HOUSTON — One of the nation’s hottest congressional races is the battle to fill the empty seat of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who resigned in disgrace. Currently under indictment for money laundering, DeLay will not appear on the Texas 22nd Congressional District ballot in November. Remaining on the ballot are Democrat Nick Lampson and Libertarian Bob Smither. Lampson is considered the favorite, although he has a tough battle ahead with Republican write-in candidates, including physician Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

Lampson has the AFL-CIO COPE endorsement and strong labor support, in a race that is seen as a face-off between labor and the Republicans, in a district created by and for the GOP. Lampson Lampson is a former congressmember who lost his seat in 2004 due to DeLay’s redistricting planscheme. In a bold response, Lampson moved to DeLay’s district with the intention of runningto run against him.. He has been campaigning for 17 months and has brought in millions in campaign contributions. The Harris County AFL-CIO has embarked on a “labor-neighbor” campaign to support Lampson. Teams of union members are visiting union households educating members on Lampson’s pro-working-family positions.

Mindful that they could lose control of the House, Republicans are going all-out to keep this seat. Vice President Dick Cheney hosted a fundraiser for Sekula-Gibbs last week in Houston, sparking protests in downtown Houston. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader John Boehner attended a fundraiser for her in Washington last month. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson and popular North Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger are campaigning for Sekula-Gibbs in the district. Nevertheless, the scandals may cause some to ask, Some are asking, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”

Lampson has asked Sekula-Gibbs to join him in calling for the resignation of all congressional leadership who knew of the sleazy activities of former Republican Rep. Mark Foley. Lampson has also called for her to donate campaign funds she recently received from Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who is embroiled in the Foley scandal, to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Lampson founded the congressional caucus on this issue. He expressed disgust that Foley had “hypocritically” joined the caucus and then became chair.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry, a Bush protégé, called a special election, the same day as the general election, to fill DeLay’s seat from Nov. 7 until the new Congress convenes in January. Perry has used special elections several times to try to maintain GOP control. Lampson declined to have his name on the special election ballot, saying it would confuse voters. Sekula-Gibbs’ name will be on that ballot, but not on the general election ballot since Republicans lost a court battle to replace DeLay’s name on the ballot.

Although Lampson has the edge, it is generally felt that the battle is not won. It is clear that it will take a united effort from labor and other progressive forces to secure the victory for Lampson.