In Harris County, there are very few contested races in the Democratic primary. One of the big exceptions is in the 7th Congressional District, currently held by Congressman John Culberson. The district, a longtime Republican stronghold once held by George Bush, stretches from Jersey Village to Meyerland. In 2014, there will be two candidates vying to face off against Culberson on the Democratic line in November: James Cargas and Lissa Squiers. Both ran in 2012, and after knocking out a third candidate, advanced to a runoff election. Cargas defeated Squiers in the primary runoff with 58% of the vote, before going on to lose to Culberson in the general election by the lopsided margin of 61-36. Needless to say, whomever wins this primary is achieving little more than a Pyrrhic victory.
Cargas has now begun to launch rather harsh attacks against Squiers, his opponent in the Democratic primary. In a recent press release, Cargas alleged that she has maliciously and nefariously avoided filing disclosures with the Federal Election Committee (FEC). He went on to lament such alleged impropriety, and even compared Squiers unfavorably to Steve Stockman.
In full, Cargas said:
“We already know that the Squires Campaign missed as many as five Federal Election Commission filing deadlines and now we are learning that her flaunting of election laws applies to the requirement that all congressional candidates make the same financial disclosure filings as incumbent members of Congress.
During the last election, the House Ethics Committee made it very easy by mailing me all of the forms and instructions. Their website has even more information and the staff was very helpful when I called for guidance/
You can be disappointed in Rep. Stockman’s recent problems with his financial disclosures, but at least he filed something! I would expect more from a person with an accounting degree. This is more than a legal technicality. Exposing our personal finances for voters to see is a matter of public trust.”
He even made a point of noting that these were serious offenses punishable by $50k in fines and a year in jail. Cargas then concluded by listed his own credentials for office, which include a fairly detailed career both working in the government and practicing law.
I found all these attacks to be somewhat harsh, so I contacted Squiers directly to see if she would tell her side of the story. In short, she vehemently denied all of Cargas’ allegations, as well as volunteering a few of her own about him. Specifically, she accused the opponent of other tactics throughout the campaign that, if true, would be frowned upon by the majority of the electorate.
Squiers noted the confusion may have arisen if Cargas referenced a previous, dormant account she had previously registered with the Federal regulators. She also was quick to note some of the more byzantine disclosures on topics pertaining to “stocks and assets” were not applicable. Specifically, on this topic, Squiers said:
“I definitely speak to my FEC analyst regularly and I am fine. He is referring to my previous account with them, which is closed due to no activity. On the years between campaigns many people do not need to file or keep an FEC account, so they close it and open a new one when they become a candidate again. The financial disclosure is for stocks and assets, of which I had none to list.”
This was the least of the accusations Squiers continued to make about Cargas, which also included allegedly publishing personal documents as well as harassing “a local blogger” (this is the first I have heard of it). Again, like Cargas’ press release, this presents some pretty serious allegations towards the other campaign.
I am not a loyalist to the so-called “11th Commandment” colloquialism of never engaging in fights with members of the same party, as everyone should know by now. But this is just too far. While, for example, the 15th Senate District (Whitmire) might host a competitive (and nasty) primary, this would be because there is a Democratic incumbent and only token Republican opposition. In this congressional district, on the other hand, the Republican Culberson is the incumbent and is a rather easy target.
The fact that Cargas and Squiers would rather go after each other than the incumbent speaks volume as to why Democrats have not been (and will not be, at least in the short term) successful in this State.