Republican Runoff Campaign Between Flores and Curnock Turns Negative

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In the final week of the Republican primary runoff for Congressional District 17 between Rob Curnock and Bill Flores the campaign has taken a negative turn, and both candidates have displayed weaknesses that may lead to their defeat by Democratic incumbent Congressman Chet Edwards. While Flores has attempted to paint himself as the more mainstream and moderate of the candidates, during the primary Flores has increasing played more to ultra conservative base and less to the moderate independents that Edwards has been very successful at courting. Curnock has attempted to portray himself as a tested candidate who has shown the potential to compete in the general election, despite allegations to the contrary.

The Curnock campaign criticized Flores for misrepresenting his voting record. According to an article in the Waco Tribune-Herald, during a debate Flores said that he had voted for Curnock in the 2008 election, however, Flores voted in the Democratic primary and did not vote in the 2008 general election. The Curnock campaign released a radio advertisement earlier this week criticizing Flores for misrepresenting his record and for not voting in the 2008 general election.

More Below the Fold…According to an article in the Waco Tribune-Herald, Curnock was receiving a homestead tax exemption on a property that was not his residence for four years from 2006-2009 which saved him $478 in property taxes. Curnock reportedly said that the “discrepancy was an honest mistake that he promptly corrected.” However, the Flores campaign quickly criticized Curnock for the mistake, and a representative states that Curnock “admitted he cheated on his taxes, which raises serious questions about his integrity.” The Flores campaign has made an issue of Curnock claiming that he has been vetted, but that discrepancies like this could be used against him the general election. This week the Flores campaign released a radio advertisement attack Curnock on the issue, and the following YouTube video also attack Curnock on the issue:

This week former US Senator Phil Gramm announced his endorsement of Flores, and has been and will continue to campaign with Flores during this last week of the campaign. According to an article in the Waco Tribune-Herald, Gramm criticized Congressman Edwards in a fundraising letter on voting to extend the debt ceiling, to which Edwards responded to note the hypocrisy in Gramm's state because he “voted multiple times to raise the debt ceiling as a U.S. senator.”

While Gramm may have supporters in Texas and at Texas A&M, his endorsement raises questions about Flores's choice of endorsements from someone that has in many ways directly contributed to America's economic decline. Gramm lead the Congress in the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed significant portions of the Glass-Steagall Act, which regulated the financial services industry. This deregulation was one of the events that directly lead to the financial crisis in 2008, and in part to the economic recession that the United States is currently attempting to recovery from. The Washington Post named Gramm as one of the key players in the economic crisis, having “pushed through several major bills to deregulate the banking and investment industries, including the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley act that brought down the walls separating the commercial banking, investment and insurance industries.” CNN named Gramm as one of the top ten “Culprits of the Collapse.” Then of course there was Gramm statement during the 2008 President campaign while he was an advisor to the McCain Campaign, saying that America was in a “mental recession,” and that “We have sort of become a nation of whiners, you just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.”

While both candidates contend that they will be able to defeat Edwards in November, they are simply a long line of Republican candidates to make that claim only to lose on Election Days. Edwards was the target of the Tom Delay redistricting effort, and in 2004 found himself in a redrawn heavily Republican district against a well funded Republican challenger, who he managed to defeat. Whoever the Republican nominee is will have an uphill battle attempting to defeat Edwards, and those problems will be more than just convincing independent and moderate Republican voters to support their campaigns.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Edwards has raised $1.5 million and maintains $1.4 million cash on hand, which means he will be able to outspend whoever is elected the Republican nominee. Flores has raised over $800,000 but has also spent over $750,000, and much of the money raised was from self-financing. Curnock has raised over $170,000 but has also spent over $155,000. There is also the question of whether or not the supporters of each candidate vote for the other candidate, especially considering the negativity between the two campaigns. This will be much more of a problem for Flores if he wins the nomination, since he has been constantly criticized by conservative activist for not being conservative enough.

While Texas Congressional District 17 is on the list of districts that the Republican National Committee hopes that it can turn red during the midterm elections, Edwards has face and defeated far better funded and far more qualified candidates for Congress. It looks like Edwards may be one of the few Democrats in conservative leaning districts that will have a significant opportunity to be reelected in 2010.

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