In 2006 Shelley Sekula Gibbs, a physician and Houston city councilwoman, won election to the U.S. House of Representatives after running a last-minute campaign to f ill the vacancy created by the sudden resignation of House Majority Leader Thomas Dale DeLay. Sekula Gibbs’s seven-week term to finish out the 109th Congress (2005–2007) is one of the shortest periods of service of any Congresswoman in House history. Her medical training played a large role in her priorities in Congress. “Being a physician, I have very big concerns about [health care],” she declared on the House Floor.1
Shelley Sekula Gibbs was born Shelley Sekula in Floresville, Texas, on June 22, 1953, to Henry Sekula, an oil field worker, and Mary Sekula. She graduated from Floresville High School in 1971 and earned a bachelor’s degree from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio in 1975. Four years later, she completed medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. After residencies in family medicine and dermatology, she practiced medicine for more than 20 years. She served as president of the Texas Dermatological Society and taught as a clinical assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical Branch.2 She married Allen Greenberg, who died suddenly in a drowning accident. She later married Sylvan Rodriguez, a local television newscaster, who died of cancer in 2000. She then married Robert Gibbs, an attorney. She has three children: Mallory, Michael, and Elyse.3
In 2001 Sekula Gibbs was elected as an at-large member of the Houston city council. During her three terms on the council, she focused on health care, working to bring federal money to the city for clinics dedicated to assisting Houston’s uninsured residents. She also was a cofounder of the Ellington Field task force, which successfully fought to keep open the city’s major military air base.4
On June 9, 2006, Representative Tom DeLay resigned his seat in the House after being indicted on charges of breaking election law. DeLay had represented the southwestern Houston district for more than 20 years and was a key architect of the Republican takeover of the House in 1994, later serving as Majority Whip and Majority Leader.5 DeLay had won the 2006 Republican primary but subsequently announced his resignation amid his legal troubles. Although DeLay’s name was removed from the November general election ballot, state law prevented local Republicans from adding the name of a replacement candidate. This left the party with the difficult task of running a new candidate in a write-in campaign. In August, the Texas GOP endorsed Shelley Sekula Gibbs as its appointed candidate to run for both the special election to the remainder of DeLay’s term in the 109th Congress and for a full term in the 110th Congress (2007–2009).6
With less than three months until the November elections, Sekula Gibbs quickly organized her campaign. The Twenty-Second District, which stretched across the southern suburbs of Houston from Brazoria County to Galveston County, was traditionally Republican and largely middle class. In the general election to the full term in the 110th Congress, Sekula Gibbs faced Democratic candidate Nicholas V. Lampson, a former four-term Representative from a district in nearby Beaumont, Texas.7 Lampson chose not to run in the special election for the remainder of the 109th Congress.
In a closely contested race, Sekula Gibbs ran an extensive television advertising campaign instructing voters how to cast a write-in ballot. Determined to keep the district in Republican hands, the National Republican Congressional Committee also directed funding and resources to the contest. The campaign focused mostly on national and cultural issues: Sekula Gibbs advocated for secure borders, gun rights, and the anti-abortion movement, and she opposed sanctuary cities and gay rights.8
On Election Day, Sekula Gibbs easily won the special election to the remainder of DeLay’s term in the 109th Congress with 62 percent of the vote. But she lost the general election to the 110th Congress taking 42 percent of the vote to Lampson’s 52 percent (a third-party candidate siphoned off 6 percent of the vote).9
Despite the brevity of her term, Sekula Gibbs stayed upbeat and ready to work. “The people of the district have been without representation for over six months . . . I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and making sure I get as much done as possible.”10 She was sworn into the House on November 13, 2006, and was assigned to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Education and the Workforce Committee.11 Though the House was in session for only two weeks during Sekula Gibbs’s abbreviated term, she set to work on her agenda. She addressed the House shortly after taking her seat declaring her plans to tackle health care, immigration, and national security.12 Sekula Gibbs cosponsored several bills relating to border security and Medicare reform.13 She voted for the Tax Relief and Health Care Act, which provided tax credits for investments in renewable energy and expanded access to Health Savings Accounts. The law also expanded access to oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.14
In 2008, two years after completing her brief term in the 109th Congress, Sekula Gibbs ran for her old seat in the 111th Congress (2009–2011) but lost the Republican nomination to Pete Olson, who went on to unseat Nick Lampson. She returned to her dermatology practice in Clear Lake, Texas, and retired from medicine in 2014. In November of 2019, she won election to the township board of directors of The Woodlands, Texas.15
1Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (13 November 2006): H8603–8604.
2“About Dr. Sekula Gibbs,” Bay Oaks Dermatology, accessed 3 March 2020, http://www.bayoaksdermatology.com/about.htm; “Shelley Sekula Gibbs,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov; “John Patrick Sekula,” 23 April 2014, Wilson County News (Floresville, TX), https://www.wilsoncountynews.com/articles/john-patrick-sekula/; “Mary Rose Maha Sekula,” 21 May 2019, Wilson County News, https://www.wilsoncountynews.com/articles/mary-rose-mahasekula-2/; Victoria Dixon, “Sekula-Gibbs Joins Congress Mid-Session,” 29 November 2006, Wilson County News, https://www.wilsoncountynews.com/articles/sekula-gibbs-joins-congress-mid-session/; Tim Fleck, “Overdose,” 22 August 2002, Houston Press, https://www.houstonpress.com/news/overdose-6558297.
3Mike McDaniel, “An Anchor to Remember,” 31 December 2000, Houston Chronicle: 8; Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (13 November 2006): H8603; Fleck, “Overdose.”
4Leigh Hopper, “Thousands Gain Access to Health Clinics,” 10 August 2005, Houston Chronicle: B4; Kristen Mack, “The Race for City Hall 2003,” 28 October 2003, Houston Chronicle: A15; “Shelley Sekula Gibbs for Congress,” official campaign website of Shelley Sekula Gibbs, 7 May 2006, https://webarchive.loc.gov/all/20060705190539/http://www.sekula-gibbsforcongress.com/bio.php.
5“Thomas Dale DeLay,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov.
6Eric Hanson, “Sekula-Gibbs Picked as Write-in Candidate,” 18 August 2006, Houston Chronicle: B1; Almanac of American Politics, 2008 (Washington, DC: National Journal Group, Inc., 2007): 1598.
7Almanac of American Politics, 2008: 1598; Congressional Directory, 105th Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1997): 14, 1074; “Nicholas V. Lampson,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov.
8“Tilt to the Right,” 1 November 2006, Houston Chronicle: B8; Kristen Mack, “Lampson Beats Write-in to Capture DeLay Seat,” 8 November 2006, Houston Chronicle: A1; “Shelley Sekula Gibbs for Congress”; Kristen Mack, “All Three Hopefuls Lean to the Right,” 5 November 2006, Houston Chronicle: B1.
9Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present”; Texas secretary of state, “Race Summary Report, 2006 Special November Elections,” 6 November 2006, https://elections.sos.state.tx.us/elchist128_state.htm.
10Todd Gillman, “From Hyphenated Write-in to Abbreviated Term, Sekula-Gibbs Vows Dash to Finish as DeLay Fill-in,” 14 November 2006, Dallas Morning News: 1A.
11Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Congress Profiles:109th Congress (2005–2007).”
12Eun Kyung Kim, “Sekula-Gibbs, Staff get off to Rocky Start in D.C.,” 16 November 2006, Houston Chronicle: A3; Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (13 November 2006): H8603–8604.
13Medicare Physician Payment Reform and Quality Improvement Act of 2006, H.R. 5866, 109th Cong. (2006); Border Law Enforcement Act of 2005, H.R. 4360, 109th Cong. (2005); Border Security Enforcement and Detention Act of 2005, H.R. 4238, 109th Cong. (2005); Medicare Beneficiary Freedom to Contract Act of 2005, H.R. 709, 109th Cong. (2005).
14Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (8 December 2006): H9079; Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, PL 109-432, 120 Stat. 2922 (2006).
15Texas secretary of state, “Race Summary Report, 2008 Republican Party Primary Runoff Election,” 8 April 2008, https://elections.sos.state.tx.us/elchist140_state.htm; “About Dr. Sekula Gibbs”; Jeff Forward, “After Position 5 Victory, Sekula-Gibbs Brings Prior Political Experience to Woodlands Board,” 8 November 2019, Houston Chronicle, https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/woodlands/news/article/After-Position-5-victory-Sekula-Gibbsbrings-14821491.php.