Texas Dems Have 'Dream Team' Ticket
Apr. 10, 2002
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DALLAS (AP) _ Texas Democrats have their ``Dream Team'' for November: a black candidate for U.S. Senate and a Hispanic for governor, a combination that could energize minority voters as never before.
Ron Kirk became the first black ever nominated in Texas for the U.S. Senate by easily winning Tuesday's runoff against Mexican-American teacher Victor Morales.
Should Kirk defeat Republican Attorney General John Cornyn this fall, he would be only the third black to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction.
The Democratic ticket also includes gubernatorial nominee Tony Sanchez, a wealthy Hispanic banker, and John Sharp, who is white, the lieutenant governor nominee.
Republicans ridiculed the ticket as a racial quota system and said race would take a back seat to issues during the campaign.
Gov. Rick Perry told reporters the election was not about ``someone's dream.'' ``Regardless of what your ethnicity is you're going to respond to ideas and vision,'' he said.
Cornyn invoked the names of President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in arguing that the race would be decided only on the issues.
``It's going to be decided on the basis of whose team this next United States senator will be on, whether you're on George Bush's team and his agenda for America or whether you're on Tom Daschle's team,'' he said.
At a press conference, Kirk asked to be judged on his record as a former Dallas mayor and Texas secretary of state, and said he is more of a political centrist than Cornyn.
``This is a race about who's going to be on team Texas,'' Kirk said. ``I'm not going to run from the fact that I'm of color.''
Of the 11.6 million Texans who are registered to vote, 2.4 million have Hispanic surnames and about 1.5 million are black.
Cornyn and Kirk are vying to replace GOP Sen. Phil Gramm, who is retiring. Democrats hold a one-seat edge in the Senate, and every close race this year is potentially pivotal.
Whether this race will be close isn't yet known. Cornyn has a full campaign war chest and the backing of Republicans right up to Bush.
But Kirk is coming off Tuesday's runoff in which he defeated Morales, 60 percent to 40 percent.
Many, including Kirk, attributed a measure of his victory to a last-minute endorsement from Sanchez and a strong push by Kirk's campaign urging Democrats to stick with the party favorite.
Bruce Buchanan, a government professor at the University of Texas, said the eleventh-hour tactics were all some Morales supporters needed to persuade them to back Kirk.
``The support was soft,'' Buchanan said. ``Even though they were attracted to the everyman, anti-establishment candidate, when it came time to facing John Cornyn, they wanted the candidate with the best chance to win.''