Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, Write-in Candidate for Texas-22

Steven Taylor has a good roundup and analysis of the uphill fight Shelley Sekula-Gibbs is going to have as a write-in candidate for the seat formerly held by Tom DeLay.

The problem, as Paul Kiel notes, is a combination of the archane rules for counting write-in ballots and the awkwardness of the electronic system used in Texas for recording votes.

eVote Machine Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, Write-in Candidate for Texas-22 The eSlate machine does lack a keyboard, however — users roll a trackwheel to choose letters on a screen. And unfortunately for Dr. S-G, there’s no hyphen. So writing her name in is a bit of a chore. Judgments as to spelling will be made by “the counting judge,” according to Amy Mitchell, an attorney with the Texas Secretary of State’s office; such judgments tend to be lenient — basically, if it “looks like” the name, it’s counted as the name. Serious write-in candidates often lead to recounts, she said. Misspellings may well be the hanging chad of this election season.


Keep in mind that control of Congress may well hinge on this race. Which means the direction of the country could rest on whether or not enough Texas Republicans can remember a 20-letter hyphenated name and spell it using an awkward trackwheel device.

I certainly wouldn’t take those odds.

If your name is “Shelley Sekula-Gibbs” and you’re running as a write-in candidate, I would submit that you’ve proven you lack the necessary judgment to hold public office. Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to run as “Shelley Gibbs”? (Ideally, as “Shelly Gibbs,” but one can understand not wanting to undo one’s parents’ unfortunate spelling at that stage of life.)

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    Ha-ha! James, you crack me up.

    You assume there’s some standard of judgement to hold public office?

    In Texas?

    To replace Tom Delay?

    Hoo, I gots me the giggles now…

  2. Pug says:

    It could be worse. At least it appears she married a guy name Gibbs.

    If she had married the Duke basketball coach it would be Shelley Sekula-Krzyzewski. That would be a real challenge.

  3. I think she should consider legally changing her name to ‘A’.

    Of course the odds of her winning are minimal because of the structural barriers. But then, the odds of the democrat retaining the seat in ’08 are about as minimal.

  4. Pug says:

    Actually the district’s demographics are changing a little. There are a lot of macacas moving in.

  5. legion says:

    Hey! We prefer the term “Macaca-American”.

  6. I thought the new folks in the neighborhood were mullets. Or is it mohawks?

    In all seriousness, though, if a candidate has to legally qualify well before the election to be a valid write-in candidate, what’s the point in requiring people to write the name in (besides, of course, incumbent/duopoly protection)?

    And I predict that this is going to be a cluster(bleep) of massive proportions.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Chris: Agreed all around. Indeed, if one has to “qualify” as a write in, I’d argue it’s not a true write-in. While I believe the rules should be followed during a cycle, clearly Texas needs to change them for the next go-round. It’s asinine not to be able to replace a candidate on the ballot with five-six months advance notice.

  8. legion says:

    My understanding is that her “qualification” for the ballot means nothing more than that she’s the Republican the local GOP has officially endorsed now that Delay’s out the door. Any other schmo who wanted to convince people to write them in doesn’t need prior approval.

  9. Jim says:

    It just steams me that when the Democratic Senate canidate in New Jersey withdrew since it became obvious he would lose, the MSM (both the Post and NYT) harped on the importance that the election be competitive. The democrats successfully took the measure to court to force their new candiate on the ballot. Where is the MSM stating how having Shelley Sekula-Gibbs on the ballot is vital for the democratic process…all I am hearing is crickets.

  10. James Joyner says:


    Agreed in principle but it was a NJ judge who interpreted NJ law in that manner. I think he was wrong, of course, but what are you going to do?

    I’m not sure what TX law is but the pretext DeLay used to get out of the race was that he was now a VA resident and thus no longer eligible. A federal judge ruled that this violated the US Constitution’s requirements as to residency.

  11. legion says:

    Delay stayed in the campaign and on the ballot after the primary specifically because it allowed him to continue to raise campaign money that could legally be used in his defense fund. Delay’s own people have pretty much admitted that. They were betting that either he’d squeek through the system, or that if he had real legal trouble he could walk away & be replaced by another sinecure, just like when he (finally) dropped his majority leadership position. TX state law said he could do just that, but even SCOTUS said that, as you note James, US Federal law governs national-level races, not state law.

  12. Patrick says:


    Agreed in principle but it was a NJ judge who interpreted NJ law in that manner.”

    NJ court didn’t interpret the law, they *IGNORED* the law. The law specifically gave provisions for when the name could be replaced on the ballots and what the deadline was. The deadline was in early September, and Torricelli withdrew in early October. The law was clear, specific, and broken, and Judges said ‘what the heck, elections are too important to be determined by laws.’

    “the pretext DeLay used to get out of the race was that he was now a VA resident and thus no longer eligible. A federal judge ruled that this violated the US Constitution’s requirements as to residency”

    Er not quite. The Judge basically decided that DeLay’s claim of non-residency couldnt be made, ie , he couldnt *prove* he would be ineligible on election day, and hence couldnt be replaced. Catch-22, but one not helped by the fact that DeLay, despite voting in VA and living there, still had a Houston residence. Since replacement couldnt happen, but DeLay withdrew his name, the GOP has no name on the ballot.

    In DeLays case, there was an attempt by the judge to frustrate exactly what the New Jersey democrats were able to do. In other words, no consideration for the factor of ‘we need a real election with a name’ was given in the DeLay case.

    The parallels are eerie in that both DeLay and Torricelli knew they had ethical problems, greedily stayed in the primaries despite that, and post-primary realized the heat was too hot and decided to jump ship.

    The key difference in all this seems to be that Republicans are required to operate under the letter of the law, but the Democrats are not.