Scandal could hurt area’s lone House Democrat, but Johnson still expected to win re-election
Tammye Nash | Senior Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
As the midterm elections grow closer, Republicans are hoping to ride a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment to majorities in both houses of Congress. That would mean hanging on to the seven seats already held by Republican incumbents in Dallas and Tarrant counties, and possibly ousting a longtime Democratic incumbent who has recently been rattled by scandal.
U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas has held the District 30 seat in the House since 1992 and hasn’t faced a serious challenge to re-election — until this year. In early September, her Republican opponent, Stephen Broden, released documents showing that Johnson had funneled several thousand dollars in Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to her own relatives and to the children of one of her top aides.
Johnson has since apologized, repaid the scholarships herself and restructured her committee that allocates scholarship funds. But the scandal has given Broden a seemingly secure foothold in his campaign for what has long been considered an unassailably Democratic seat.
Johnson’s district includes a large LGBT population, and Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said this week that if Broden were to defeat Johnson, it would be a significant blow to those LGBT constituents.
Johnson has long been considered one of the community’s staunchest allies in the U.S. House. She has consistently received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, which ranks Congress members based on their votes on LGBT issues.
Johnson has supported federal legislation to ban employment discrimination against LGBT people (ENDA), federal hate crimes laws including LGBT people and efforts to repeal the law prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military (DADT), according to the nonpartisan website OnTheIssues.org.
She has voted against an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment and a bill that would have banned adoption by gays and lesbians, the website notes.
OnTheIssues.org ranks members of Congress, based on their voting records and stated positions on specific issues, on a spectrum ranging from “hard-core liberal” to “hard-core conservative.” Johnson, according to the website, is a hard-core liberal.
Broden, on the other hand, has publicly stated his opposition to legislation banning anti-LGBT discrimination in employment and to LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation. The candidate recently appeared on The Glenn Beck Show on Fox News, and said that the hate crimes law is “used to knock Christians around and keep them silent, from speaking out in America today,” and that employment non-discrimination legislation is “bullying people and pushing Christians into hiring people they should not hire.”
On his campaign website, Broden lists “Family and Faith” among the issues important to him, saying: “As the family goes so goes the nation. I will fight for policies that strengthen marriage, not destroy it. I firmly believe that our nation was founded on the principles of the Judeo-Christian heritage. These principles are the bedrock of our success as a nation and as a people. Our nation’s traditions of faith are under attack by the forces of political correctness. I intend to reinforce those principles and traditions while serving in our nation’s capitol.”
Moore said this week she expects Johnson to win re-election, but not by as wide of margins as in the past.
“I think he [Broden] is going to hurt her [Johnson],” Moore said. “I don’t think he will win, but he will hurt her. She has had 80 percent to 100 percent approval ratings [from her constituents] all along, but I think this race will be a wake-up call for her.”
Moore acknowledged that Johnson “has surely made some mistakes,” but said Stonewall Democrats are still endorsing her re-election bid.
“She has been an exemplary representative for her district and for civil rights through the years, and we still strongly endorse her. But this [scandal] is a big chink in her armor, and she needs to get out there and work to win some voters back,” Moore said.
Libertarian J.B. Oswalt is also running for the District 30 seat. Moore said she knows nothing about Oswalt, or any of the Libertarian candidates on the ballot, and Dallas Voice was unable to find a website for Oswalt.
According to CampaignMoney.com, as of the latest reporting deadline, he had not raised any campaign donations, nor had he reported any campaign expenditures.
Republican Rep. Sam Johnson has held the District 3 seat in Texas’ Congressional delegation since he was first sent to Washington in a special election in 1991, and like his Democratic colleague in District 30, has rarely faced any serious opposition to his re-election.
Moore, however, said Democratic candidate John Lingenfelder is putting up a good fight this year.
District 3 has been called “the most Republican district” in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex — the office having been held by a Republican since 1968 — and Sam Johnson has been one of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress during his 20 years in office.
He has consistently received a score of 0 percent from HRC, having voted against ENDA, against hate crimes legislation and against the repeal of DADT. He has voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and in favor of a bill that would have banned adoption by same-sex couples in Washington, D.C.
In addition to his 0 percent rating by HRC, Sam Johnson has received a 7 percent rating on civil rights issues by the ACLU, an 11 percent rating by the NAACP and a 0 percent rating from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
OnTheIssues.org classifies Johnson as a “hard-core conservative.”
“Sam Johnson is pretty vehement on our issues, and he is vehemently against us,” Moore said. “Still, he’s not one of the ones who is out there authoring or championing legislation against us. He just always votes against us. He is pretty much just a seat warmer.”
Lingenfelder asked for and received Stonewall’s endorsement, and Moore said he is “a good guy who’s running a pretty good campaign. But like always, beating an incumbent will be hard, especially in some of the outlying regions of the district.”
She added, “We always try to do what we can to support a Democrat running against an entrenched Republican like Sam Johnson, the kind who aren’t really moving toward anything but are just holding the ground they have.”
The Libertarian in the District 3 race is Christopher J. Claytor of Plano. On his website, Claytor says he is “habitually devoted to the principles that the United States was founded on: personal freedom, individual responsibility and limited government as stated in the Constitution of the United States and Bill of Rights.”
His primary focus is promoting “fiscal responsibility and smaller government,” and according to his website, Claytor is “socially tolerant, desiring that every American should be able to live their life the way they want, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others to do the same.”
Republican incumbent Jeb Hensarling faces challenges from Democrat Tom Berry and Libertarian Ken Ashby in his bid for re-election in District 5.
Stonewall Democrats have endorsed Berry in that race. But, Moore said, “I haven’t seen a lot out of his campaign, and I’m really not willing to comment on that one.”
Berry’s website includes no information on LGBT issues, focusing instead on Berry’s call to “put America back to work.”
Hensarling is another Texas Republican with a consistent 0 percent rating from HRC. He also earned a 17 percent rating from the NAACP and a 0 percent rating from Americans for Separation of Church and State.
He has voted against ENDA, against the hate crimes law and for the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment. OnTheIssues.org describes Hensarling as a hard-core conservative.
Ashby lives in Plano, but Dallas Voice was unable to locate a website for the Libertarian candidate. CampaignMoney.com lists no donations to or campaign expenditures by Ashby.
District 6 has long been a Republican stronghold, with Rep. Joe Barton winning re-election easily in every election since he first took the seat in 1984, following Republican Phil Gramm who left the House to campaign for — and win — one of Texas’ two seats in the Senate.
But his comments to BP CEO Tony Hayward during a congressional hearing on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in which Barton apologized to Hayward for the Obama administration’s “shakedown” of the company, may have opened the door to his opponents this time around — at least a tiny crack.
OnTheIssues.org ranks Barton has a hard-core conservative, and his votes on LGBT issues have always shored up his conservative credentials. He voted against ENDA, against repeal of DADT and against hate crimes legislation, and for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Barton has a 0 percent ranking from HRC, a 7 percent ranking from the ACLU, a 19 percent ranking from the NAACP and a 0 percent ranking from Americans for Separation of Church and State.
David Cozad, his Democratic opponent, has the endorsement of Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats. A spokesman for the group said Tarrant County Stonewall had endorsed the full slate of Democratic candidates, but was not actively working for Congressional candidates because “we are a state PAC, so there are limits to what we can do for federal candidates.”
Cozad’s website does not include information on LGBT issues.
Libertarian Byron Severns is also challenging Barton. Severns’ website does not include information on LGBT issues, but does note that he is pro-life and advocates for the reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.
CampaignMoney.com lists no donations or campaign expenditures for Severns.
Rep. Kay Granger became the first Republican woman to represent Texas in the U.S. House when she won her first term in Congress in 1996. Her only serious challenge to re-election came in 2000 against Democrat Mark Greene.
Like other North Texas Republicans, OnTheIssues.org ranks Granger as a hard-core conservative, and HRC has consistently given her a 0 percent rating on LGBT issues. She has received a 14 percent ranking from the ACLU and a 22 percent ranking from the NAACP.
Granger has voted against ENDA, hate crimes legislation and repeal of DADT, and she voted for the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment.
Granger faces Democrat Tracey Smith and Libertarian Matthew Solodow in the 2010 election.
Smith also has the endorsement of Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats, but his website includes no information on LGBT issues.
Solodow also does not address LGBT issues on his website.
Republican incumbent Kenny Marchant has no Democratic challenger in the general election, but does face opposition from Libertarian David Sparks.
Marchant, who lives in Coppell, won the District 24 seat in 2004 from longtime incumbent Democrat Martin Frost after the district was significantly reconfigured by the Texas Legislature in 2003. Marchant was in the Texas House and serving on the Redistricting Committee at the time District 24 was redrawn.
Since being elected to Congress, Marchant has voted against ENDA, against the hate crimes law and in favor of amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
He has been given a 0 percent rating by HRC, a 22 percent rating by the NAACP and a 0 percent rating by Americans for Separation of Church and State. OnTheIssues.org calls Marchant a hard-core conservative.
Sparks is a minister who lives in Carrollton, and according to his website the primary issues of his campaign are “lower taxes, less government and more personal liberty.” However, his website also describes him as “an unwavering advocate of pro-life and pro-family values.”
Democrat Neil L. Durrance of Denton is challenging incumbent Republican Michael C. Burgess in District 26, and Moore said the Democrat is “a good guy with a good record in Denton County.”
Durrance is “a very strong candidate, and he has a really good chance in this election,” Moore said.
She said Stonewall Democrats have endorsed Durrance in the race.
Burgess first won the District 26 seat in 2004 after defeating Scott Armey in a Republican Primary runoff. Scott Armey was the son of longtime District 26 Congressman Dick Armey and was expected to win the race, however local media reports that he had used his influence to get county jobs and contracts for his friends.
Burgess has carried on Dick Armey’s congressional legacy of being an opponent of LGBT rights, voting against ENDA and for the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment.
He has a 0 percent rating from HRC, a 36 percent rating from the NAACP and a 0 percent rating from Americans for Separation of Church and State.
OnTheIssues.org describes Burgess as a hard-core conservative.
Libertarian Mark Boler is also running for the District 26 seat. Dallas Voice was unable to find a website for Boler’s campaign, and CampaignMoney.com lists no donations and no campaign expenditures for him.
Incumbent Republican Pete Sessions faces Democrat Grier Raggio and Libertarian John Jay Myers in his bid for re-election in District 32, and Moore called the possibility of a Democratic win in that race “the holy grail.”
“We keep trying to win that one, and trying hard,” Moore said. “There have been some more or less significant candidates running in that district, but Sessions is still there.”
Moore said Raggio has “a good name and a significant history in Texas politics, and I really hope we do pull that one out. It would be cause for celebration, for sure.”
Raggio is an attorney whose parents were also attorneys well known for their work in civil rights. His mother, Louise, was a national leader in winning equal rights for women, and his wife, Lorraine, is a civil district judge in Dallas County.
Moore said that Stonewall Demo-crats have endorsed Raggio, adding that “there are three levels of candidates that we endorse. There are the advocates who really get out there and fight for us. There are the allies who vote with us but don’t initiate legislation on our behalf. And then there are the ‘do no harm’ candidates, the ones who don’t fight for us or always vote with us, but who don’t fight against us, either.
“Grier Raggio is certainly not a liberal. He is very moderate in a lot of ways, but he has been very supportive of Stonewall Democrats, and he has been supportive of our fiscally supportive issues like ENDA,” Moore continued. “When it comes to [same-sex marriage], he is a middle-of-the-roader, someone who supports civil unions but not marriage. But given that district, he is probably the only kind of Democrat who could possibly win. And given who is in there now, I will gladly wear a Raggio sign ’til Election Day if that will get him elected.”
Sessions was first elected to Congress in 1996 as the District 5 representative, and was re-elected twice before redistricting in 2000 made that district more Democratic. He then moved to District 32 and won that congressional seat in 2002.
Throughout his tenure in Congress, Sessions has consistently voted against LGBT issues, including ENDA, DADT repeal and hate crimes legislation. He has voted in favor of the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Sessions has gotten a 0 percent rating from HRC, a 7 percent rating from the ACLU, an 8 percent rating from the NAACP and a 0 percent rating from Americans for Separation of Church and State.
Sessions has, in the past year, appeared at meetings of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, and last month received an award from the national Log Cabin Republicans organization for “serving [the] country with distinction in the model of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater.” Sessions had agreed to attend Log Cabin’s national dinner, at which the award was presented, but canceled shortly before the dinner in order to attend a House GOP Caucus meeting.
Myers, on his website, does not specifically address LGBT issues, but lists “personal freedom” as one of his priorities.
“Any government that dictates morality and invades privacy is not a small government,” Myers’ website says.
“What part of America being a free country do they not understand?”
Although not specifically mentioning same-sex marriage, Myers does address the issue of marriage in general on his website:
“The reality is that marriage is none of government’s business. People do not have to ask permission to get married; it’s their right to do so with whomever they please, whenever they please. When we surrender the power of marriage to government by asking for their permission, we give them the power to deny our rights, just as recently happened in Louisiana when a couple was denied a marriage license on account of their skin color. We should never give power over marriage to government. People are free to retain that power themselves,” his website says.
Although Republicans are hoping to ride the energy of the Tea Party movement to majorities in both houses of Congress, Moore said this week she thinks the idea of voters being anti-Democratic or anti-incumbent are too simplistic.
“I don’t think it’s anti-Democratic, and I don’t think it’s anti-incumbent,” Moore said. “I think it’s anti-inheritance. And by that, I mean that the ones who have held their seats forever and done nothing will get ousted. … People are really paying attention now, and they are not giving anyone a free pass anymore. If you are an incumbent who’s doing a good job, you’ll be OK. But if you have been just a seat warmer, then you are in trouble.”
Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, did not return calls seeking comment for this article.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.