Saturday, August 14, 2004

I got a call from Richard Morrison

Who is Richard Morrison, you ask? He is running for the 22nd congressional seat in Texas against arguably (or not) the most powerful man in the House of Representatives, Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He left me the following message on my voicemail:

Mr. Beeton, it’s Richard Morrison. I’d like to thank you for the contribution you made to my campaign to help me beat Tom De Lay. I also have some good news for you. Please give me a call at…. Thank you.

At first, it just seemed like a canned voicemail sent to contributors, but when I listened to it again, I realized he had personalized the message, referring to me by name. Hmm. I was hooked and I called back immediately, curious what this good news he had for me could possibly be. After I was put on hold for a minute or so, the gentleman who had left the voicemail (he identified himself as Richard Morrison and I take him at his word) got on the phone, thanked me again for my $10 contribution and wondered if I’d be willing to contribute another $10 if he sent me a self addressed envelope. A-ha. Got me, but I agreed enthusiastically. This was the best fund solicitation scheme ever. He went on to inform me that he’d received some good news that morning and was calling to tell contributors personally – that their latest poll had him down only 10 points behind DeLay, 49-39, the smallest gap of the campaign. I congratulated him on the news, told him I’d been to the convention and that I had a blog and would certainly post about the conversation we had and his campaign. He said we bloggers had been getting a lot of coverage down in Houston. We said our goodbyes and I looked forward to writing him another check.

Why would I contribute money to a campaign in Texas when I live in California? Well first of all, just as I hope John Kerry wins the presidency, as a Democrat, I believe it is in my (and the country’s) interest for there to be a Democratic majority in the House so that views more consistent with my own are in power and, in theory, steer the agenda of the country. We should all be just as concerned about who wins House seats in Missouri and Florida as we are about our own districts' races, and now that the Internet has become such a powerful political tool, we can actually do something about it. The more Democrats that win in House races in November, the more power Nancy Pelosi will have and the less power Tom DeLay will have. Which brings me to my primary reason for contributing to Richard Morrison. Forget for a moment the ethics investigation against DeLay and that 4 out of the 5 Republicans on the ethics committee were given money by his very own political action committee; forget for a moment the boatloads of money given to him by Enron; and even forget for a moment how tight he and the president are. My biggest beef with Tom DeLay, and the reason I will celebrate the day he is defeated, is that he was the chief architect of the outrageous and unprecedented Texas redistricting coup of 2003 that will inevitably lead to the defeat of anywhere from 4-7 Texas Democrats in the House in November. Because of the redistricting effort that DeLay orchestrated, district lines were redrawn so as to minimize the influence of Democratic voters in various districts making it impossible for Democrats to win there. Now, redistricting is done every 10 years to conform with updated census data and has been used as an abhorrent political tool for years by both sides of the aisle. But in the case of Texas, in 2000, because state legislators could not agree on a new congressional district map, a court did it for them. But after the 2002 elections, Republicans had majorities in both the Texas House & Senate and De Lay decided it was time to redraw it their way, and after some courageous defiance by Democrats, they just didn’t have the votes to fight it, the new map was born (and subsequently upheld by state courts.)

With a newly drawn district, you’d think Richard Morrison REALLY has no chance, but this new poll may signify that even DeLay's own constituents may be tiring of his cynical politics. DeLay is running only 10 points ahead in a district (albeit redrawn) that favored Bush by 32 points in 2000 and DeLay in 2002 by 28 points. In addition, as of June 30, DeLay had raised $1.8 million and spent half that as opposed to Richard Morrison who had raised $230k and spent $145k. Richard Morrison's campaign is still a longshot but I do not for a moment regret the $20 I gave to the effort. Contesting this seat means that DeLay is forced to spend time and money defending his own seat, resources that otherwise could be diverted to other Republicans running around the country.

If you can, give to Morrison HERE and find out about other races around the country HERE.


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