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GOP Race in New CD-36 Draws 12 Hopefuls, Including State Senator

State Sen. Mike Jackson is probably headed for a runoff in the new 36th Congressional District in southeast Texas. With 12 candidates in the GOP primary, it's hard to predict the rest.

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HOUSTON — State Sen. Mike Jackson is probably headed for a runoff in the new 36th Congressional District in southeast Texas. The rest is hard to predict.

Twelve candidates are seeking the GOP nomination in the heavily Republican district, and most of them are political novices or have only minor track records in elective office.

The seat, newly created thanks to a huge population increase in Texas, was pulled from four existing congressional districts. It starts in eastern Harris County in the Houston Ship Channel, scoops up NASA headquarters and then heads north and east. In addition to a portion of Harris, the district wholly contains eight mostly rural counties — Newton, Jasper, Tyler, Polk, Orange, Hardin, Liberty and Chambers.

“I think my race is going great. It’s kind of hard to tell,” Jackson said. “Obviously there are 12 different people that are all out working to secure as many votes as they possibly can, and you have a large geographical territory to cover, and it’s a very diverse area that we live in.”

Jackson said it's been difficult to raise campaign funds because a lot of contributors are holding back until they see what happens in the first go-round. Jackson leads in fundraising and establishment support, but the financials pale in comparison with the hauls in other competitive races. He has raised $238,000, including $50,000 from his own pocket, the latest reports show.

Jackson is being outspent by Baytown financial adviser Stephen Takach, who has loaned himself more than $277,000 and has been using it to advertise with a series of campaign mailers, a cable TV ad and radio spots. All told he has spent about $300,000, compared with Jackson's $211,000.

“We’ve hit just as hard as we can because I really, really want to win this race,” Takach said. Though he has never held elective office, Takach is counting on strong support from Baytown and neighboring Liberty County, where he attended high school and still has ties.

The “wild card,” Takach says, is Steve Stockman. Though Stockman had raised less than $5,000 as of March 31, he served a single term in Congress in the mid-1990s and might have some residual name identification in the district.

Stockman has drawn criticism from some of his opponents for putting up yard signs that urge voters to “re-elect” him. The signs would be prohibited in a state election contest, where only incumbents can use the term, but election law expert Buck Wood says he knows of no federal law prohibiting it in congressional races.

Stockman took down U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Beaumont, in 1994 — dubbed by political pundits as the “year of the angry white male.” Brooks, one of the most senior members of Congress ever defeated in a general election, had served in Congress for 42 years and was on Air Force One when Lyndon Johnson, a political mentor, was sworn in as president after John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Stockman is touting his support from gun-rights groups, which he used to beat Brooks years ago, and a conservative voting record from his brief stint in Congress. But he said voter interest is so low that he doesn’t know what to expect when results start coming in on May 29.

“It’s hard to get a feel for it,” he said. “No one cares. I feel like I’m running for school board or something.”

Stockman agrees that he and Takach are the most likely candidates to get into a runoff with Jackson. But there are a few other candidates who are waging spirited campaigns, albeit on a shoestring budget.

Among the second-tier candidates is Kim Morrell, a retiring city councilman in Seabrook. He had raised $54,000, and spent $30,000, as of March 31, according to filings posted on the website of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Morrell was one of three candidates who got a favorable review from the Houston Chronicle editorial board. The other two were Jackson and Ky Griffin, a wealthy funeral home owner. Griffin had raised $52,000 and spent $44,000 as of May 9.

Democrat Max Martin of Clear Lake is unopposed in the Democratic primary. The Libertarian candidate is Michael Cole.

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