PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

October 23, 2012

Meet Nick Lampson, candidate for U.S. Rep. District 14

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Nick Lampson is a people person.

During his last two years as a United States representative, he attended nearly 400 meetings within his district in the approximately 830 days he spent in office, listening to people talk about their concerns and crises.

It was tough, he said, but he believes that listening to people is far more useful to his job than flapping his jaw. At some of those meetings, there were only a handful of people gathering to participate in their democracy, but that did not matter to Lampson. He loves people, he said.

“Sometimes it was just the people who lived at the house there,” he said, “but you got to do it.”

The Beaumont-based Democrat has served in public office for more than a decade, representing a swath of land in Southeast Texas after serving Jefferson County as the tax assessor-collector for almost twice that time. And now he wants to represent District 14 in the U.S. House of Representatives for two more years.

Teaching led Lampson, 67, to public office. He became a science teacher after graduating from Lamar University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in higher education administration. But the person who got him to write down his goals was then Gov. John Connally Jr. They met at a state students meeting in 1967.

“He took the time to talk to me and inspired me to run for public office,” Lampson said. “And I’ve been running almost ever since.”

On this run, Lampson has one main objective: civil discourse in Congress. Forget about all those other lofty goals like balancing the budget and creating jobs (which he wants to do, too) because they would not get done without an open means of communication, he said.

“Without people working together, we will get exactly what we have right now, and that’s gridlock,” he said. “No results, no solutions, and it’s got to change.”

Lampson started a similar effort during a previous term in Congress. Following the murder of a young girl, Lampson met with her parents and decided he would try to do something to help protect children. He created the first Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, which instituted the national Amber Alert system. It became the largest bipartisan caucus in the House of Representatives.

“It pulled people together,” Lampson said. “It made me realize this is the way this stuff is really and truly supposed to work.”

After that, he started seeking out moderates — those members of Congress who cling to the center aisle — and asking them to have coffee. Thus, the Center Aisle Caucus was born. The only rule was that each member had to bring someone from the opposing party to the caucus.

And where those opposite ends of the political spectrum meet — at the center aisle — is the same place Lampson wants to discuss improving the nation’s education and health care systems. He wants to bring the outside voices of the experts to the center aisle, as well, to draft some plausible yet effective solutions to those problems.

“I really think I am an asset that this community has within its midst,” he said. “I have a knowledge of process and issues that’s been developed over four decades of public service and 10 years of service in Congress. The qualifications I have should put me in a position to be almost irreplaceable in my ability to do something immediately for this community, and I just am hoping the public will recognize that.”

bcrum@panews.com