Representative Steve LaTourette of Ohio is leaving Congress just as another member of the iconic House Republican Class of 1994, Steve Stockman of Texas, is on his way back after a 16-year absence.
Hours after LaTourette revealed his surprise exit yesterday, Stockman was punching a return ticket with a victory in a Republican runoff election – the key race in a district from Houston to the Louisiana border where voters backed John McCain for president with 69 percent of the vote.
Stockman’s 1994 win over 42-year Democratic Representative Jack Brooks was one of that year’s biggest upsets, coming after unsuccessful tries in 1990 and 1992. Stockman’s third shot was successful partly because Brooks, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, backed a crime bill that included a ban on so-called assault weapons, an unpopular position in Texas.
Stockman, a 37-year-old accountant on Election Day 1994, became “the slayer of one of the most fearsome congressional dragons” in beating Brooks, a man “with his thick accent, unlit cigar” and “the confidence of a man who went one-on-one with Lyndon Johnson,” according to the Almanac of American Politics in 1996. (Brooks, who turns 90 in December, was the longest-serving House member ever unseated in a general election.)
Unlike the rock-ribbed Republican turf he’s likely to win in November, Stockman two decades ago represented a Democratic-friendly district in and around Beaumont and Port Arthur. So it wasn’t a shocker that he was a one-term wonder: in 1996, a good Democratic year, Stockman fell to Democratic challenger Nick Lampson (who’s also making a comeback effort in a different district).
Stockman, now 55, should have more staying power in his new district provided he wins this fall and prevails in subsequent Republican primaries. In the first-round primary in May, Stockman’s 22 percent was good enough for second place in a 12-candidate field and earn a berth in yesterday’s runoff election, which he won by 55 percent to 45 percent.