Dragon Slayer

A new Republican challenger steps forth to take on Tom DeLay

With just three months to go before the primary, it's probably too late for Campbell to start a direct-mail campaign. Dick Richards, a former three-term chairman of the Utah Republican Party who was named chairman of the Republican National Committee during Reagan's first presidential term, is advising Campbell on jump-starting a grassroots campaign.

Campbell will promote himself as the antithesis of DeLay, calling for more openness and civility in government. Though Campbell supports the Republican Party line on hot-button issues such as abortion and stem-cell research, his environmental record may win him the support of Democrats. This factor could prove critical, since registered Democrats can vote in the Republican primary. Campbell says he will court individual Democrats, though he won't accept money from Democratic organizations.

He also will ask for the endorsements of disgruntled congressional Republicans such as Chris Shays of Connecticut, Sherwood Boehlert of New York and Ray LaHood of Illinois, who have openly criticized DeLay and called for the election next month of a new majority leader to permanently replace him.

Tom Campbell has been quietly courting 
endorsements for his candidacy.
Daniel Kramer
Tom Campbell has been quietly courting endorsements for his candidacy.

Still, most analysts are skeptical. "Tom DeLay's more likely to resign or be convicted than lose in a straight election," predicts Stein, the Rice professor.

But Campbell is hopeful. As he sits forward in a high-backed leather chair in his law office, there can be heard the faint glimmer of a future stump speech.

"I'm running against the most powerful man in the country, arguably," Campbell says, his voice rising. "I'm prepared to weather the consequences," he continues, now slapping his hands together. "Something needs to be done. We have an opportunity, as an electorate, to say to power that it's the people that are in control. And that we don't approve of this type of politics."

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