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Ex-Harrison County judge considers taking on Gohmert for congressional seat

By Glenn Evans
Aug. 13, 2011 at 11 p.m.


This story has been modified to reflect this correction: Due to a reporting error, a statement criticizing U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, was inaccurately attributed in a story on Page 1A of Sunday's paper. David Henderson, the state Democratic Executive Committee member for this area, issued the Aug. 5 statement.

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Former Harrison County Judge Richard Anderson is in discussions with supporters about trying to return Northeast Texas to Democratic representation in Congress.

It would be a long shot for a Democrat to unseat incumbent Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, in a congressional district that leans heavily Republican.

"Certainly, no decision has been made," Anderson said of a Democratic run at Gohmert's congressional seat. "Several individuals have inquired as to whether I would consider seeking the congressional seat now held by him. I have no present plans to make such a race."

He wouldn't rule it out, either, and the state Democratic Party appears to be holding a place for him.

"I am confident that we will have a candidate," said David Henderson, the state Democratic Executive Committee member for this area. "I'm hoping that Richard Anderson will do it. There are several volunteers. We are just waiting to see what kind of decision Richard Anderson makes. ... And I think Louie Gohmert is vulnerable even in this red district."

Henderson on Aug. 5 issued a statement critical of Gohmert, using the folksy put-down, "All Hat, No Cattle," which refers to a person who is more show than substance.

"Despite being in the majority party in the House of Representatives, Gohmert has not filed a single bill in this 112th Congress," Henderson wrote. "For someone who makes so much noise about other people's work, I would expect him to pick up a shovel himself every now and then. ... The few times Gohmert has actually done some work in D.C. lately, it's been to hurt seniors and students."

Henderson was referring to Gohmert's support of a GOP debt-ceiling plan that would have at least partially privatized Medicare and reduced Head Start pre-school enrollment growth.

Gohmert did not respond to a request for comment on the criticisms against him.

Anderson said he would employ a balanced approach to aligning spending with revenue and reducing the nation's debt - two elements that took center stage during debt ceiling debates earlier this month. That includes letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, he said.

"To me, it's clear we can't cut our way out of the deficit - everyone's got to share the pain," Anderson said.

Letting those tax cuts die is something even Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist said in July would not violate the anti-tax pledge many Republicans signed. Norquist said his organization would still oppose elimination of those tax breaks and acknowledged that others would view their expiration as a tax increase.

Anderson lumped those cuts with a package of damage enacted since 2000.

"In 2000, we were on the way to a $10 trillion surplus," he said. "Now, we've got a $14 trillion debt. The annual surplus was over $260 billion (in 2001). That's when the tax cuts kicked in. That's when it all started heading south - plus the wars, which were 'off the budget.' "

That's also about the time Vice President Dick Cheney said deficits didn't matter. Meanwhile, the nation's debt climbed to $11 trillion from $5 trillion during the eight years President George W. Bush was in the White House.

"And no one really got upset about it," Anderson said, adding the debt and deficit drew national attention only after President Barack Obama took office. "All of a sudden, it becomes super-important."

Anderson said he's known Gohmert for several years, adding the congressman and his family were gracious hosts to his family during a trip to Washington, D.C.

Anderson was Harrison County judge from 1978-86 and from 2006-10. This past spring, he was named 2010 Regional Statesman of the Year by the East Texas Council of Governments.

"During the previous four years, when I served as Harrison County Judge, I worked with both Republican and Democratic majorities," he said. "Working together, we were able to balance every budget, add to the budget surplus, provide one cut in the tax rate while at the same time improving our county's infrastructure - including finishing the restoration of the historic courthouse, redesigning the plans for the new jail annex so that it was more cost-effective, safer, and solved the county's longstanding overcrowding problem.

"So I know from personal experience that government can work for the people if elected officials work together, compromise, and put what's good for the people above the hyper-partisanship that is so dividing our country."

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