Given the political climate, Republican-party leaders feel they have every reason to be confident heading into November. Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Texas GOP, says that out of all the races he’s been following throughout the state, he’s making only one prediction: Bill Flores will beat Chet Edwards. In fact, Munisteri says that of all the Democrats in office, at every level of government in the state of Texas, Chet Edwards is the most likely to lose his seat this year. “I can’t say 100 percent, because you never can be sure in politics, but I’m very, very optimistic,” he says.
Still, it would be unwise to write Edwards off just yet. He has been thwarting GOP attempts to unseat him ever since he was first elected in 1991, even as the district has trended more and more conservative over the years. Every election cycle, the GOP has taken aim at Edwards’s seat with renewed confidence, only to see the Democrat prevail. As Edwards likes to boast, the National Republican Congressional Committee is “zero-for-ten in predicting my demise.”
“I’m used to being a target,” Edwards told the Associated Press. “This year, there’s clearly an anti-Washington environment, and I share those frustrations. I’m sickened by the hyper-partisanship. But I’m working hard at the grassroots level, letting my independent voting record speak for itself.”
Unfortunately for Edwards, this election has little to do with him personally. A GOP-sponsored poll released in May found that even though Edwards was generally well liked by voters in the district — 53 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable — only 41 percent wanted to reelect him. No further polling has been released since then, but Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball both consider the race a toss-up.
“Whereas in the past, concerns have revolved around local issues, this year the national issues have become the local issues,” Flores says. As in many congressional races throughout the country, general dissatisfaction towards Washington will be a primary driver of voter turnout in this race.
“This runs much deeper than any one vote, deeper than any one policy; a lot of people want to send a message to Barack Obama any way they can, even if the only way to do that is to vote Chet Edwards out,” Wood says.