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Flores unseats Edwards

Nov. 3, 2010

Republican ends incumbent's 20-year run

Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer
Republican Bill Flores, standing with family, speaks at a watch party in College Station. Flores received 52 percent of votes, defeating Chet Edwards.

By Wakeelah Crutison and Caty Hirst
Copy Editor and City Editor

With somber expressions, tears and utter silence in a vibrant room decorated in red, white and blue, incumbent Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards announced his own defeat by Republican Bill Flores on Tuesday night.

Edwards, the representative for District 17 in Congress for the past 20 years, was one of many democrats who lost their seat to republicans -- and lost democratic control of the House.

Daniel Cernero | Photo Editor
Rep. Chet Edwards hugs Kathryn Mueller, senior lecturer of sociology at Baylor, after Edwards conceded his seat to Bill Flores Tuesday at the Hilton in Waco.

"The strength and beauty of our democracy is that the voice that truly counts is that of the people. Tonight, the people of our district have spoken, and I respect that choice," Edwards said to a room full of supporters. "I want to congratulate Bill Flores for being elected to represent us in the United States Congress. The campaign is now over. There is a time to fight for causes and a time to put our differences aside."

After his win, Bill Flores issued a statement saying, "I am honored and humbled by the trust that the voters have placed in me. Ultimately, the voters sent a clear message that they want a new Congress that will help the economy recover, remove barriers to private sector job creation and immediately reduce wasteful deficit spending."

Dr. Dave Bridge, associate professor of political science, said this was an important seat in the race for control over the House, because the result was uncertain.

"There aren't many that are toss-ups, and it's possible that the other party could win the seat, and not all 435 races are like that," Bridge said.

Karen Petree, chair of the McLennan County Democratic Party, introduced Edwards to the room and said she feels incredibly disappointed for the people in the district, especially for the veterans.

"They've lost a true friend and a voice they'll never get back in Congress," Petree said, her voice raw with tears shed in dejection. "They lost a fighter."

Although she was upset about the election results, she did say East Waco had its highest voter turnout yet.

Nathan Murray, Dallas resident, is excited about Flores' election.

"You know, it's been a great victory for the district, and for a seat that's been held by a Democrat for so long, and I think it's just a win for victory," Murray said.

John Davis, Montgomery resident, said Flores has not made an effort to connect with voters like Edwards has.

"It is a sad day, not only for the District, but for Texas," Davis said. "He has been an outstanding public servant and I have no ill will against Mr. Flores at all, but even in his wildest dreams he could not do the job Chet Edwards has."

John Woods, Waco resident, Baylor alum and Edwards' father-in-law, is upset by the loss.

"The real loser here is District 17. It's not Chet. Chet is not a loser," Woods said.

M.A. Taylor, vice chair of the McLennan County Republican Party, said the House of Representatives is going to be affected favorably since Flores was elected.

"Edwards hasn't done a good job of representing this area," Taylor said. "If Flores wins it can only get better. There'll be less government involvement, less expenses and less restrictions on people's activities."

Sugar Land sophomore Cody Orr, chairman of the Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas, agrees that Flores will be good for the district.

"Baylor students are all looking to get jobs as soon as possible," Orr said. "Flores supports free policies and allowing the job market to create opportunities, whereas under Edwards and Obama, unemployment has increased. That's definitely not helping students."

Orr said Flores will represent the concerns of the people and convert them into public policy and not make decisions for the people.

"I've spoken with Bill and he said if he gets elected he knows he's going as a servant to constituents," Orr said. "He's not a leader, he's serving the people, and he'll provide a different mindset in Congress."

Houston senior Lizzy Joyce, president of the Baylor Democrats, said Edwards should have won the election.

"He has heavy clout, and he's a powerful politician," Joyce said. "He advocates for Waco and the Baylor community. If reelected, it would only better the community."

Edwards and Flores differ on many of the political and moral issues Americans are concerned about.

Edwards believes education is a state and local burden, but that the federal government should play a supporting role. The National Education Association said Edwards has voted in favor of public education 100 percent of the time.

While Edwards has publicly promoted his stance on education, even posting it in the "Issues" section of his website, Flores' stance on education was not made clear.

"Just because someone mentions education doesn't mean they support education," Orr said. "Flores believes that education is not government policy; it's more of a state issue. It goes to show that as congressman he can't change state policy. Edwards is a proponent of what I call federal invasion and sees education as something to control."

Joyce said education is important to college-age voters.

"Listening to some of [Flores'] campaign, I've noticed he's a strong critic of government involvement in education," Joyce said. "I'm a college student, and I have federal financial aid. Some people have the audacity to say that if you can't afford college, you shouldn't be there. To me that's as un-American as you can get."

Edwards, according to the National Right to Life Committee, has a mixed record on abortion. Flores said he will always vote pro-life if elected.

On the issue of same-sex marriage, Edwards voted to amend the Constitution to include a definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Flores has said he will vote against gay-marriage legislation.

The top contributing industry for Flores is oil/gas at $126,952, with two of his top contributors being oil/gas companies: Chevron Corporation and Krescent Energy Company. Flores said he is a supporter of tapping into American oil and energy. He recently retired as CEO and President of Phoenix Exploration, a natural gas and oil company.

Orr said that although Flores' top contributing industry is oil and gas, he does not believe the funds from interest groups will affect Flores' policies in Washington.

Flores won 52.04 percent of votes in McLennan County and Edwards received 46.90 percent of votes.

Edwards said his plans are to spend time with family and remain in Texas.