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29 House Incumbents Bolt Out Of The Starting Gate

By Marc Birtel, CQ Staff Writer

Much has changed in Texas politics in recent years, but the early primary and early filing deadline continue to aid incumbents in pursuit of re-election.

All but one of the state's 30 House members signed up to run for re-election by the January deadline, and more than one-third of them appear to be without significant opposition.

Unopposed in the March 10 primary and without major party opposition in November are Republicans Sam Johnson (3rd), Lamar Smith (21st) and Dick Armey (26th). Two other Republicans, Bill Archer (7th) and Kevin Brady (8th), have minor challengers in the primary but no Democratic opponent.

Five Democrats are without opponent in either round: Lloyd Doggett (10th), Chet Edwards (11th), Silvestre Reyes (16th), Sheila Jackson-Lee (18th) and Gene Green (29th). A sixth Democrat, Ciro Rodriguez (28th), has only primary opponents.

The only voluntary retiree this year is veteran Democratic Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez of the San Antonio-based 20th District. Gonzalez had earlier indicated he would not return for the 1998 session of the 105th Congress because of illness. But his condition has improved and as of Jan. 9 his plans for the 1998 session were not clear.

Although many of the candidates vying to replace Gonzalez have anticipated a special election to succeed him, their focus has now moved to the regular March 10 primary -- expected to be the main event in the heavily Democratic district. Seven Democrats have filed to succeed Gonzalez: his son, Charlie Gonzalez, a former state district court judge; state Rep. Christine Hernandez; physician Richard Garcia; attorney and former Gonzalez aide Armando Falcon; Maria Berriozabal, a former San Antonio City Council member; Walter Martinez, Bexar County Democratic Party chairman; and Steve Walker, a Balcones Heights City Council member.

James Walker, the 1996 GOP nominee who received 34 percent of the vote against Gonzalez, also filed for 1998.

At least four Texas incumbents have been targeted for defeat by the national parties' campaign committees. Texas Democrats still hold a 17-13 majority in the delegation and hope to build on it by targeting Republicans Ron Paul (14th) and Pete Sessions (5th).

Several Democrats have filed to take on Paul, a one-time Libertarian Party nominee for president who previously served in the House during the 1970s and 1980s. They include Margaret Dunn, a professor; Loy Sneary, a former county judge; and car dealer Tom Reed.

Democrats have pinned their hopes against Sessions on Victor Morales, who got 44 percent of the statewide vote against Republican Sen. Phil Gramm in 1996 after upsetting two Democrat congressmen in the primary.

Republicans plan to target Democratic freshman Nick Lampson (9th) and 10-termer Charles W. Stenholm (17th). In 1996, Lampson defeated Republican incumbent Steve Stockman, who Democrats had charged was a right-wing extremist with ties to militia groups.

Stockman won the seat in 1994, ousting veteran Democrat Jack Brooks, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Four Republicans have filed to face Lampson this year: salesman Tom Cottar, police officer Onzelo Markum, businessman Don Beagle and lumber company executive Adonn Slone.

Stenholm is expected to face 1996 Republican nominee Rudy Izzard, a dentist and former college football star who held him to 52 percent of the vote.

© 1998 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.

In CQ News This Week

Saturday Jan. 10, 1998

Rep. Meeks Wins Democratic Spot In Race To Fill Flake Seat
Ferraro Is Back, And So Is The Character Issue
29 House Incumbents Bolt Out Of Th