Photo by Blake Rasmussen
Coffee with Impact, Lamar Smith
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-District 21 (left), discusses redistricting, online piracy and the issues Texas will face as a result of its delayed primary date with Community Impact Newspaper Publisher John Garrett.
U.S. House of Representatives, R-District 21
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-District 21, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. Smith serves as a member of several congressional committees, including the Homeland Security Committee. He also is a member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which oversees renewable energy policies; the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education; the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He is also the first Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from Texas.
In 1980, Smith won the 57th District state representative race, and two years later, he was elected to serve as the Precinct 3 commissioner of Bexar County.
District 21, as it is currently organized, includes portions of Bexar and Travis counties and all of Comal, Real, Kerr, Bandera, Kendall and Blanco counties. The district’s population is about 700,000.
When talking about redistricting Texas to accommodate four new districts, is it the one vote that really matters, or is it the political structure that’s at hand?
I think it’s a combination of both. And this is not widely known necessarily, but if there is a net change in the U.S. House of Representatives by 25 seats—if there is a net loss among the Republicans of just 25 seats—you’re back to [Democratic Party] Speaker Pelosi. So it does have some impact on who may possibly control the House. My own guess is that control of the House is not going to come down to two votes, and it may not make any difference, but you never know.
What effect will Texas’ delayed primary have on the presidential election?
If we held the earlier primary three months roughly before the May 29 date, that would have enhanced the influence of Texas in the nominating process. By the end of May, I think the Republicans will likely know who the nominee is by then, so Texas might have less of an influence. But it has now been decided by the state Republican party, and I suspect by the state Democratic party as well, that the delegates to the national convention are not going to be chosen in the primary. So it will be the type of primary where you don’t choose the delegates—a beauty pageant.
Have you endorsed a candidate?
I supported Mitt Romney four years ago, so it was not a surprise that I would endorse him this year as well, and I’m comfortable with that.
You recently pulled back the Stop Online Piracy Act, saying you wanted to reach a better agreement on its suggested solution. Do you still support SOPA?
Well, SOPA is not going to rise again in its current form. I do think we have to address the current concerns. I still feel there is a serious problem with online piracy. And a lot of folks in Austin will agree, whether they are musicians who see their recordings stolen and downloaded for free … there are a lot of individuals who are hurt by online piracy. But there was also a lot of misinformation about this particular piece of legislation. The language of the bill clearly limited our concerns to foreign websites primarily engaged in illegal activity. When we would get calls at the office about ‘You’re getting ready to shut down Facebook,’ or ‘You’re getting ready to stop Google,’ … no one had really made a clear distinction between domestic websites and foreign websites primarily engaged in illegal activity. And we were simply overwhelmed by that misinformation.