By Michael Sudhalter
Few political experts would consider Texas’ 22nd Congressional District anything but a safe seat for Republicans, but two local Democrats are vying to challenge U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), a four-term incumbent, next fall.
Both Missouri City resident Mark Gibson and Katy resident Ahmad Hassan have law degrees and own small businesses.
The candidates plan to share how they’d like to see Congress make the American Dream possible for everyone. Both candidates say they’ve been able to achieve the American Dream.
The primary election will be held on March 1 (with early voting from Feb. 16-26), and the winner will face Olson in the general election on Nov. 8.
Gibson, who grew up in Natchez, Miss. and retired as a Colonel in the U.S. Army, lost to Frank Briscoe Jr, 53-to-47 percent in the 2014 primary. Olson went on to defeat Briscoe, 66.5 to 31.6 percent in the 2014 general election.
Olson, who won’t face a primary opponent in 2016, had his closest election in 2008 when he defeated then-incumbent U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas), 52.4 to 45.4 percent. In the three subsequent elections, no opponent has come within 30 points of Olson.
Hassan, a native of Egypt, moved to the U.S. in 1980 and became an American citizen in 1984. A real estate professional, Hassan has unsuccessfully run for office as an Independent (Sedgwick County, Kansas Commissioner in 1988) and a Republican (U.S. 22nd Congressional District against Sheila Jackson Lee in 2004).
“I wanted to experience different policies and see what they’re all about,” Hassan said. “The Democratic Party suits me better – their philosophy, their goals and they care for middle class. I don’t want to do just for rich or poor, but for all Americans.”
Gibson has taken issue with the fact that Hassan doesn’t reside within the 22nd District. Texas law doesn’t require candidates to reside in the congressional district where they choose to run.
Hassan said the residency issue is irrelevant because he lives only a few miles outside the district, and he consistently does business in the 22nd through his real estate company. Hassan said, if elected, he plans to relocate to the 22nd District.
Gibson, a former Fondren Meadows Civic Club president, said he learned some lessons from his 2014 primary loss.
“We just didn’t do the best job preparing to compete with Frank,” Gibson said. “This time around, we’re going to run a campaign differently with more accountability from the campaign perspective.”
Gibson said he plans to run on “quality of life” issues and would like to see the local toll roads cap their rates at 50 cents per mile.
“I want to make a difference and provide a return to the citizens,” Gibson said. “They will see immediate results when I’m in Congress.”
Hassan said legislators need to begin putting people over partisan politics.
“I’m an American above all – I came to this country with $3,000 in my pocket and didn’t know a single person when I came here,” Hassan said.
Gibson said his campaign will be about a “grassroots effort” instead of trying to compete financially with the Olson Campaign, while Hassan said he’s willing to spend money out of his own pocket, if necessary.