Sometimes you get lucky. While I was working on my previous posting, I Googled “Opinion Associates,” the Austin firm that conducted a poll for the trial lawyers earlier this month. And what should pop up–don’t ask me why–but an intriguing story about the District 22 congressional race between Democrat Nick Lampson and Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a write-in candidate who has the backing of the local and state Republican organizations. Libertarian Bob Smither and two other write-in candidates are also running.

The story appears in a Fort Bend County online journal and blog called FortBendNow. It seems that prominent Republican pollster Mike Baselice took a poll in the district and found that Sekula-Gibbs was leading Lampson. I found the particulars of the poll on the Web site of the Texas Safety Forum, a self-described conservative blog:

“A Baselice & Associates (R) poll; conducted 8/23-24 for Houston City Councilmember Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R); surveyed 401 RVs; margin of error +/- 4.9% (release, 9/11).

Tested: Ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D) and Sekula-Gibbs.

If Sekula-Gibbs Were On The Ballot, For Whom Would You Vote?

Sekula-Gibbs – 46% Lampson – 35% Other/undec – 19%”

The problem is, as an unidentified TSF correspondent points out, Sekula-Gibbs ISN’T on the ballot. She’s a write-in candidate, which makes the poll just something for Sekula-Gibbs to hype.
And so she has. Bob Dunn, the author of the FBN story, cites the Sekula-Gibbs campaign as saying, “According to a nationally recognized pollster, Republican Shelley Sekula Gibbs has a double-digit lead over her Democrat opponent Nick Lampson….This lead [is] especially impressive given the fact that Lampson has been the Democratic nominee since March and had been running for six months, while Shelley’s campaign is just beginning because of the ballot litigation.”

Smither, who IS on the ballot as the Libertarian nominee, objected to the poll and the hype: “In recent days the voters of CD-22 have been inundated with calls from pollsters employing deceptive polling tactics,” Dunn quotes Smither as saying. “These tactics have included push polling, misleading samples, and deceptive reporting of the results. The purpose of these tactics is not to accurately represent the wishes of the district’s voters, but to create the artificial appearance of support for certain candidates.” Smither challenged Gibbs and other opponents “to immediately repudiate these tactics and to conduct future surveys within the ethical guidelines and scientific methodologies that are standard to the scholarly polling profession….”

Dunn really captures the flavor of this race. After giving Smithers his say, he adds, “To be completely honest, though, Smither is hacked off as much as anything because Sekula-Gibbs’ campaign tactics include pretty much failing to acknowledge Smither’s existence as a named candidate on the ballot.” Meanwhile, he reports that Lampson “took a couple of shots” at Sekula-Gibbs’ performance on the Houston City Council: her “acceptance of a $5,500 pay raise when the city was facing budget problems” in 2004 and her failure to vote on the city budget and proposed tax cut in 2002 “while instead attending the removal of her college-age daughter’s wisdom teeth.”

The rest is pretty much what you would expect. Sekula-Gibbs and Benkiser describe Lampson as a liberal who would help elect “the dreaded Nancy Pelosi” as speaker of the House. Lampson responds that he disagrees with Pelosi on many issues (“For example, I have an A rating with the National Rifle Association”). The piece concludes with short takes on Don Richardson of Houston, “who remains a registered write-in candidate of the Republican variety along with Sekula-Gibbs, despite having at one point pledged to get of the race in order to offer Shelley a shot at national Republican Party support that doesn’t appear to have materialized as yet” and “a mystery man named Joe Reasbeck who, at this point, lives closer to Austin than Sugar Land but may be living in Fort Bend County very soon,” who is yet another write-in candidate. Reasbeck turns out to be quite a piece of work. As is Dunn’s story. It is entertaining, informative, and highly credible. You won’t regret checking out the link and reading the whole story.