Chris Bell (politician)

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Chris Bell
ChrisBellTX.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 25th district
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2005
Preceded by Ken Bentsen, Jr.
Succeeded by Lloyd Doggett
Member of the Houston City Council from the At-large #4 District
In office
February 15, 1997 – January 2, 2002
Preceded by John Peavy
Succeeded by Michael Berry
Personal details
Born Robert Christopher Bell
(1959-11-23) November 23, 1959 (age 54)
Abilene, Texas, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Alison Ayres Bell
Children Atlee and Connally
Residence Houston, Texas, U.S.
Alma mater South Texas College of Law
Occupation Attorney and politician
Religion Episcopalian

Robert Christopher "Chris" Bell (born November 23, 1959) is an American politician. He last served as a one-term congressman in the United States House of Representatives from Texas's 25th congressional district in Houston from 2003 to 2005 before being defeated in the Democratic primary by Justice of the Peace Al Green. He was the Democratic candidate in the 2006 election for the office of Governor of Texas, but lost to Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Perry by 406,450 votes (Perry 39% versus Bell 30%). He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Personal history[edit]

Bell was born in Abilene, the seat of Taylor County in West Texas. He was reared in Dallas and moved to Austin when he was accepted to the University of Texas at Austin. As a student, Bell was a member of Phi Delta Theta, and served as president of the Interfraternity Council, and also spearheaded a successful effort to reinstate student government. In 1982, he graduated with a journalism degree and began work as a television and radio journalist, first in Ardmore, Oklahoma and later in Amarillo. He then moved to Houston, working as a Harris County court radio reporter while taking night classes at South Texas College of Law.

Despite his success in journalism (he was named “best radio reporter in the state” in 1990 by the Texas Associated Press), he left journalism and began what would become a successful litigation practice after receiving a law degree and being licensed as an attorney in Texas in 1992. Bell's public service career began in 1997, after being elected to the Houston City Council. After his campaign for State Senate in 2008, Bell has since returned to the private practice of law.

He currently lives in Houston with his wife, Alison Ayres Bell, and their two sons, Atlee, 16, and Connally, 14. Alison previously worked for Mosbacher Energy and as the scheduler for Republican Robert Mosbacher, Jr.’s 1994 campaign for lieutenant-governor.

Political career[edit]

Houston City Council (1997–2002)[edit]

Bell served as at large Position 4 councilman for the Houston City Council for five years. During this time, he served as chairman of both the Council Committee on Customer Service and Initiatives and the Ethics Committee. Throughout his service, he focused on ethics reform, passing laws that limited the use of soft money in city elections. He also championed what he called “customer-driven government,” featuring innovative ideas to make government more accessible to the public. He also helped pass the largest tax cut in the city's history and worked to pass sweeping ethics reform that significantly cleaned up what was a corrupt local government.

Mayoral campaign (2001)[edit]

In 2001, Bell ran against incumbent mayor Lee P. Brown. Brown and Bell's first disagreement was previously in 2000, when Bell joined with conservatives to pass a 2-cent property tax rollback, causing Brown to replace Bell as chairman. Bell finished third behind Brown and Republican candidate Orlando Sanchez. Bell and Mayor Brown reconciled after the election — Bell endorsed Brown during the resulting runoff election and Brown was a vocal supporter for Bell's 2002 congressional bid.

US Congress (2002–2005)[edit]

Bell's Congressional District

In 2002, Bell successfully ran for the United States House of Representatives for Texas District 25. He represented most of southwestern Houston, including most of the city's share of Fort Bend County. He was made assistant whip by House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Bell also served on four standing committees, and was responsible for founding the Port Security Caucus, a group dedicated to improving seaport security.

In October 2003, Bell became a target in Republican Tom DeLay’s 2003 congressional redistricting effort. One proposal, seriously considered, would have thrown Bell into the heavily Republican 7th District of John Culberson. The final plan was somewhat less ambitious, but still put Bell in jeopardy. His 25th District was renumbered as the 9th District, and absorbed a larger number of blacks and Latinos than he had previously represented. The old 25th was approximately 65 percent white; the new 9th was only 17 percent white. On March 9, 2004, Bell was handily defeated in the Democratic primary for District 9 by Al Green, the former president of the Houston NAACP, taking only 31 percent of the vote.

On June 15, 2004, Bell filed an ethics complaint against Tom DeLay, alleging an abuse of power and illegal solicitation of money, among other things. This ended a seven-year "truce" on such official accusations between the parties. Four months later, the House Ethics Committee unanimously admonished DeLay on two of Bell's charges. The third charge was left for criminal investigation in Texas. In 2005, DeLay was indicted by a Texas grand jury on criminal charges that he had violated campaign finance laws.

Gubernatorial campaign (2006)[edit]

Bell was the Democratic candidate in the 2006 election for the office of Governor of Texas. He ran against Republican incumbent Rick Perry and independents Carole Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman. [1] Bell ultimately received 1,310,353 votes, or 29.79%, in the four-way race. In 2007, Chris Bell and the Clean Government Advocates for Chris Bell sued Governor Perry and the Republican Governor's Association claiming they illegally hid $1 million in donations from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry in the final days of the 2006 gubernatorial election. [2]

State Senate District 17 campaign (2008)[edit]

On July 18, 2008, Bell announced on his campaign website that he would run in the special election for Texas Senate, District 17. [3] The election was made necessary by the resignation of Republican Senator Kyle Janek. The results of the November 4, 2008 election showed that while Bell emerged with a plurality, he did not garner enough votes to avoid a special election runoff with Republican Joan Huffman.[1] Despite heavy support from Democratic volunteers and officials, he ultimately lost the runoff to Huffman on December 16 with only 43.7 percent of the vote to Huffman's 56.3 percent. [4]

Issues and positions[edit]

Immigration[edit]

Bell supports the use of United States National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border, "as long as we are very careful not to turn the border into a militated zone." He also supports the McCain-Kennedy bill that would provide a so-called "pathway" to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country, provided they had jobs, learned English, paid fines and met certain other requirements. "I don't want to see anybody cutting in line, but I do think that people should be able to earn their citizenship if they're productive and law-abiding citizens.” [5]

Education[edit]

Bell supports increased spending for the Texas public education system. He wants to focus on acquiring and retaining quality teachers, stopping textbook censorship, and taking the focus away from standardized tests like Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). He wants to create a bipartisan committee on public education and give school districts more local control. [6] Finally, he wants to make Texas higher education affordable. He wants to end the tuition deregulation which caused a 23% average increase in tuition at Texas state schools. He also wants to give public universities state funding and help students by making textbooks tax free. [7]

Gay rights[edit]

Bell is a lifelong proponent of gay rights. In 2002, the Houston Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign awarded him with their first ever John Walzel Political Equality Award in 2002. He cosponsored the Permanent Partners Immigration Act with Houston Congress member Sheila Jackson-Lee. The bill seeks to offer residency to immigrant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens, much as citizens of other countries who marry Americans are allowed to stay in the country.[8] Bell also supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, and is against a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.[9]

Healthcare[edit]

Bell is a passionate supporter of stem cell research. After losing his mother to Parkinson's disease, and nearly losing his wife to cancer, he believes that using science to cure disease is a moral imperative. Bell is on the board of StemPAC, a leading stem cell advocacy group, and often speaks at national stem cell conferences. While a member of the 108th United States Congress, he consistently voted pro stem cell research. Bell is also a strong proponent of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a program that has been the target of budget cuts by Governor Rick Perry. [10]

Trans-Texas Corridor[edit]

Bell has opposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed toll road, on the grounds that it would consume 1.5 million acres (6000 km²) of farmland and 150 square miles (390 km2) of privately owned property.

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ken Bentsen, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 25th congressional district

January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2005
Succeeded by
Lloyd Doggett
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tony Sanchez
Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas
2006
Succeeded by
Bill White

References[edit]

  1. ^ Official Results Accessed November 6, 2008

External links[edit]