Rep. Louie Gohmert (R)
Texas 1st District
The gently rolling land of East Texas was settled by Tennessee farmers in the years before the Civil War. It sits at the western edge of Scots-Irish America, a swath of land that starts in the Appalachian ridge and is inhabited by a combative, honor-bound and highly religious populace. A hundred years ago, this was one of the poorest parts of America, where farmers scratched a living off the land and hoped for good weather and good prices in the marketplace. When a peach blight in the early 20th century wiped out much of the local fruit industry, many farmers turned to growing roses, which proved ideally suited to the climate and soil of the area. By the 1940s, more than half the nation’s rose bushes were grown within 10 miles of Tyler, which has become known for its annual Texas Rose Festival and the East Texas State Fair. Longview, which in the 1870s was the western terminus of the Southern Pacific Railroad, became a trading center for wagon trains and local cotton growers and timber cutters. In 1943, the Big Inch pipeline began sending millions of barrels of crude oil from the “Black Giant” oil field near Longview—the largest ever in the state—to the East for refining. Since then, the Longview area has become an industrial center for earth-moving equipment and chemicals. A giant U.S. Steel pipe plant has been a mainstay in the community since the 1950s, but in April 2009, the company idled the plant and fired most of its workforce. Marshall was the hometown of the late Lady Bird Johnson. The fields and woodlands around Nacogdoches—the oldest city in Texas—have the distinction as the site where debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia fell in February 2003. An organized search by 25,000 people recovered more than 84,000 pieces—38% of the shuttle.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of Texas, covering the heart of East Texas, is made up of 12 counties, the most populous being Tyler’s Smith County and Longview’s Gregg County. East Texas is ancestrally Democratic, a region that responded to the populist rhetoric of presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in the 1890s and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s. But Republicans began making inroads in Tyler and Longview in the 1950s and the GOP eventually gained dominance in the region. When Republican George H. W. Bush ran for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in 1970, East Texas was solidly Democratic. By the time Republican George W. Bush ran for reelection as governor in 1998, it was solidly Republican. Still, Democratic congressmen held onto the district until the 2003 redistricting, masterminded by former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to give the GOP a strong advantage in the state. Counties that knew their Democratic incumbent were removed, and replaced by heavily Republican Smith and Gregg counties. In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain carried the district with 69% of the vote.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: Aug. 18, 1953, Pittsburg .
Education: TX A&M U., B.A. 1975, Baylor U. Law Schl., J.D. 1977.
Family: Married (Kathy); 3 children.
Military career: Army, 1978-82.
Elected office: Smith Cnty. Dist. Ct. judge, 1992-2002.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1982-92; Chief justice, TX 12th Ct. of Appeals, 2002-03.
The congressman from the 1st District is Louie Gohmert, a Republican first elected in 2004. Gohmert (GO-mert) grew up in Mount Pleasant, and got an Army scholarship at Texas A&M University, where he was class president. He went on get a law degree from Baylor University, and then served as a captain in the Army. He practiced law in Tyler and spent a decade as a district court judge. Republican Gov. Rick Perry named him chief justice of the Texas Appellate Court in 2002. While on the bench, Gohmert earned a reputation as a tough law-and-order judge with a knack for attracting attention. In 1996, he ordered an HIV-positive convicted car thief, as a condition of probation, to notify future sexual partners of his HIV status and to obtain written consent from them before engaging in sexual activity. After the 2003 redistricting, Gohmert was one of six Republicans who got into the primary to challenge four-term Democratic Rep. Max Sandlin, who had a moderate voting record but was a close ally of liberal Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Gohmert led in the primary with 42% of the vote to 30% for lawyer John Graves. In the month-long runoff campaign, few differences separated the two conservatives. Gohmert prevailed 57%-43%. Graves carried nine of the 13 counties, but Gohmert won 77% of the vote in his home base of Smith County, where half the votes were cast.
|Louie Gohmert (R)||189,012||(88%)||($834,732)|
|Roger Owen (I)||26,814||(12%)|
|Louie Gohmert (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (68%), 2004 (61%)
In the general election, Gohmert linked Sandlin to the national Democratic Party and their 2004 presidential nominee, John Kerry. In one debate, Gohmert repeatedly asked Sandlin about his choice for president; Sandlin sidestepped the question. Gohmert frequently mentioned his strong support for President Bush and, unlike Sandlin, attended his party’s national convention. Sandlin criticized Gohmert for his support from DeLay. The result wasn’t close. Gohmert won 61%-38%, with 79% in Smith County and 64% in Gregg County.
In the House, Gohmert has a mostly conservative voting record. His legislative work has been mostly on the Judiciary Committee. When the House in 2006 considered a bill to extend the Voting Rights Act, which allows extensive federal oversight of elections in states with histories of minority vote suppression, Gohmert tried to amend it to apply to every state. He said Southern states were unfairly targeted in the enforcement of the law. Gohmert voted for the final version. In 2005, the House passed his bill to upgrade security measures in courthouses to protect judges, prosecutors and witnesses, and to add penalties for carrying weapons in a courthouse. On the Natural Resources Committee, his legislation to establish a memorial to the victims of the space shuttle Columbia was enacted as part of a public lands bill in 2008. In January 2009, he proposed a two-month national tax holiday as an alternative to the Democrats’ economic stimulus bill.
Gohmert has been criticized for making comments of questionable judgment or taste. He drew fury from Jewish members of Congress when, during a 2007 debate on a bill prohibiting hiring discrimination in government-funded charitable organizations, he argued that religious groups should be allowed to hire employees of their own faith, otherwise Jewish organizations would be forced to hire Nazis. Later that year, he took, without asking, a sign in front of the office of Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., that showed the size of the national debt. Gohmert said he needed the sign to make a point during a debate on the House floor. Shuler called him a “gutless” thief.