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Before long, though, council members and the folks attending meetings learned differently. It was a rare subject that Sekula-Gibbs did not feel the need to orate upon, usually with a heavy emphasis on the fact that she's a doctor. (And usually not with a heavy emphasis that she is a dermatologist, which isn't exactly the kind of doctor they make TV shows about.)
She single-handedly created the move to ban smoking in bars, marking perhaps the first time that Houston tried to do something because it had been done in New York and Austin.
When DeLay decided the country no longer deserved him, Sekula-Gibbs announced for his seat. But because the GOP outsmarted itself trying to preserve the 22nd for a Republican, she had to run as a write-in candidate.
Having a name like "Shelley Sekula-Gibbs" and deciding to run a write-in campaign is, in a word, genius. It called to mind the immortal jingle sung by The Simpsons' Schwarzenegger character, Rainier Wolfcastle: "Mein bratwurst has a first name, it's F-R-I-T-Z. Mein bratwurst has a second name, it's S-C-H-N-A-C-K-E-N-P-F-E-F-F-E-R-H-A-U-S-E-N."
Sekula-Gibbs took things to a whole other level, however. To produce her radio ads, she apparently had her staff scour the country to see if there were still any singing groups out there in the Mitch Miller/Lawrence Welk mode. They came through with flying colors, resulting in a jaunty little song that sounded like it was first used to sell Burma Shave back in the '40s.
All you had to do to vote for Shelley, the ads energetically explained, was spin a little dial until it reached the proper letter on a computer screen, then hit "enter," then move on to the next letter until you had spelled "Shelley Sekula-Gibbs"!! What could be easier? Remember to pack a lunch, though -- you might be in the voting booth for a while.
J.R. Perez of the Fort Bend County elections office says voters were pretty inventive in spelling Sekula-Gibbs's name. Fort Bend is only one of four counties in District 22, but the list of spellings that were accepted as write-in votes (by a bipartisan panel who ruled on voters' intent) is 28 pages long.
Voters cast their write-in ballots for, among others: Kelly Segula Gibbs, Snelly Gibbr, Schikulla Gibbs, Sheila Gibbs, Shelly Schulla Gibbs, Shelly Gibkula and, by someone who obviously never wanted the joy of using the machine to end, ShelleySkulaGibbsssss.
The name "Sekula" was spelled as Sektula, Sukla, Sequila, Sedoko and Sedoka (by puzzle fans?), Meklua, Sekluda and Shecola.
One voter couldn't be bothered, just putting in SSG. (It counted.) Another, for some reason, entered Sekula Smith.
Another voter entered "Shelle Sekula Fibbs," which might have been a hidden political message. Not so hidden, but counted as a vote just the same, was "Shelly DraculaCunt Gibs." (We like to imagine the bipartisan discussion on that entry: "Well, they misspelled the first and last name, but that's definitely a Shelley vote.")
Even with all the enthusiastic spelling efforts, Sekula-Gibbs lost the race to Democrat Nick Lampson. She got 42 percent of the vote, though, and is widely expected to run again in 2008.
First, though, will come her Congressional term. November 7 also saw a special election in the 22nd to fill the remaining term of DeLay. Lampson didn't run in that one, and voters had Shelley's name spelled out for them on the ballot, so she cruised to victory.
Congress may end up being in session only two weeks before DeLay's term ends, but Sekula-Gibbs is a woman with a plan.
She's told reporters she is dedicated to playing "a meaningful role" in working against higher taxes and for better health care.
But what about the second week, after she solves those problems? Again, Shelley has Big Thoughts. Like this, when a KHOU reporter asked her about the Iraq war: "If you put it in perspective, we've lost 2,800 brave men and women in Iraq but we lose over 9,000 Americans at the hands of illegal immigrants every year, according to the General Accounting Office."
A spokesman for the GAO couldn't confirm the existence of such a report, but maybe Sekula-Gibbs can find it when she's up there in D.C. (See Hair Balls, page 12).
We look forward to the day when historians write Sekula-Gibbs: The Congressional Weeks.
Her diary will be invaluable:
November 13: Orientation Day!! Learned about how offices are assigned, where to park, etc. No progress yet on balancing the budget, but I still have time!!
November 14: Chatting with newly elected members, a lot of them are worrying about where they'll live while in Washington. A hotel works for me! (As long as it's smoke-free.) Question: Should I transfer my Blockbuster account to a store up here? Answer: May not be worth the hassle. But The Da Vinci Code is coming out during my term!
November 22: Back home for the Thanksgiving break. It's nice to be back where everybody knows your name (sort of), but I can't shake the feeling that I've gone through about half my term and still haven't balanced the budget yet.
December 15: My term as a Congresswoman is over. Yes, there were disappointments -- I'm still annoyed they couldn't get a proper nameplate on my door before my term ended -- but there have been triumphs as well. The decision not to transfer the Blockbuster account proved to be a good one, for instance. And I'll never forget the thrill of voting in the same chamber as Tom DeLay! Yes, I leave with a heavy heart -- I couldn't end the Iraq war, or round up those murdering illegals. But I can be proud of what I accomplished here, or what I thought about accomplishing here, if only I had more time and seniority.
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