Chet Edwards is in for a roller coaster of a re-election bid. His district should really be considered a Republican stronghold. That he has continued to hold this seat as a Democrat is a testament to his abilities as a campaigner and politician. However, his time may be up as he must contend with a well-funded opponent, Republican Bill Flores, in a difficult year for Democrats.
Candidates for Texas' 17th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes all or part of Grimes, Brazos, Burleson, Madison, Robertson, Limestone, Hill, Bosque, Hood, Johnson, McLennan and Somervell counties. The cities of Waco and College Station are a part of this district. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Chet Edwards
Political experience: Edwards was elected to the Texas state senate in 1982 and then represented the 11th District from 1991 to 2005. He was then elected to the 17th District.
Professional experience: Edwards worked as a real estate agent for Trammell Crow Company and owned several radio stations in southern Texas.
Key issues: Edwards has a strong role in the U.S. House when it comes to national defense, as he is chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee and as the co-chairman of the House Army Caucus. He can quote a long list of awards received for his work to support veterans and the military.
He wants to increase tax relief for working families, teachers and small businesses, and he says on his website he has a record to prove it. He helped increase child and earned-income tax credits, reduced the Alternative Tax Credit and increased tax credits to $2,500 for college costs.
Endorsements: Edwards has won conservative endorsements from the Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND and the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Edwards had a close race in 2008 and will likely have to deal with an even closer one this time. He voted against the health care reform bill, but voting for the stimulus and TARP may have hurt him. He's made a name for himself on veterans affairs, but it still may not be enough.
Candidate: Bill Flores
Political experience: Flores has no political experience, but has served on several higher university boards.
Professional experience: Flores has been the CFO for several energy companies before becoming CEO and president of Phoenix Exploration Company, an oil and gas company.
Key issues: Flores says that his beliefs, as listed on his website, will help define his role, which includes stopping big government expansion and furthering the ideals of the Founding Fathers.
He thinks an "enforcement first" approach is the right way to deal with border security; he is opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants in the United States. He is OK, he says, with a path to citizenship, but only after targeting criminal illegal aliens and securing the borders. On his website, he says he's pro-life and supports traditional marriage.
Endorsements: Flores has earned endorsements from the National Right to Life, Gun Owners of America, Concerned Women of America, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and former Sen. Phil Gramm.
Chances of unseating Chet Edwards Flores has a good chance of winning this district, though it is far from certain. He's challenging a well-respected, conservative Democrat and he is a little less well-funded to boot. Flores has $415,333 cash on hand to Edwards' $2,144,681, as detailed by OpenSecrets.org. But he's also outspent his opponent, marshaling $1,200,429 against $687,098 in spending by Edwards thus far. It's the kind of advertising money that will help a candidate make a mark in the district.
Key Differences between Bill Flores and Chet Edwards
Jobs: To stimulate the economy, Flores would stop the stimulus and force the federal government to tighten its belt. He wants to deliver tax cuts and prevent cap and trade legislation, which he says is based on unproven science and result in a loss in American jobs. Edwards fought for a $1,600 tax credit for 95 percent of working families and says to have created and protected 8,000 jobs in the district. He voted no on bills that would have increased debt, including the Wall Street bank bailouts.
Health Care: Edwards voted against the recent health care reforms. He did vote for the Children's Health Insurance Program, though, and he opposes the privatization of Medicare and the effort to turn Medicaid into a block grant program. He believes that allowing seniors and families to purchase drugs from other countries would lower costs. Flores would allow small businesses to buy insurance across state lines to help lower costs, pass tort reform and enact tax deductions for individuals who pay for their own insurance.
Energy: Flores supports American energy independence through the elimination of nuclear power plant barriers. He would expand wind, next-generation solar and other energy technology research through incentives. Edwards wants to continue tax incentives to make independent oil and gas producers, protect the right of gas producers to hydraulic fracturing, improve regulatory oversight of offshore drilling and increase nuclear loan guarantees. He's also for biofuel research and tax incentives for agricultural producers.
Texas' 17th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Texas 17th District is located in East Texas, south of Dallas and east of Austin. It includes Waco and College Station.
2008 results: Edwards received 53 percent of the vote to Republican Rob Curnock's 46 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 68.1 percent of the district is white, 18.5 percent Hispanic of all races, 9.7 percent black, 1.8 percent Asian, and .4 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Texas 17th District a rating of R+20, giving Republicans an overwhelming advantage in this district.