Gloves off in District 22 race

HOUSTON We are three weeks away from the runoff election on April 8. Ten Republicans were in this race. We are down to two and stakes are high as they work overtime to get their message out.

After Tom DeLay resigned under controversy, Democrat Nick Lampson won the seat, but Republicans are eager to snatch it back. First, however, the two remaining candidates must win an April runoff by claiming each is the better candidate for the Republican party.

Campaigning for Congress is familiar territory for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. The former Houston city council member was the Republican write-in candidate two years ago. This time around, she's facing a tough primary opponent and she's not afraid of going on the offense.

"I've been here for over 20 years," said Sekula-Gibbs. "I've raised my family here, paid taxes here. I have a small business here, medical practice in Webster for over 20 years, and I'm very committed. I have very deep roots in the community and he just got here about six months ago."

In public, Sekula-Gibbs and opponent Pete Olson are cordial with each other. Both greeted voters last night at a Republican women's event. A former naval aviator, Olsen spent the last few years as Senator John Cornyn's chief of staff. He's also not shy about political attacks, calling her opponent a flip-flopper on a number of issues, including abortion.

"When my opponent was running for city council, she filled out a questionnaire for Planned Parenthood, which was basically a pro-choice position," said Olson.

That questionnaire was first revealed by Eyewitness News in 2006.. Sekula-Gibbs says it no longer reflects her political views.

"I am pro-life and I have been supported and edorsed by some very strong pro-life people in the community," she said.

"But you were pro-choice at one point," we said.

"Well, that is true and I had a conversion in my heart," said Sekula-Gibbs.

Both Sekula-Gibbs and Olson are trying to appeal to the Republican base, arguing each has the more substantial conservative credentials. But in a runoff election, the biggest battle, they admit, is getting their base to show up at the polls.

"We will get our people out and get them out to vote, and we're optimistic that we'll get up on April 8 and starting to make our plans on how to deal with Mr. Lampson," said Olson.

The winning candidate will be facing Democratic incumbent Nick Lampson this fall. District 22 is historically Republican. However, both Sekula-Gibbs and Olson admit winning the seat back will be a tough job and could be influenced by what happens in the presidential election.

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