant edge in media stories, written or broadcast. Anytime I saw him mentioned, it was in response to her.

I never saw one story about what he was doing and Sekula responding, and her e-mails now about him that go out to the district are all pretty identical "Liberal Lampson supports Pelosi, you deserve a republican, because this is a republican district" which in Texas, a state that has gotten used to straight party voting, is enough to win.

Issues don't matter in the areas between Houston and Austina dn San Antonio, Party affiliation does. You can make a ding in the south, in DFW, and heck even along 45 you can convince a few folks, but west and south of Houston is dead land until a Democratic big wig starts cultivating it for us.

by Trowaman 2007-04-30 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Poll the district

YOu make a compelling argument, however, most of Nick's money came while he was against DeLay and everyone was sending moeny for that, after DeLay dropped out it began to slow, but the funds did keep coming.

by Trowaman 2007-04-30 12:05PM | 0 recs
House or Senate?

On the other hand, it would be really good for Texas Dems to win a statewide race.  Lampson has proven that he has cross over appeal.

by Hellmut 2007-04-30 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: House or Senate?

Yeah, because he faced a write-in candidate.

by jallen 2007-04-30 10:27AM | 0 recs
A Rice run?

It's amazing that Rice is actively being recruited by Schumer to run statewide in OK. He's barely begun his first term of elected office. Inexperience and his solid progressive views will make it tough for Andrew to win statewide, but he's charismatic and straightforward enogh to pull it off.

by clarkent 2007-04-30 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: A Rice run?

True, but stranger things have happened. Although Rice is a progressive, I bet that even folks in Okalahoma are ready to dump Inhofe. Rice has an actions speak louder than words bio. Give him a Google and read his about that guy, he make a compelling candidate.

I would definitely support him. Win or not the seeds for a blue Oaklahoma could be planted for the future.

by Demrock6 2007-04-30 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: A Rice run?

Andrew's bio on his State Senate page:

Andrew graduated in 1996 from Colby College (Waterville, Maine) with a Bachelor's Degree in Religious Studies and a minor in African American Studies.  After graduation, he was accepted to Harvard University Divinity School, but deferred his admission for one year to work and travel in Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.  In Sri Lanka, he worked with the largest Grassroots NGO in Asia, helping with rural development in Village life and in the conflict zone.  In Thailand, Rice worked for the country's largest private AIDS hospice and in India, he studied drug addiction problems and treatment in urban India.

Rice received his Masters in Theological Studies from the Harvard University Divinity School in 1999.  While in graduate school, Andrew produced a documentary in Bangalore, India entitled "From Ashes" which focused on India's AIDS pandemic.

After graduate school, Andrew worked as a freelance documentary producer and editor. He worked on programs for the BBC and PBS, including segments for The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

Andrew's older brother, David Rice, was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th, 2001 and due to the tragedy, Andrew decided to rededicate his career to social justice work and political reforms.  He worked for the Texas Freedom Network, which counters the influence of religious extremism in public policy.  He is the founder of the Progressive Alliance Foundation which works throughout the state of Oklahoma advancing progressive, fair-minded and constitutional solutions to public policy problems.  He also launched the Red River Democracy Project (RRDP) and is on the board of The People's Opinion Project.  

Andrew is married to Dr. Apple Newman Rice who is a Pathologist at Integris Southwest Hospital on the south side of Oklahoma City. They have a son named Noah David Rice, who was born on Dec. 7th, 2004, and they are expecting another son in February 2007.

(the bolded section is my emphasis)

by clarkent 2007-04-30 11:23AM | 0 recs
I find him very intriguing

He could be an awesome candidate, he seems to be the opposite of the old and cranky Inhofe in every way. What really stood out to me was the following part on his issues page:

Constitutional & Privacy Rights

Increasingly, many of our public servants go against our constitution by trying to intrude upon the privacy rights of our citizens. Our most fundamental constitutional liberties afford each American the right to make their own private decisions pertaining to intimacy, reproductive rights and religious freedom. I have a clear understanding of what my duties will entail when I am elected to be State Senator for the citizens of District 46. I will abide by the unambiguous ethical guidance of our state and federal constitution. I will know what my job description is as a public servant who has been chosen by the people to create legislation to help our state work efficiently and to provide the services we owe to the people of Oklahoma, and refrain from using policy as a tool to infringe upon the civil liberties of Oklahomans.

I will work to ensure that in this post-Sept. 11th world, Oklahoma remains both safe and free. We should never sacrifice our most basic privacy and civil rights in the name of security and risk a corruption of power by any political party or administration. I will stand up against those who are trying to alter our state's secular laws in favor of one religious perspective over another. I lost my brother to religious intolerance in the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, and I would never support any form of religious intolerance here in Oklahoma. Our Bill of Rights is quite clear that every American has the right to the same civil rights, tax rights, freedom of religion and right to privacy.

I hope he'll run.

by jedinecny 2007-04-30 12:50PM | 0 recs
Cornyn's Money Does Not Matter

Paul Herrnson's research about congressional elections shows that incumbents who are in trouble cannot rely on money to safe themselves.  People have made up their mind.  The question is whether a challenger can raise enough money to become visible.

I am not sure how much Lampson would need to cross the visibility threshold in Texas.  My wild guess would be around five million.

Does anyone have data about Cornyn's negatives?

by Hellmut 2007-04-30 10:10AM | 0 recs
43% favorable/40% unfavorable

From Susa.  The March numbers are 47/39.

by Ramo 2007-04-30 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: 43% favorable/40% unfavorable

Thanks.  Does anyone know why people don't like Cornyn?  What issues are voters upset about?  Or is it a matter of personality?

by Hellmut 2007-04-30 12:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Cornyn's Money Does Not Matter

Texas is incredibly expensive.  Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin media markets, and that's not all.  If you have no name rec, you have to advertise a LOT.  A winning democratic challenge would cost $15 million at the very least, I'd think.

by texas dem 2007-04-30 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Cornyn's Money Does Not Matter

Thanks.  That's good to know.

by Hellmut 2007-04-30 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Red State Recruitment: Senate Dems Look to Tex

We here at 21st Century Democrats endorsed Andrew Rice in his State Senate primary campaign last year because he is an inspiring visionary leader who is comfortable with who he is, knows where he wants to go and how to get there.  He is an authentic guy who was not afraid to stand up for what he believes - like holding firm on his opposition to the death penalty despite overwhelming pressure to be for it in Oklahoma.  Voters in Oklahoma will appreciate a Democrat who stands up for his principles and doesn't just try to be a fake Republican.  State Senator Andrew Rice would make a great United States Senator.  If Andrew runs, we will be one of the first to support him!

by Mark Lotwis 2007-04-30 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Red State Recruitment: Senate Dems Look to Tex

I've worked with Andrew on his Red River Democracy Project. He's a really great guy.

by clarkent 2007-04-30 12:33PM | 0 recs
Dems Look to Texas

Something we should all note here.  No Democrat, has ever won a statewide race in Texas in over 30 years.  If so, why is now the time to change that?  Is there any better time?  What is giving us the opportunity to change that now?

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-04-30 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Dems Look to Texas

Over 30 years? Are you sure about that?

by clarkent 2007-04-30 12:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Dems Look to Texas

Didn't know Fall 1994 was 30 years ago . . .

Thought it was 12.5 . . .

by Trowaman 2007-04-30 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Dems Look to Texas

And off the top of my head for a source

Dem. Bob Bullock elected Lt. Gov. of Texas - a state wide office not connected to the governor, was elected (or possibly re-elected, I was 10 then) in 1994

by Trowaman 2007-04-30 12:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Dems Look to Texas
1994 Democrats won Lt Gov and Attorney General
1998 Democrats came within 1% of winning Lt Gov and Comptroller
by Texas Nate 2007-04-30 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Dems Look to Texas

Woops, my bad.  I must have misread something somewhere along the lines... Nevermind my comment then!

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-04-30 01:48PM | 0 recs
Rice-Inhoff
James Inhoff is vulnerable due to his embarassing stand on global warning, and his continued support of Bush on the occupation of Iraq is losing potential voters.
If Rice could get his bio out for the public to see, he should be a shoe-in.
by yellowdogD 2007-04-30 12:19PM | 0 recs
Texas statewide vote.

Ann Richards won statewide.

by yellowdogD 2007-04-30 12:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Texas statewide vote.
in 1990.
Multiple other Democrats won statewide that year.
In fact in 1982 a mere 25 years ago Texas Democrats swept all the statewide elections.
by Texas Nate 2007-04-30 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Red State Recruitment:

I would think that Lampson would have some trouble in a state-wide election.  What is John Sharp up to these days?

How about Brad Henry, the governor, for Senate?  I can't remember if he is in his first or second term.  I think it's his second.  He has won state-wide.  I'm not sure how popular he is these days.

by MDMan 2007-04-30 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Red State Recruitment: Senate Dems Look to Tex

Lampson will have a good chance to keep his seat this election cycle.  The Republicans will still be toxic and S-G really damaged herself with her weeks as a Congressperson.  She also is $250,000 in campaign debt and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a nasty Republican primary along with the potential for an independent running.  It will be a tough re-election race for him but it will be a lot easier running for the seat he already has than running statewide.

by msstaley 2007-04-30 08:50PM | 0 recs

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