The 50 Republicans gathered in Pat Wood’s spacious living room in Houston’s Memorial area heard their congressional candidate talk about the merits of a balanced budget, cutting wasteful federal spending, aggressively drilling for oil and blocking Barack Obama’s proposed tax hikes on the wealthy.
That’s the kind of campaign rhetoric you would expect at an event hosted by Wood, the former chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission under then-Gov. George W. Bush and head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after Bush became president.
What you might not expect is the identity of Wood’s candidate: Democrat Michael Skelly, a former wind energy executive who is challenging Republican incumbent John Culberson in Harris County’s 7th Congressional District.
Skelly says Culberson’s scrappy style is out of sync with the pragmatic, pro-business constituency of the 7th District.
“My opponent is a highly, highly partisan politician,” Skelly said. “I’m just not wired like that.”
Skelly, who has run ecotourism and alternative energy businesses, calls himself “a Bill White, pro-business moderate.” He offers himself as an unusual Democratic change agent: a businessman with energy expertise and no history of partisan rancor.
Skelly has spent at least $1 million of his own money on ads touting his resume and portraying Culberson as a pork-barrel politician. The allegations leave the incumbent incredulous.
“This guy is running against me because I am not conservative enough?” Culberson said. “That’s something I’ve never, ever been accused of. About the only guy who votes ‘no’ more than me is Ron Paul.”
Actually, Rep. Culberson, I think he’s saying you’re too partisan and out of touch with the district. The fact that you don’t seem to grasp that fits in nicely with Skelly’s message.
I have no doubt that a Congressman Skelly will frustrate me on a number of issues. Now is the time to be talking about stimulating the economy, not balancing the budget, and I for one think Obama won’t be raising taxes enough on the quarter-million-a-year-and-more crowd. But man, will it be nice to have a representative who will be an ally to public transportation, who will vote for S-CHIP, who won’t demagogue on immigration, and who believes there’s more to energy policy than “drill here, drill now”. This is not a hard choice to make, not by a longshot.