Olson upends Lampson in closely watched race

November 4, 2008 10:31:01 PM PST
Republican Pete Olson defeated Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson on Tuesday as the GOP in Texas bucked the national trend and held its ground in the state's most contested congressional races. Race results: Key Races | State Representatives | State Senate | Harris County | Ft. Bend County | Galveston County | Montgomery County | Brazoria County | All Races

Lampson was the only one of Texas' 32 congressional incumbents to lose, falling in a key district targeted by the GOP.

Olson, a former Navy veteran and former U.S. Senate aide, won 52 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Lampson with almost very precinct counted. Lampson won the District 22 seat in 2006 when former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay left in disgrace.

Democrats entered Election Day cautiously optimistic about a win in the Houston-area district and possible upsets in two other GOP-strong districts, but Republicans in Texas were strong on a night that saw Barack Obama swept into the White House and big Democratic gains elsewhere.

Republican John Culberson defeated Houston wind energy executive Michael Skelly in Houston's District 7 -- one of the most Republican in the state. Culberson had 56 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Skelly with most precincts counted.

Republican Mike McCaul beat Democratic challenger Larry Joe Doherty, who played a judge on the television courtroom show "Texas Justice." McCaul had 53 percent of the vote to Doherty's 44 percent, with most precincts counted. At stake was a district drawn for a GOP win that starts in Austin, sweeps through rural communities on its way to scooping in part of Harris County.

In Austin, Alan Bookman, 48, who considers himself an independent, said he voted for Doherty.

"I've followed McCaul. He does not seem to be much of an individual. He seems to follow the Bush plan and was very much a cheerleader for that. I think it's time for a change," Bookman said.

The Legislature, with input from DeLay, redrew Texas' congressional districts in 2003 to make them GOP-friendly. John McCain won in President Bush's home state.

"The districts in play have performed reliably Republican in the past and we expect that this year will be no different," said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

All Texas members of the U.S. House were up for re-election. The 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats were re-elected. Among them was Ron Paul, who lost his bid for the presidential nomination, but was running unopposed in his Houston-area district.

Lampson won suburban District 22 in 2006 by defeating GOP write-ins after DeLay left amid legal and ethical problems. Many pundits had considered Lampson merely a seat warmer, easy to pick off in this year, but the Democrat turned it into an unexpectedly tight race.

DeLay predicted early in the night on Fox News that "there's going to be a new congressman for the 22nd district."

Nationally, Democrats unseated Republicans in several states while Republicans had leads in just a handful of their races.

Heading into Election Day, Democrats controlled the House by a 235-199 margin, with one vacancy.

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