Playing to anti-Washington sentiment, the two candidates in the GOP primary runoff to succeed Ron Paul in Congress have each staked their claim to being more Texan, and unlike Washington, than the other.
In Texas, after all, one day officials are hurling verbal rebukes at President Barack Obama and federal lawmakers about the $16 trillion national debt. On another day, they’re challenging moves by federal regulators that hurt oil and gas production, the engine of the Texas economy.
That scorn has spilled into the race for Paul’s old district, where two-term state Rep. Randy Weber, a self-employed businessman, faces lawyer and Pearland city councilmember Felicia Harris, in the July 31 primary runoff for District 14. Harris stepped down from her post July 1.
The district just south and southeast of Houston has the counties of Jefferson, Galveston and Brazoria. In the May GOP primary, Weber received 27.6 percent of the vote, Harris, 18.9 percent.
Both claim the conservative brand based on endorsements and track records.
Weber received Paul’s endorsement in June, while Harris has been endorsed by GOP U.S. Reps. Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Bill Flores of Bryan and Ted Poe of Jefferson County. Harris also has endorsements from GOP U.S. Reps. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Jeb Hensarling of Athens and Francisco Canseco of San Antonio.
Weber counters with Texas-based endorsements from Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, and Texas Rangers owner Nolan Ryan.
Touting his Texas endorsements, Weber said the choice comes down to “the Washington way or the Texas model.”
Harris doesn’t back away stating she has support from people in the district who identify with the Tea Party movement.
With early voting July 23-July 27, Perry held a rally for Weber on Wednesday in Galveston.
In a phone interview, Weber said Harris’ Washington endorsements are tainted with votes by Olson, Flores, Granger, Hensarling and Canseco to raise the debt ceiling nearly one year ago. Poe voted against it, as did Paul.
“I think the Harris campaign’s in a world of hurt,” said Weber. “If you like the way things are going in Washington, D.C., vote for Harris.”
Harris’ website states her stance against raising the federal debt ceiling, She questions Weber’s own conservative credibility.
“Mr. Weber forgets his own record,” Harris said.
She points to key votes by Weber in the Texas Legislature in 2011 that gave him a 48 percent conservative rating with Texas Eagle Forum, a key conservative organization in the state.
She also highlights Weber’s vote for Texas Senate Bill 1 in the June 2011 special session (See page 659). SB1 compelled Amazon to charge Texans sales tax, which the comptroller started collecting July 1.
Harris said this raised taxes.
“He says he won’t raise taxes, but look at what he did?” Harris asked.
She said Americans ridicule members of Congress because “they say one thing and do another.”
Weber fires back that as a Pearland City Council member, Harris increased property taxes and city spending. He also contends she has been absent from 30 percent of city meetings.
Mark Jones, chairman of Rice University’s political science department, sees a close race.
He said after the May primary he gave the edge to Weber because of support by Texas establishment Republicans. He said that has evened out with Harris’ endorsements from several members of Texas’ congressional delegation.
“It helps there’s no doubt about it. It’s a key ace in the hole,” Jones said of Paul’s endorsement of Weber. “Paul has a core of dedicated supporters, but a lot of the Tea Party people are going with Harris.”
Despite the fight over conservative cred, Weber and Harris are strikingly similar on the big issues. They agree on repealing Obamacare, needing to cut the national debt, and creating jobs, specifically in the oil and gas-rich district on the Gulf of Mexico.
Both seek less regulation on energy businesses and play up their expertise in this area. Weber pointed to his service on the House Environmental Regulation committee, which has some jurisdiction over oil and gas, during his first term. Harris said she has represented energy businesses as a lawyer.
Weber has a potential advantage having represented a segment of Brazoria County, including almost all of Pearland, as part of his state House District 29, and the name recognition that comes with a state office.
But Harris said 53 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the primary voted for someone other than Weber or herself. Since the primary, Harris has been endorsed by two primary opponents, Robert Gonzales, founder and chairman of the Clear Lake Tea Party, and school administrator John Gay.
“Mr. Weber hasn’t been endorsed by any of the other candidates,” Harris said.
Meanwhile, there’s still time on the calendar before runoff election ballots are cast to have some debates.
Harris has said she would like some debates, but it’s uncertain at this time.
“We’ve given her three or four dates,” Weber said.
“He has told me he doesn’t want debates,” Harris responds.
Jones handicapped the race heading into November, when the winner will face former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson.
He said the district leans Republican although Lampson has a past of being a conservative Democrat. Jones envisions the winner of the GOP runoff succeeding Paul in the U.S. House.
“Obama at the top of the ticket is too much to overcome,” Jones said.
Contact Curt Olson at email@example.com or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.
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Monday, 07/16/2012 - 10:02PM
Weber is the one we need. He is the only one in the race with a rock solid conservative record. In his first term as a state representative he was voted by his colleagues as the most conservative rep.
Weber is far more qualified than Harris. A 31 year small business owner, six years on city council, two terms in the Texas House, and he actually lives in the district.
Harris is an unemployed attorney who does not even live in the district! We don't need another attorney in congress. Isn’t over half of congress made up of attorney’s already? How is that working for us? We need a businessman with a solid conservative record who can help turn this economy around – Weber is that man. His experience of successfully running a business gives him a huge leg up.
As for endorsements, Weber has received the endorsement of Congressman Ron Paul, Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Texas Right to Life, Young Conservatives of Texas, State Senator Joan Huffman, State Senator Dan Patrick, State Rep Larry Taylor, and many other conservative leaders. These people have worked with Weber and know how conservative he is. They also know that he gets results.
We can't afford to send an inexperienced attorney to Washington who wants us to trust what she says without showing us her record. The last inexperienced attorney we sent to Washington was Obama! How is that working for us?
Finaly, Ms. Harris' claim that Weber voted to raise taxes is MISLEADING. The Texas House voted to close a tax loop hole that allowed out of state businesses to avoide collecting sales tax, which gave them an advantage over Texas bases businesses. This was not a tax increase. It was designed to close a loophole that put Texas based businesses at a disadvantage. Ms. Harris also FALSELY claims that Weber voted for this twice. Check the official record. Weber only voted for it once and it was all about closing a loophole that, in my opinion, never should have existed in the first place. We should not elect a candidate who misrepresents the record of another. Weber is my choice.
The 12th Man
Tuesday, 07/17/2012 - 07:51PM
Felicia Harris has called me at home at least 40 times to tell me she is against government intrusion into my life. Even after I scream for it to stop, she just keeps it up. Just like a democrat.