Similar differences in District 7 race

October 21, 2008 5:00:54 PM PDT
District 7 is one of Houston's most affluent congressional districts, covering Belliare, Rice University, West University, west Houston and north of the Katy. We wanted to know the differences between incumbent John Culberson and challenger Michael Skelly and why some of their differences seem similar. Before the campaign, Skelly, a Democrat, was largely unknown to those outside the business arena. Since then, he's been eager to meet and greet as many people as possible, like at a Cy-Fair chamber of commerce luncheon. He calls himself a Washington outsider, never before holding elected office.

"We need to change the people out in Washington," he said. "They don't know what they're doing. They've been in politics all their lives. We need real business leaders in Washington if we're gonna move this thing forward."

Skelly moved forward in his own business. He led the development of Horizon Wind Energy, a multi-billion dollar wind energy company. Technology, he says, is essential in cutting back on foreign oil dependence, but Skelly says it's not the single answer.

"Do you support more drilling?" we asked him.

"Absolutely," he answered. "I support more drilling offshore and I believe we can safely drill in Anwar."

Culberson also supports more offshore drilling as well as using alternative energy, but doesn't support a tax increase to do so.

"I will not support tax increases," he told us. "The program the Democrats have laid out in Congress is a $15 billion tax increase on the oil industry paid by all us consumers at the pump."

Culberson has held the District 7 seat for the past 8 years. Before that, he served 14 years as a state representative. Yet Skelly's momentum and considerable campaign funding may threaten Culberson's congressional seat. Culberson believes his experience translates to votes.

"I was outspent 10 to 1 in my first race, 7 to 1 in the runoff," he said. "I have always been outspent in every competitive elections I've ever been in. I don't take any election for granted."

Yet the most telling answers came when we asked candidates why they've never debated.

"Can you imagine that? This is a sitting member of Congress and he will not debate the other guy," said Skelly. "Oh, come on."

"This entire month has been filled completely with campaign events scheduled a long time ago," said Culberson.

"You haven't been avoiding him?" we asked.

"No, of course not," he answered.

Culberson says prior to that, he was in Congress working on the bailout bill, which he says he proudly voted against.

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