By Lisa Soule
Killeen Daily Herald
Bell County residents continue to be among U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards top campaign contributors, even though congressional redistricting will cut his ties to the area next year.
Chets my friend, said Killeen business owner T.J. Mills, a staunch Edwards supporter. And you dont forsake your friends.
The bulk of congressional campaign dollars coming from local residents is heading outside the district.
Killeen and Temple rank second among the metro areas contributing to Edwards 2004 congressional bid, according to information available from the opensecrets.org Web site, which tracks federal campaign contributions.
Donations to Edwards campaign from the Killeen-Temple area have so far topped $106,000, nearing the $109,000 the candidate raised here in 2002.
The same Web site listed Killeen-Temple donations to District 31 Republican Congressman John Carter at about $35,000, and to his Democratic challenger at $950.
Killeen-Temple residents rank second to the bulk of Edwards private donations which are coming from Waco residents, who have so far contributed about $362,000.
Edwards said the support from Bell County represents the 14-year partnership he built while working for the Killeen and Fort Hood area.
No partisan map drawer in Austin or Washington is going to lessen my deep respect and support for Bell County and the men and women serving in uniform at Fort Hood, Edwards said.
Despite running in the newly drawn District 31, which includes Bell County, first-term incumbent Carter said he is pulling in more money from his old stomping grounds than from his new district.
Im new to this (redistricting), but Im old at politics, Carter said. Campaign contributions are especially about relationships.
While Carter faces a virtual unknown in Jon Porter of Cedar Park, Edwards faces a more difficult challenge against Republican Arlene Wohlgemuth.
Killeen Councilman Scott Cosper said that is why Edwards congressional campaign contributions have bounded outside the local district.
Chet has a highly contested race with a strategically placed opponent, while Carter is expected to run strong Cosper said. Chet has been vital to the success of our community. ... I believe he is worthy of continued support.
Many movers and shakers in Killeen, Harker Heights and Temple apparently feel the same way.
Cosper contributed the maximum of $2,000 to Edwards campaign. Others contributing the maximum amount include Killeen Councilman Tim Hancock and local business leaders T.J. Mills, Diane Connell, Mary Kliewer and Kathy Gilmore.
Others in the business community contributing $1,000 or more include Allen Cloud, Sis Beck, Bill Kliewer, Frank Holbrook, Randy Sutton and Bobby Hoover.
High-dollar contributors in Temple include Houston Astros Chairman Drayton McLane and his wife, Elizabeth, who each donated the maximum of $2,000. Also contributing to Edwards at the maximum level are Sue Mayborn, editor and publisher of the Temple Daily Telegram and Killeen Daily Herald, and Tommy Strasburger of Strasburger Enterprises.
Central National Bank President Wendell Williams has also contributed at least $1,000 to the Edwards campaign, along with First State Bank President Donald Grobowsky.
On the flip side, Killeen Councilman Dan Corbin has contributed $1,000 to Wohlgemuths challenge against Edwards.
Corbin noted that he and his wife, Linda, also each contributed as much as they could to Carters campaign.
John Carter is as good a man as I have ever met in my life, Corbin said.
While Killeens congressional campaign contributions leave the district, Corbin said he doesnt think Carter will hold it against the town.
Mills, too, said Carter likely wont fault Edwards contributors.
If he does, Mills said, he is not the right congressman for us.
Although a win will take Edwards representation outside the area, he will still hold key positions on both the House Army Caucus and the House Armed Services Military Appropriations Subcommittee.
I will be the best next-door neighbor Fort Hood ever had, Edwards said, noting there is no active-duty installation in his new district.
That sentiment is echoed by those who are contributing to Edwards even though he no longer represents this district.
He has done an excellent job for our area, said Mayborn, whose newspapers both editorialized strongly against the Republican-led redistricting effort. He will be an excellent representative for us even though hes actually representing our district.
While Edwards builds his war chest with the help of Killeen-Temple donations, Porter, the Democrat running in Edwards old district, said he has learned something about politics.
Would I like that money? Well, yeah, Porter said, with a total of $9,450 in reported personal contributions, $950 coming from the Killeen-Temple area. But in politics, Ive learned you dont share.
Although that frustrated him at first, Porter said it is the nature of the system one that earns legitimacy by the size of a bank account rather than expressed ideas.
People want to pick a winner, Porter said. And they dont perceive me as a winner I think theyre wrong.
Bell County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Grant said watching the money leave the district is very painful, and while he contributed to Porter and helped the new candidate raise funds, Grant also contributed to Edwards.
I love Chet Edwards and I want to see him win, Grant said. But we need some support over here.
Along with Edwards Bell County contributions, McLennan County residents are also going to bat for the Waco Democrat.
Besides the work Edwards said he has done for McLennan County, which has added new jobs and aided economic development, Edwards said the Waco-area contributions have surpassed what he raised last year because of the redistricting efforts led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
I think it reflects the intensity of anger Mrs. Wohlgemuth and Tom DeLay putting partisan politics above the interests of Texas and the way the split up Bell and McLennan counties for the first time in 128 years, Edwards said.
Contact Lisa Soule at email@example.com