MAX-ED OUT: Sandlin decides to stay in 1st Congressional District
Two Republican candidates drop out of 4th District race in wake of Ralph Hall's switch

Bruce Alsobrook | News-Telegram Editor

January 23, 2004 -- Max Sandlin has been Hopkins County's voice in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997, but he won't be anymore.

Sandlin filed Friday to run for re-election in the 1st Congressional District, rather than attempt to seek out a race in the 4th Congressional District that Hopkins County is now aligned with in the current redistricting map being challenged in federal court.

In a press release issued Friday shortly after the filing deadline, Sandlin described his decision as "one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching" of his career.

"To the new residents of the 1st District, I want to assure them that I will work hard to give them effective representation," Sandlin said in the release. "And to my dear friends who are no longer in the 1st District, I want to promise them that as long as I sit in the U.S. House, I will be your representative."

Sandlin made his decision just hours after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Democrats to reject the redistricting plan. Sandlin's statement also included a parting shot at the redistricting map that divided his old district.

"When Tom DeLay and his minions orchestrated this bald-faced redistricting power-grab, they destroyed a hundred-year-old community of interest in Northeast Texas," Sandlin said. "They split the counties where I was born and raised away from the county where I built my career and currently live, and they put me in the position of having to surrender constituents that I deeply care about and who have honored me with their support and friendship."

Sandlin has no Democratic opponents in his party primary, but six Republicans have filed for their party's nomination to run for Congress: John Graves, a Longview attorney; Larry Thornton, an administrator in Nacogdoches; Louis Gohmert, a Tyler attorney; Emily Mathews, a San Augustine business owner; Lyle Thorstenson, a Nacogdoches opthalmologist; and Wayne Christian, who works in financial services in Center.

Meanwhile, the field of Republican candidates in the 4th Congressional District -- Hopkins County's new district -- has fallen to three in the wake of U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall's decision to switch parties to the GOP side. Both Steve Clark and Bob Collins dropped out of the running Friday for the Republican Party's nomination for the seat, citing Hall's decision to run as a Republican as the reason.

"It was apparent to me that we instantly had a conservative Republican who had a proven and good record of serving the people of Northeast Texas in Congress," said Collins, a Farmersville GOP activist and member of the faculty at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Hall, first elected to the House in 1980, switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party on Jan. 2. He now faces two opponents in the GOP primary in his re-election bid: Celina businessman Mike Murphy and Paris attorney Mike Mosher.

Two Democrats have filed to seek the 4th Congressional District seat. They are Jerry D. Ashford Jr. of Sherman and Jim Nickerson of Pittsburg.

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