Shelley Sekula Gibbs Goes to Washington

For the first time since June, part of Houston and some surrounding neighborhoods has a representative in Washington. House Speaker Dennis Hastert officially swore-in former Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs as Tom DeLay's replacement Monday. But she won't stay long. Sekula-Gibbs only won the right to replace DeLay until the end of the year. And that's when Democratic Congressman-elect Nick Lampson comes in as part of the new Democratic majority. Chad Pergram reports from Capitol Hill.

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"The honorable Shelley Sekula Gibbs was elected representative in congress for the 22nd congressional district, state of Texas."

Room 242 of the Cannon House office building looks pretty much as when Tom DeLay was here. There's an American flag on one side of the door. A Texas flag and a Texas state seal on the other side. But there is one major difference. There's now a temporary nameplate on the side of the door. It doesn't say Tom DeLay. It now says Representative Shelley Sekula Gibbs.

"It's probably the biggest day of my life."

Sekula Gibbs walked over to the capitol...from the old office she inherited from DeLay...to take the oath of office. Aide David James briefed the new Representative...as she crossed Independence Avenue.

"The Speaker will then swear you both in simultaneously …. After that point, Ralph Hall will then make his introduction of you. "

Sekula-Gibbs took the oath of office...and voted on bills about national trails...and normalizing trade relations with Viet Nam. But in her inaugural floor speech, she begged her new colleagues...not to write her off...despite her abbreviated, 7-week term.

"There is only a few weeks left until the session is over and there is much work left to be done."

The Congresswoman's agenda would be ambitious for even a veteran member elected to a full, 2-year term to.

"We have many appointments to the military academies; issues related to Medicare, I would like to see that. There's an appropriations bill that'll have to come through. I would like to look for ways to further support Ellington Field."

Sekula Gibbs knows the odds are against her. But that's not stopping her.

"I figure if we can win an election to Congress in 11 weeks, we might be able to get some good things done in a very short period of Congress."

But political reality set in as Sekula Gibbs reached the capitol. When she entered the building, Sekula Gibbs received a frosty reception from the number two Democrat in the House...who simply scowled at her.

Sekula-Gibbs: "Hello Mr. Hoyer."
Pergram: "Ran into Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip there."
Sekula-Gibbs: "I just noticed that."
Pergram: "He really didn't say much to you there."
Sekula-Gibbs: (laughs)
Pergram: "Think he might address Mr. Lampson a little differently?"
Sekula-Gibbs: "Like a kiss maybe? I don't know (laughs)"

Sekula Gibbs probably won't get much of a chance to meet many of her colleagues, Democrat or Republican. The House could complete its business for the year...later this week. And that's why the walls of Sekula Gibbs office remain a barren shade of cream. Her desk features only a blue binder, a telephone and an unpacked laptop. Even her housing accommodations are Spartan.

"As far as where I'm living, it's probably best to say where I'm staying (laughs). It'll just be in and out."

In fact, Sekula Gibbs has to vacate her Congressional office in just a couple of weeks.

For Houston Public Radio, I'm Chad Pergram on Capitol Hill.