By Lori Bredemeyer, Managing Editor
If all goes as he plans next week for Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene, he might receive a belated birthday present.
The Congressman is running against Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, for the 19th District, to be decided Tuesday on Election Day. Stenholm participated in a question-and-answer session in the Living Room of the Campus Center on Tuesday, his 66th birthday, with about 15 students and faculty in attendance.
Stenholm was asked about a variety of topics, including his stance on the war in Iraq, his views of bringing back the draft and how he’ll help more students afford college and then find a job after graduation. District19 includes ACU, Hardin-Simmons, McMurry, Texas Tech and Lubbock Christian universities.
Stenholm was also asked to share his thoughts on the role Christianity has played in this campaign. Neugebauer’s ads claim Stenholm has voted for partial-birth abortion, same-sex marriage and flag burning, which Stenholm said is not true.
“I said I vote my conscience; my opponent says he votes his Judeo-Christian beliefs,” Stenholm said. “What’s the difference? Where do you get your conscience if it’s not from your Christian beliefs? But because I chose the word conscience, that’s become a political issue, and to me it’s one in the same.”
He said his faith plays a large part in his job.
“There’s only 10 laws that I’m aware of that are unamendable, and that’s the 10 Commandments.”
He said this run for office has been a memorable one because some of the ads’ claims and the negative light in which he’s been portrayed.
“This one is the meanest, the ugliest, the most misrepresentative campaign that I have ever been in,” he said, “but you just have to smile and take it and keep on plugging.”
Stenholm also made appearances at Crown Cork & Seal, Mann Junior High and Cisco Junior College on Tuesday, and Newcastle High School and Ranger College on Monday. He said he speaks at schools to try to influence the younger generation.
“I’ve always targeted schools, trying to get young people to be more involved in elections,” Stenholm said. “We’ve come through a period of time in which young people haven’t voted, but this time, I think we’re going to have the highest turnout of young voters nationwide that we’ve ever had. I want to be part of the positive element of encouraging young voters to take a look at the candidates from the White House to the courthouse and get involved and start being involved in the political process because it’s your future we’re talking about.”
Redistricting last year pitted the two incumbents against each other, and Stenholm said he can’t predict what will happen on Election Day.
“I think this is basically a dead heat; it’s going to be a very close race,” he said. “… I’ve been very gratified by the early voting; it looks like we’re going to have a record turnout, and we believe that it’s a record turnout that’s going to work in our advantage.
“We know we’ve got a tough race; in fact, the deck was attempted to be stacked against us. But I don’t believe it worked.”