House Majority Leader Dick Armey was embarrassed on Wednesday morning when it became apparent that his son Scott Armey had lost his primary runoff in the race to replace his father as congressman for the 26th District in Texas. The winner turned out to be political neophyte Michael Burgess, by 55 percent to 45 percent, in one of the bigger upsets of the political season.
But it wasn’t the loss that irked the elder Armey so much as way it occurred. On the Friday before election day, Scott Armey found himself having to admit he caused an auto accident in 1982. His prior statements had indicated he was not at fault. “This was a leak, dirty politics and it wasn’t the Democrats down there that did it,” says a source close to Armey. “Our own party did this to one of our own, and it’s disgusting.”
The source says that Armey is certain that the car-accident story was leaked by a Burgess supporter inside the state Republican Party. “We think we know who did it,” the source said.
Burgess, a local physician, was not given much of a chance to win, given that the 26th District has been Dick Armey’s stomping ground for years. Even when the younger Armey was forced into the runoff, Burgess wasn’t thought to have much of shot. But the leaked news about the 20-year-old car accident, mixed with growing indignation at the way Dick Armey handled his retirement announcement, seemed to doom the son’s effort to follow in his father’s shoes.
“Burgess did a good job of getting the district’s voters angry about the Armey family,” says a Texas Republican Party source. “He kept hitting on the idea that Representative Armey should have announced his retirement sooner, let the people have a say in who would replace him. That he shouldn’t have just propped up his son as the heir apparent. In a state like Texas, that resonates.”
Dick Armey is said to be livid at the way the his own party treated his son in the primary. “It’s definitely a blow, but not just to him,” says an Armey staffer. “Speaker Hastert invested in Scott, the Republican House leadership invested in him. We’re all surprised. We didn’t expect dirty tricks from some of the same people who have supported the Majority Leader for almost 20 years.”
All that said, Burgess is heavily favored to retain the seat for the Republicans in the fall.
MAGICAL MYSTERY BILL
Bill Clinton is telling friends that he will hit the road this summer to help at least 30 U.S Congressmen and Senators raise money for their re-election campaigns. But his office won’t divulge who those candidates are, or even in which states they reside. Neither will the Democratic National Committee or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. So what’s the deal? “[DNC chairman] Terry McAuliffe is keeping Clinton’s locations secret,” says a party fundraiser. “He wants the candidates to have the privilege of announcing that Clinton will be their big fundraising attraction.”
A staffer on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says he, too, has heard that excuse, but says fundraisers on the House and Senate campaign committees have heard another reason. “Clinton asked them not make the announcements because he doesn’t want there to be adverse publicity too far in advance of his arrival,” says the staffer. “He’s concerned about protesters and organized opposition to his appearances.”
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