TX-17: NRCC Candidate Bill Flores Stumbling in the Home Stretch

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Key Point: The NRCC recruited Bill Flores, a carpet-bagging, wealthy oilman from Houston to run in a district he knows nothing about, and now his incompetent campaign is stumbling as he reaches the finish line.

Bill Flores — the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) recruited candidate for Texas' 17th Congressional District — is struggling in the final days of the primary campaign. Today, in his latest bumbling mistake, Flores e-mailed his supporters asking them to support an Attorney General candidate in Michigan…several hours before he e-mailed them to ask him to support his own race.

Flores' blunder would be more surprising if he was just another Republican, but since it is the recruited candidate by the NRCC and their leader, Congressman Pete Sessions, the gaffe should almost be expected. Sessions has always struggled with this complicated new technology we call the internet. In fact, just last week Sessions attacked one of his fellow members in a fundraising e-mail. From Hotline:

In a fundraising letter, NRCC chair Pete Sessions lets donors in AL 05 know their “Democrat in Congress has been falling in line with Nancy Pelosi's destructive liberal agenda.” The only problem is the NRCC is backing that incumbent, Rep. Parker Griffith (R).

Now it looks like Sessions & the NRCC are having more troubles with technology.

Here's the header of Flores' first e-mail — sent earlier today at 1:15pm CST — in support of Bill Schuette, a Republican running for Attorney General in Michigan.

Now here's the header of the second e-mail — sent earlier today at 3:09pm CST — where Bill Flores is choosing to support himself. Take note that the “from” and “reply-to” lines are the exact same for each:

Why would Bill Flores think that Texas Republicans want to know about a race in Michigan? Two scenarios come to mind, to potentially explain this very odd turn of events:

  1. Bill Flores is running an incompetent campaign and hired an e-mail client that doesn't know what the heck they are doing;
  2. The NRCC has given up on Flores' campaign and are using his e-mail list to support other Republican races across the country.

The NRCC first recruited Flores into the race months ago. As a RedState post from December 24th says:

Enter Bill Flores … He moved to the district in July 2008, from the Houston area, which is well outside the district. A wealthy oilman, he has close ties to the party machine and in particular Pete Sessions at the NRCC. He also gave nothing and did nothing to try to help win the 2008 race.

Last week Flores filed for Congress here, and the NRCC provided him with a supporting quote in his release. The NRCC has put him on their “Key Races” list on the Freedom Project web site, and they refuse to list anyone else in the race. They have listed a story about him on their web site. It’s clear he’s their guy, and the people in this area are fed up with it.

Source: RedState, “The Texas 17th and the NRCC” 12/24/09

Last week, Flores lost the endorsement of The Eagle, the major paper from the Bryan / College Station area, to Chuck Wilson, one of the other four Republicans in the race. Michael Shapiro, a writer of the Waco Tribune-Herald, commented on the significance of the endorsement:

The Eagle is the second-largest paper in terms of readership in the 17th Congressional District — which stretches from Aggieland through Waco and up to Burleson — and the largest paper that's endorsing primary candidates. (The Tribune-Herald ed. board is keeping its powder dry for now. Click here for candidate forum story.)

The endorsement may be notable for a number of reasons, but it sticks out to me because Wilson is not from the Bryan-College Station area, while three of his opponents are. The paper's support could give the former CIA agent and now Waco residential developer some help in an area outside of Wilson's backyard.

To recap:

  1. Bill Flores is e-mailing Texas Republicans about an out-of-state race and candidate they know nothing about
  2. Flores has already lost the endorsement of the largest paper that will endorse in his district
  3. This is the candidate the NRCC recruited to run in the district

Something tells me that Democrat incumbent Chet Edwards and his $1.3 million cash-on-hand are not going to get much of a challenge this November.


About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. Feel Good About This One
    There are lots of Democratic congressional seats that I think will have lots of trouble winning re-election.  Chet Edwards is not one of them.  My basic reasoning is that if he won is 2004, then he can win in 2010.

  2. Wow
    Now that's incredibly sloppy and embarrassing.  Someone really dropped the ball there.

    I still wouldn't rule the guy out, at least in terms of the primary.  First of all, read the comments in the Red State diary.  The poster was a shill for the Curnock campaign who was trying to raise some cash by attacking Flores.  I'm sure there are many people in the district that care about the rich carpetbagger line, but the vast majority probably haven't even heard about the issue.  This would be different if a candidate had money to raise the issue in ads and mailers, but everyone else in the race is broke.

    Speaking of money, Flores managed to raise $700 grand through loans, self financing, and donations in the two months he's been in the race.  That's according to today's latest FEC filing (@ http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-b…  If you even take away self-financing and loans, he's still raised more from individual contributors than any other Republican in the primary.

    Out of that, he's amazingly spent over $400 grand thus far.  I have no idea how someone can spend that much money over two months in a relatively rural district with few local media markets, but he's done it.

    The guy was unknown outside of B/CS up until early January.  Can $400 grand buy enough name ID to get you into a runoff?  I have no idea, but it will definitely be an interesting race to watch.


    Edwards will certainly give Flores a hard time over the rich carpetbagger issue.  His golden ticket to reelection is to make Flores look like the latest Van Taylor.  

    But let's be frank here: with this current crop of candidates in the primary, Flores has got to be the toughest challenger in Chet's mind.  And I'm not saying that to praise Flores. It's because everyone else in the race is clueless.  Seriously…look at the rest of these kids with me.  

    Delasandro is just nuts, he constantly says stupid things, and he only has $2000 in the bank.  He'll place fifth, and he's a non-factor.

    Mcintyre looks good on paper, but he comes off as Dr. Strangelove in person and on tv.  His television and radio ads suck, he's weirdly blown $20 grand on his strange/obtuse billboards, he's out of money, and he's already lost a race for this seat in the past.

    Curnock is just Curnock.  I don't even know where to begin with this clown.  He raised no money last cycle, he has no money now, he's run for this seat 3 times in the past and lost every single time, and he comes across as the illegitimate love child of Ron Burgundy and a sleazy used car salesman.  

    Wilson appears to initially have the appropriate demeanor and resume, but he has not gained any traction.  He comes off as too passive, too quiet.  That's not the way to win the support of an angry right wing base. Also, look at his campaign donations and expenditures, especially the expenditures.  Seriously, go check them out here: http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-b…  That's current as of today. Did you notice what major expense is missing from his FEC report?  Advertising. Wilson has raised and spent more money than any other person aside from Flores, and he has not spent a dime on advertising aside from printing up signs.  No radio, no tv, no direct mail, nothing.  Everyone else in the race, even Delasandro has placed media buys but the number two spender hasn't?  That's just weird.  It's shows a total lack of knowledge about the modern nature of campaigns and elections.  And where did they money go, exactly?  I can't tell.  Oh, and Wilson also has no money.  (Hopefully you're seeing a theme here with the 'no money' thing.)

    Eh, so that's my update “from the ground” if you will.  Take it for what it's worth.  Your thoughts are appreciated.

    • Interesting report…
      I have no idea who will win, but even if it's Flores, I'm encouraged by the bumbling mistakes from his campaign — and the fact that he can't win the endorsement from the town he lives in (Bryan) — and remain confident that Congressman Edwards will win re-election.

      Thanks for the report.

      • what have I missed?
        You've mentioned the error a contractor made.  Yeah, that was moronic, but what other mistakes have occurred?  Perhaps I've missed something.

  3. Carpet-bagging, wealthy oilman from Houston?
    I think you have your wealthy oilmen named Flores confused.

    Chet Edwards is pretty much proof positive that Texans will vote for someone who they know really represents the public interest instead of the private interest regardless of the (D) or the (R) beside their name.  

      • My point?
        My point is that Bill Flores is not a wealthy oilman from Houston and is not a carpetbagger since he appears to have lived in the district for quite some time.  

        • Except…
          What was he doing in Houston, where he was living before Pete Sessions and the NRCC recruited him into the race because they didn't like any of the candidates the local Republicans — all the others in the field — had chosen.

          Flores — the A&M grad who is living in Bryan — didn't get the endorsement of The Eagle, the paper that covers the College Station and Bryan regions. If he's such a strong local boy, why didn't he get the local endorsement?

          I don't know the answer to that question. But he got recruited from out of the district into the district, and his own local paper didn't go for him. That's normally not the sign of a strong campaign. Stetson99 argues differently above, and makes good points. But a lot of those points also sound worse for everyone but Flores. A backhanded complaint about how he's burning through money…still trumpets that he's buying his name ID with paid media.

          That's an NRCC Republican for you. Prefers paid media and large dollars over earning the trust of local papers. And that's the exact kind of guy that Chet Edwards has defeated in every election he's run in.

          If the NRCC wants to keep firing blanks, and the paid media consultants don't mind making money from the NRCC firing blanks, then the only real losers are the Republicans in the district who fail to understand that as long as the NRCC is going to keep telling them what kind of Republican they have to like, Chet Edwards will win.

          • He was planning to move before he announced…
            He and his wife lived in Sugar Land, not in Houston, before he retired from Phoenix Energy and were building a home in Bryan before he announced his candidacy and he and his wife have long-established ties to the area as well as to Texas A&M despite your stating that “The NRCC recruited Bill Flores, a carpet-bagging, wealthy oilman from Houston to run in a district he knows nothing about.”  He knows quite a bit about the Bryan-College area and about the district.

            As for the National Republican Congressional Committee, they might consider returning the $238,000 in contributions from Allen Stanford as requested by the receiver. But then the Democratic Congressional Committee might consider returning the $202,000 in contributions from Allen Stanford as well.

            In any case, Bill Flores is not a carpet-bagging wealthy oilman from Houston.  

          • “Now, a very great man once said that some people rob you with a fountain pen. “
            I like your Dylan reference to an old school Woodie Guthrie song.  I'm personally not a huge fan of Guthrie's style. It's just too old school for me.  I've always loved his lyrics though, especially the closing stanzas of “Pretty Boy Floyd.”

            Yes, as through this world I've wandered

            I've seen lots of funny men;

            Some will rob you with a six-gun,

            And some with a fountain pen.

            And as through your life you travel,

            Yes, as through your life you roam,

            You won't never see an outlaw

            Drive a family from their home.

          • geez
            The Eagle has been in the tank for Edwards for several election cycles.  It's not a surprise that the Eagle endorsed the most unlikely person to win the nomination.

            Flores has lived in this district for years.  You're right, Flores has earned a hell of a lot of money in the energy industry when he worked around Houston.

            That's part of why the NRCC liked him.  He's an energy producer.  He has strong ties to the area, especially with Texas A&M.  He's donated a ton of money to local causes.  He has raised lots of money, and he can provide lots of his own cash.  

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