AUSTIN, Texas -- Democrats and Republicans are already arguing about who had a bigger night in special runoff elections in Texas on Tuesday. The Democrats won two prominent face-offs in congressional elections in the Houston area, while the Republicans achieved a milestone in winning a state Senate seat in West Texas, meaning the party can now claim a majority in the state legislative chamber for the first time in 124 years.
But of all the personalities involved in this handful of races, none was more talked about than a man who lost. Rep. Steve Stockman, one of the more controversial members of the freshman class of Republicans, went down to defeat, two years after he had unseated a 42-year Democratic incumbent, Jack Brooks, in the 9th Congressional District.
With all precincts counted this morning, Stockman lost, 53 percent to 47 percent, to Nick Lampson, a former county tax assessor in East Texas. Stockman is the only incumbent member of Congress from Texas to lose this year.
He was certainly one of the most colorful foot soldiers in the self-styled Republican Revolution, and he was denounced by Democrats as an example of conservative extremism.
Stockman had ties -- often exaggerated, he said -- to paramilitary groups, and he once wrote in Guns and Ammo magazine that Attorney General Janet Reno should be prosecuted for "premeditated murder" for the fire that killed about 80 members of the Branch Davidian cult and destroyed its compound near Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993.
The three congressional races here arose from a sweeping redistricting ruling in August that redrew 13 Texas congressional districts and set open elections for November, with runoffs necessary in any district where a candidate failed to gain 50 percent of the vote.
In the 25th Congressional District, which includes many blue-collar neighborhoods of Houston, Rep. Ken Bentsen, a Democrat, scored a relatively easy victory over Dolly Madison McKenna, a pro-abortion rights Republican who was hurt by a campaign against her led by anti-abortion Republicans.
In the 8th Congressional District, curling north and west around Houston, two Republicans faced each other in the runoff. State Rep. Kevin Brady, backed by most of the party's establishment, defeated Gene Fontenot, a millionaire hospital investor who was strongly supported by religious conservatives.
Overall, Democrats will have a 17-13 majority in the state's congressional delegation beginning in January, compared to an 18-12 majority now.
Pub Date: 12/12/96