Peter Graham "Pete" Olson (born December 9, 1962) is the U.S. Representative for Texas's 22nd congressional district, serving since 2009. He is a member of the Republican Party. The district includes much of southeastern Houston, as well as most of the city's southern suburbs such as Pearland, Sugar Land, and Pasadena.
Early life, education, and military service
Peter Graham Olson was born on December 9, 1962 in Fort Lewis, Washington. In 1972, Olson moved with his family to Seabrook, Texas, a southeast suburb of Houston; and attended public schools, graduating from Clear Lake High School in 1981. In 1985, Olson graduated from Rice University, where he played college basketball his freshman year, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in computer science.
Upon graduation, Olson enrolled in law school at the University of Texas at Austin. He completed the Texas Bar Exam in 1988 and joined the United States Navy.
Olson served in the United States Navy for nine years. He entered the Navy in 1988, and earned his Naval Aviator wings in March 1991. After earning his wings as a P-3C Orion pilot, post-Gulf War, he flew missions over the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. In 1994, he was assigned as a Naval liaison to the United States Senate, during which time he assisted U.S.
Senator Phil Gramm (Texas-R) on several overseas trips.
Early political career
After leaving active military duty, he joined Senator Gramm's staff in 1998. After Gramm's retirement from the U.S. Senate in 2002, Olson served as Chief of Staff to Gramm's successor, U.S. Senator and former Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, from December 2002 until May 2007.
U.S. House of Representatives
He defeated incumbent Democratic Representative Nick Lampson in the general election on November 4, 2008.
Olson received 53% of the vote and Lampson received 45%. Olson had won the Republican nomination by defeating former Congresswoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs in the April 8, 2008, run-off election. Democrat Nick Lampson won in 2006 when the 11-term Republican incumbent, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, was indicted. DeLay's resignation came too late for another Republican to replace him on the ballot, so Lampson defeated a Republican running as a write-in candidate. Because of these unusual circumstances, the race has drawn national attention. In 2007, Stuart Rothenberg called the district "arguably the best Republican takeover opportunity in the country". After Olson was nominated, the Electoral-vote.com website identified his campaign as "probably the GOP's best pickup opportunity for 2008." The Hill, a leading Washington, D.C. political newspaper, stated that Olson's victory over Sekula Gibbs set "up one of the top House races in the country in a conservative Houston district." Olson was expected to be well funded.
An October 22, 2008, poll by John Zogby and the Houston Chronicle stated that Olson had a 17 point lead over Lampson. On October 30, 2008, Larry Sabato predicted in the Crystal Ball that Olson's Congressional would be a race that would be a "Republican Pick Up."
- 2006 background
The 22nd District Congressional seat was held by Democrat, Nick Lampson. Lampson won in 2006 when the Republican incumbent, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, was indicted.
The district had been held by DeLay for 22 years and was also previously held by Congressman and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. However, in 2006, DeLay resigned after coming under fire for ties to controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
During this time, DeLay had also just won the Republican primary in his district against three opponents and faced a difficult challenge against Lampson. Lampson had represented a Galveston/Beaumont-based district from 1997 to 2005. The Republicans wanted to replace DeLay with then-Houston city councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs on the ballot, but a judge upheld a Democratic claim that DeLay's resignation came too late to place another candidate on the ballot. This forced Sekula-Gibbs to run as a write-in candidate in the general election. In the general election, Lampson defeated Sekula-Gibbs by a ten-point margin. In a special election held on the same day, Sekula-Gibbs was elected for the balance of DeLay's 11th term.
Lampson was considered the most vulnerable Democrat in the House due to the district's heavy Republican tilt. With a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+15, it was the fourth most Republican district in the nation to be represented by a Democrat. George W. Bush carried the 22nd with 64 percent of the vote in 2004.
Because of these unusual circumstances in District 22, the race attracted national attention. In 2007, Stuart Rothenberg called the district "arguably the best Republican takeover opportunity in the country". After Olson was nominated, the Electoral-vote.com website identified his campaign as "probably the GOP's best pickup opportunity for 2008." The Hill, a leading Washington, D.C. political newspaper, has stated that Olson's victory over Sekula Gibbs has set "up one of the top House races in the country in a conservative Houston district." Olson is expected to be well funded.
- Republican primary race=
In 2007, Olson announced he would run for the Republican nomination in the 22nd District. He was one of 10 Republicans in the field. Also running were Sekula-Gibbs, former Pasadena mayor John Manlove, former Sugar Land mayor Dean Hrbacek, State Representative Robert Talton, Senior District Judge Jim Squier, Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, and three minor candidates.
Sekula-Gibbs won the first round with 29.72%. Olson finished second, with 20.72%. As Sekula-Gibbs finished well short of the majority needed to win the nomination outright, Olson and Sekula-Gibbs advanced to a runoff in April. Sekula-Gibbs criticized Olson as "a Washington insider ... [who] moved here just six months ago to run." Nevertheless, 12 of Texas' 19 Republican congressmen endorsed Olson in the primary.
Olson won the April 8 runoff in a rout, taking 69 percent of the vote to Sekula-Gibbs' 31 percent.
- General election race
Olson faced Lampson in the general election, and John Wieder, the Libertarian Party candidate. Many election experts considered the race one of the best opportunities for the Republicans to pick up a Democratic seat. The Southern Political Report placed the race on its watch list because the district's roots are solidly Republican and Lampson won the seat with only 52% against a write-in candidate.
On June 20, 2008, the Washington Post's "The Fix" commented on the Congressional race: "it's hard to see Rep. Nick Lampson (D) winning reelection. Lampson's slim hopes got even slimmer" with the nomination of Olson.
Olson and Lampson agreed to a debate of the issues on October 20, 2008, in Rosenberg, Texas.
In the November election, Olson defeated Lampson with 53 percent of the vote to Lampson's 45 percent. He won four of the district's five counties.
- fundraising efforts
At the end of March 2008, Olson's campaign was technically in debt, with almost $128,000 on hand and a debt to the candidate, who provided a personal loan of $175,000.
On June 5, 2008, Vice President Dick Cheney visited Houston to raise money for Olson's Congressional campaign. The event took place at the home of Houston billionaire Dan Duncan.
Through three months ending September 30, 2008, Olson raised more money than Lampson. Olson raised $312,700 and Lampson only raised $149,000.
Olson won re-election with 67% of the vote against Democratic challenger Kesha Rogers.
During the campaign, Olson claimed he was a better fit for the district than Lampson. Olson told Wall Street Journal reporter Leslie Eaton that "I have conservative values, and he (Lampson) doesn't." Indeed, not long after being sworn in, Olson joined the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservative House Republicans.
Olson opposes the current incarnation of Interstate 69, which since 2002 has been part of Governor Rick Perry's controversial Trans-Texas Corridor, a project Gramm did not provide funding for as a U.S. Senator. The previous incarnation of I-69 (which Gramm did fund) was slated to go through the current U.S. Highway 59 which passes through Houston and outlying suburbs such as Sugar Land and Humble.
Olson lives in Sugar Land with his wife Nancy and their two children, Kate and Grant and their dog Riley.
February 16th, 2012