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Monday, June 26, 2006

Van Os campaigns in Montgomery County

By Nancy Flake
Courier Staff

With all the fire of a "come to Jesus" revival, two Democratic candidates for state office presented their gospel of how they will change things during a whistle stop tour appearance at the Montgomery County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon.

David Van Os, candidate for Texas Attorney General, and Hank Gilbert, running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, gave their views to a like-minded audience of close to 70 people during the event, the 70th in a planned series of stops at all 254 county courthouses in Texas by Van Os.

As storm clouds rolled overhead and thunder rumbled in the distance, Van Os, an attorney and former state Supreme Court candidate, gave a fiery speech denouncing corruption in corporations, specifically oil and insurance companies.

Talking about ExxonMobil's recent record profits, he said, "The amount of money going into corporate coffers is so vast, our minds cannot comprehend it. Yet, people have to pay $2.90 a gallon at the pump. Something is way, way, way out of whack."

His campaign slogan is "Notice to Big Oil: I'm Coming After You," and Van Os emphasized that's exactly what he will do if he wins the election against incumbent Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican.

"Texas is entitled to an attorney general who will use the tools of the office to make sure government understands the first three words of the Constitution - 'We the people,'" he said to cheers. "Help me take it back."Gilbert, a rancher and former agriculture teacher, is running against state Sen. Todd Staples, whose district includes the northern half of Montgomery County.

"My opponent is being groomed by his party to be the next state leader and a national leader," he said. "It's important we beat him and beat him soundly. You'll see this state go from red to blue in November."God sent his son here to cover all our sins, and right now he's having a hard time covering all the sins of the Republicans."

Noting Montgomery County's heavily Republican voter base, Van Os didn't think his stop Thursday was simply a chance to preach to the choir."I think the choir is all the people," he said. "We're all in it together."

He is not planning a television advertising campaign because he doesn't believe in it, he said. He has paid for four billboards, one in Dallas and three in Northeast Texas, with plans for more.

Wednesday's turnout was the largest for Van Os so far during the whistle stop tour, according to Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairwoman Wendy Melton."We'll make these Republicans nervous yet," she said.

For Clarence Lewis Jr., of Conroe, the event was a sign of a resurgence of the Democratic Party in the county. "I feel new blood is going to revitalize the party," he said. "I think these candidates have a fair chance."A lifelong Democrat, he enjoyed the enthusiastic response of the crowd to Van Os and Gilbert."It's nice to find out they're (Republicans) not the only ones here," Lewis said.

Nobody was available for comment Thursday evening at Todd Staples' campaign office in Palestine, and Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Dr. Walter Wilkerson could not be reached for comment.Nancy Flake can be reached at

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