Rep. Pete Olson (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: Dec. 9, 1962, Fort Lewis, WA .
Home: Sugar Land.
Education: Rice U., B.A. 1985; U of TX, J.D. 1988.
Family: Married (Nancy); 2 children.
Military career: Navy, 1988-98, Naval Reserves, 1998-Present.
Professional Career: Naval officer; Staffer, U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm.
The new congressman from the 22nd district is Republican Pete Olson. Considering the Republican leanings of this district, which DeLay represented for more than two decades, Olson’s victory over freshman Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson was hardly an upset. It was simply the district reverting to form, having elected Lampson two years earlier to register its anger at DeLay, who had become the symbol of influence peddling and political opportunism in the Republican majority in Congress.
|Pete Olson (R)||161,996||(52%)||($2,366,149)|
|Nick Lampson (D)||140,160||(45%)||($2,385,202)|
|John Wieder (Lib)||6,839||(2%)||($13,469)|
|Pete Olson (R)||15,511||(69%)|
|Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R)||7,125||(31%)|
|Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R)||16,697||(30%)|
|Pete Olson (R)||11,634||(21%)|
|John Manlove (R)||8,399||(15%)|
|Robert Talton (R)||8,169||(15%)|
|Dean Hrbacek (R)||5,864||(10%)|
The son of an Army veteran, Olson followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the Navy on the same day he took the Texas bar exam. He served as a naval aviator, flew anti-submarine missions, and finished his military career as a liaison to the U.S. Senate. His next job was as a staff member for Republican Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas. After Gramm retired in 2002, Olson was the chief of staff to his successor, Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
In 2006, DeLay resigned his seat after being indicted in Texas on criminal campaign-finance charges, and several of his aides and lobbyists close to him came under investigation for influence peddling. Houston City Council member Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a Republican, won a special election for the seat, served for several weeks, and but then lost in the general election. A legal technicality kept her name off the ballot, however. Having to run as a write-in candidate hurt Sekula-Gibbs, as did the lingering taint of the DeLay scandal, and Lampson grabbed victory by a fairly narrow margin. Republicans targeted Lampson for defeat in 2008. Olson, who had been living in the suburbs of Washington, moved back to the district in 2007 and joined a crowded primary field that included Sekula-Gibbs and Sugar Land Mayor Dean Hrbacek. Sekula-Gibbs won the primary but failed to get the 50% share of the vote needed to avoid a runoff with second-place Olson. Republicans at the state and national levels regarded Sekula-Gibbs as a weak candidate and coalesced around Olson, who won the runoff with 69% of the vote.
In the general election campaign, Olson touted a conservative message. Lampson tried to tar Olson with DeLay’s image, charging that Olson employed consultants who had previously worked for DeLay. Democratic leaders also came to his aid, saying that if re-elected, Lampson would chair the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA, an important local employer. Lampson’s response to Hurricane Ike in September won bipartisan praise as well. But in the end, all of this could not stop the district from returning to its GOP roots on Election Day. Olson won 52% to 45%.
In the House, Olson got a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a valuable assignment for any road-heavy district, which most Texas districts are. He encountered some health problems in his first term. In March 2009, he collapsed while lifting weights in the House gym. He was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to install a pacemaker. He was expected to make a full recovery.