Rep. Ted Poe (R)
Texas 2nd District
The spongy land of the Texas Gulf Coast, where French explorer Robert de La Salle and Spanish conquistador Bernardo de Galvez dreamed of thriving settlements, remained mostly unsettled until well into the 19th century. When oil was found at the Spindletop field near Beaumont in 1901, the area all around it boomed, first with oil exploration, then petroleum refining, and then petrochemical production. The rig workers and mechanical engineers they attracted have given a kind of permanent roughneck air to the region. But oil drilling has declined in this area. From 1994 to 2004, annual production in East Texas from the Red River to the Gulf of Mexico dropped from 90.5 million barrels to 43.5 million barrels. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 shut down oil pipelines for months and toppled some platforms, but some local refineries have been expanding and adding jobs thanks to high oil prices.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 2nd Congressional District of Texas occupies much of this territory. Nearly 40% of its people live in and around the highly polluted “Golden Triangle” industrial area that includes Beaumont and Port Arthur. This is still very much oil country, and one of the few places in Texas where labor unions have any strength. The Humble oil field was once the largest in Texas and the local Humble Oil and Refining Company is now known as Exxon. Beaumont is the home of several trial lawyers who have become billionaires through asbestos and tobacco cases. Local juries are known for their willingness to bring in large verdicts against big corporations. Port Arthur was the home of 1960s blues and rock singer Janis Joplin. These cities increasingly are in the shadow of Houston, and the majority of the people in the district live in the city’s north and east suburbs in Harris County, where oil is an important part of the local economy but hardly all of it. The district grew 14% from 2000 to 2007, largely because of minorities: The African-American population has increased to 21% and Hispanics are now 18% of the population of the district. In 2008, Republican presidential nominee John McCain got 60% of the vote in this district.
Rep. Ted Poe (R)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: Sept. 10, 1948, Temple .
Education: Abilene Christian U., B.A. 1970, U. of Houston, J.D. 1973.
Religion: Church of Christ.
Family: Married (Carol).
Military career: Air Force Reserve, 1970-76.
Elected office: Harris Cnty. judge, 1981-2003.
Professional Career: Asst. dist. atty., 1973-81.
The congressman from the 2nd District is Ted Poe, a Republican first elected in 2004. A former prosecutor who served 22 years as a Houston-area district court judge, Poe became a publicity magnet and a judicial celebrity for meting out humiliating “Poe-tic justice” punishments to criminals. He required murderers to hang pictures of their victims in their prison cells and ordered drunken drivers and shoplifters to stand at the entrances to taverns and stores carrying signs publicizing their offenses. He also gained national recognition as a legal commentator on national television. In 2003, Poe stepped down as a judge to run for Congress. In a six-candidate Republican primary, Poe’s high name recognition and bench experience helped him win with 61% of the vote.
|Ted Poe (R)||175,101||(89%)||($391,238)|
|Craig Wolfe (Lib)||21,813||(11%)|
|Ted Poe (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (56%)
In the general election, Poe faced incumbent Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson, who was running in largely unfamiliar territory due to the 2003 Republican-engineered redistricting of Texas. Lampson had a moderate voting record, a low-key style and was a big booster of NASA. At first it was not clear whether Poe would be able to capitalize on the favorable redistricting. National Republicans fretted about his fundraising and his seemingly complacent campaign. Lampson also outspent Poe nearly 2-to-1. But on Election Day, the new district’s solid Republican bent was too much for the Democrat to overcome. Lampson led 68%-31% in Jefferson County, the area he had previously represented and where 36% of votes were cast. But Poe won 70%-28% in Harris County, where 58% of the votes were cast. Overall, Poe won 56%-43%.
In the House, Poe has had a relatively moderate voting record for a Republican from Texas. As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the 110th Congress (2007-08), he sought to reduce local noise from Houston’s international airport, and worked to restore funding to maintain and dredge the Sabine-Neches Waterway in his district. He joined a bipartisan group that in 2007 passed a House amendment to block the Bush administration from easing requirements for foreign ownership of U.S. airlines.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita led to a large migration of refugees to Texas in 2005, Poe filed legislation to create a national registry of convicted child molesters who have been released from prison to make it easier to identify newcomers who were criminals. He also has been a leader of the Immigration Reform Caucus, where he sought tighter enforcement at the border with Mexico. He successfully lobbied President George W. Bush to commute the prison terms of two border agents who were convicted for wounding a drug smuggler. He joined Democrats and libertarian Republicans in 2005 to restrict access to library records under the USA Patriot Act.
He often ends speeches on the House floor with his trademark, “And that’s just the way it is.” But he has also drawn negative attention for some of his remarks. He was criticized for a floor speech in which he quoted Nathan Bedford Forest, an early Ku Klux Klan leader. Arguing for more money for U.S. troops in Iraq, Poe said, “Nathan Bedford Forest, successful Confederate general, said it best about winning and victory and the means to do so. He said, ‘Get there firstest with the mostest.’ Congress needs to send the generals the mostest.”
Poe has not been seriously challenged for re-election.