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EDITORIAL: Stockman saga leaves lessons for voters

March 26, 2017 GMT

Looking back on it all, many voters may regret backing Steve Stockman. They should. Ballots will occasionally include wild cards like Stockman, but people should not be misled by them.

The former area congressman was embroiled in yet another controversy last week when he was arrested by the FBI in Houston as he tried to board a flight to the Mideast. He is charged with two counts of conspiracy to bilk conservative foundations out of at least $775,000 in donations meant for charitable purposes.

A jury will determine his guilt or innocence. Regardless of his trial’s outcome, voters can learn from his legacy.

Stockman may have slipped by Southeast Texans in the 1994 landslide that ousted dozens of Democratic congressmen, including the venerable Jack Brooks. But Stockman never grew in office, and he was quickly replaced by Nick Lampson two years later.

When Stockman sought election to a different House district in 2012, his past shenanigans should have kept him in the back of the pack. After all, that race included several qualified GOP candidates. But the district had been heavily gerrymandered, and Stockman staked out the far right. In a splintered field, he emerged on top again, aided by some nasty campaign tactics against his fellow conservative Republicans.

Frankly, he did East Texans a favor in 2014 with his bizarre attempt to unseat Sen. John Cornyn. Had he stayed in his new House district, he might still be roaming Capitol Hill. Instead he faces a prison term of up to 20 years for each of his two charges if convicted.

This is something that shouldn’t have happened, and ordinary voters could have prevented it.

They must look beyond labels. If they elect characters, they don’t get statesmen. If they choose the most liberal Democrat or most conservative Republican in a primary, they will often be left with someone who can’t function in Austin or Washington, where underperformers are quickly exposed. If they ignore smaller ethical problems on the front end, they could see larger ones later on.

Stockman is the clearest example of this phenomenon in a long time. Let’s hope he’s the last for a long time.

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