George W. Bush jetted back Tuesday to vote in Texas, the first state to choose candidates for the ’06 mid-term elections. The President’s ranch in Crawford is located in the Waco-based 17th District, one of the few in the Lone Star State in which a Democratic incumbent (Rep. Chet Edwards) survived after the Republican-run legislature’s redistricting two years ago. Edwards won his eighth term 51% to 47%. The 17th was also the site of one of the few hotly contested Republican primaries last week, as reserve U.S. Marine Major and Harvard Business School graduate Van Taylor won the nomination to oppose Edwards by 54% to 46% over rancher Tucker Anderson.
The primary drew the attention of such diverse publications as The Atlantic and The Economist — in large part because of Taylor’s background. Of 13 veterans of the Iraqi War or the Afghanistan invasion running for office this year, Taylor (who moved to the 17th District a year ago) is the lone Republican.
The other major Republican primary of the day was held
in the Houston-area 22nd District, where embattled Rep. Tom DeLay drew a handsome 62% of the vote in a four-candidate race. The 22-year incumbent and former House majority leader, now under a controversial indictment for state campaign finance violations, spent more than $2 million and conducted a vigorous hand-shaking campaign among the voters.
DeLay now faces Democrat Nick Lampson, a congressman from 1996-2004 in a neighboring district, and Republican former Rep. Steve Stockman, who also represented the neighboring district (1994-96) and is running as an independent this fall.
In the most-watched Democratic primary in the state, freshman Rep. Henry Cuellar avoided a run-off in the 28th District (San Antonio-Laredo)with his archnemesis whom he unseated two years ago, former Rep. (1996-2004) Ciro Rodriguez. Cuellar won more than half the votes, followed by Rodriguez and teacher Victor Morales, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1996. Rodriguez hammered hard at Cuellar’s frequent votes with House Republicans, notably in favor of the Central America Free Trade Agreement. With strong support from organized labor, Rodriguez’s campaign widely distributed a photograph of President Bush embracing Cuellar before the State of the Union Address January 31.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked Tuesday whether he would be voting in the Texas primary. "I don’t think Virginia has a primary today," he replied, "I’m registered in Virginia. I think I’d get in trouble if I tried. In more ways than one."
He wasn’t kidding: Voting in the Texas Republican primary would mean voting for GOP Gov. Rick Perry. Opposing Perry in November is Republican-turned-independent State Controller Carole Strayhorn, McClellan’s mother.