Pete Olson, Sen. John Cornyn’s (R) recently departed chief of staff, quietly has launched his campaign to secure the GOP nomination for the 22nd district and the right to challenge Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in 2008.
Olson, who is being backed in his Congressional bid by Cornyn and former Sen. Phil Gramm (R) — whom he also has worked for — has been campaigning throughout the Houston-area district for about a month. Olson, considered a top-tier recruit, joins former Rep. Shelley Sekula Gibbs in the Republican primary.
“He’s been actively raising money and actively campaigning in the district for the past several weeks,” Chris Homan, who is serving as Olson’s general consultant, said late last week, adding: “Some of the Texas delegation will be supporting him.”
Lampson closed the second quarter with $441,000 on hand, and Democrats are optimistic he can withstand what is expected to be a concerted Republican effort to send him packing.
“Congressman Lampson is an independent voice for the people of Texas’ 22nd District and is a champion on the issues that matter most to his constituents,” said Kyra Jennings, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Lampson will win re-election because he has proven himself to be a strong leader in Congress.”
Several Republicans are interested in running in the heavily Republican 22nd district, and more are likely to follow Olson into the race. Republican insiders, both in the district and in Washington, D.C., would prefer that someone other than Sekula Gibbs win their party’s nomination.
The 22nd district fell to Lampson last year largely because the GOP was left without a candidate on the ballot after former Rep. Tom DeLay (R) — who won the March 2006 primary — withdrew his name from the ballot following his June resignation from Congress. Sekula Gibbs ran as a write-in and lost, although she did win a special election in which she was on the ballot to fill out the remainder of DeLay’s term.
Republicans say Sekula Gibbs conducted herself admirably in her write-in campaign. But they are concerned about her being their standard-bearer in 2008 because her short tenure in Congress toward the end of last year was marred by controversy.
— David M. Drucker