Rep. John Culberson (R)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: Aug. 24, 1956, Houston .
Education: Southern Methodist U., B.A. 1981, S. TX Col. of Law, J.D. 1988.
Family: Married (Belinda); 1 child.
Elected office: TX House of Reps., 1986-2000, Maj. whip, 1999-2000.
Professional Career: Jim Culberson Advertising, 1981-85; Practicing atty., 1988-2000.
The congressman from the 7th District is John Culberson, a Republican first elected in 2000. Culberson grew up in Houston, the son of the owner of an advertising agency. He graduated from Southern Methodist University and from South Texas College of Law and then worked as a civil defense attorney. In 1986, at age 29, Culberson won a seat in the Texas House, where he served for 14 years. In 2000, Republican Rep. Bill Archer, Bush’s successor in the House, retired after being forced to give up the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee by Republican term limits. The frontrunners in the GOP primary were Culberson and Peter Wareing, a Houston merchant banker and son-in-law of Texas oilman Jack Blanton. Culberson led Wareing in the first round 38%-27%. Wareing spent nearly $4 million to Culberson's $650,000, but Culberson had an extensive grassroots campaign and won the runoff four weeks later 60%-40%. The general election was no contest in this GOP-dominant district.
|John Culberson (R)||162,635||(56%)||($1,757,226)|
|Michael Skelly (D)||123,242||(42%)||($3,080,655)|
|John Culberson (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (59%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (89%), 2000 (74%)
Culberson calls himself a “Jeffersonian Republican” and is passionate about transferring power from the federal to local governments. He has a mostly conservative voting record. He opposes affirmative action, gun control, and abortion under most circumstances. Like his predecessor, Archer, he dreams of junking the current tax system and replacing it with a national sales tax. An amateur astronomer and self-proclaimed science buff, Culberson is an enthusiast for NASA and has an interest in nanotechnology research, which is a specialty at Rice. “My eyes are too bad and my feet too flat for me to be an astronaut,” he told the Houston Chronicle with regret.
In the House, Culberson often goes his own way. He ruffled feathers as one of only two Texas Republicans to oppose the $400 billion Medicare expansion of 2003. Despite the pioneering research at medical centers in his district, he voted against embryonic stem cell research, which he said would encourage “production and harvesting of human embryos like a crop of corn, which is creepy and unacceptable.” Culberson has a coveted spot on the Appropriations Committee, which he has used to secure money for projects in his district, including medical research, flood control projects and funds for the Houston Ship Channel. He has fought with Houston officials who wanted money for local light-rail projects, insisting that expanded highway capacity be included in any plan before helping to secure $1 billion for a proposal that included both highway and public transit projects. Culberson claimed credit for the highway expansion but in 2007 criticized local officials for the slow pace of construction of the light-rail train lines.
In 2008, Culberson faced his first well-financed Democratic challenger. Wind energy executive Michael Skelly spent nearly $3.1 million, including $1 million from his own pocket. Culberson spent a relatively modest $1.8 million, which left some Republicans worried about a possible upset. Skelly criticized Culberson’s lack of support for alternative energy and for the space program, citing Culberson’s call to reduce the bureaucracy at NASA, which employs about 20,000 people locally. Skelly also emphasized his support for a balanced budget. Culberson ran as a strong social and fiscal conservative, but he suffered from discontent in the Republican grassroots over perceived weak enforcement of immigration law and a spike in deficit spending during the Bush years. National Democrats placed the contest in their top-level “Red to Blue” program. Culberson won, 56%-42%—a warning sign of future challenges.