Skip to comments.An Analysis of the 2002 Democrat Defeat in Texas
Posted on 11/10/2002 12:35:37 PM PST by Theodore R.
Democrats' dream team falters
BY DAVID KOENIG Associated Press Writer
DALLAS - Back in April, Democrats thought they had figured out how to break the Republicans' grip on statewide elected offices.
They nominated a ticket led by a wealthy Hispanic businessman, a moderate white politician, and a pro-business, black former mayor of Dallas.
They called it the dream team - designed to appeal to liberals and moderates of many racial and ethnic groups, including the state's growing Hispanic population.
The strategy failed miserably in Tuesday's elections. Not only did Republicans retain every statewide office, most of their candidates won by larger margins than four years ago, when the GOP ticket was led by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
"Texas is overwhelmingly Republican and will continue to be Republican for at least a decade" until more Hispanics register and vote, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "The dream team was a good idea but just premature."
Gubernatorial hopeful Tony Sanchez, who spent at least $59 million of his own fortune on the campaign, lost by more than 800,000 votes to Gov. Rick Perry, 58 percent to 40 percent. Senate hopeful Ron Kirk, the former mayor of Dallas, fell to John Cornyn, the state attorney general, 55 percent to 43 percent. Democrat John Sharp, who is white, also lost in his race for lieutenant governor to David Dewhurst by 52 percent to 46 percent.
With a national trend favoring Republicans, just about any Democratic ticket likely would have lost, analysts said.
But in a nasty campaign marked by negative advertising from both parties, Republican attacks on Sanchez were especially effective, said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston.
"That polarized older Anglos and Republicans against Democrats," Murray said. "There was very little ticket-splitting, and there weren't any independents at the polls."
Bob Stein, a Rice University political science professor who tracks Hispanic voting, estimated that 15 percent of Democrats abandoned Sanchez because of questions about a Sanchez-controlled savings and loan that failed in 1988 and required a $161 million federal bailout. The thrift was used by reputed Mexican drug kingpins to launder money in the 1980s, as GOP advertisements reminded voters over and over in the campaign's final days.
The Democratic dream team delivered in heavily Hispanic South Texas. Sanchez, a first-time candidate, and Kirk carried the region by large margins.
But the Democrats were routed in every other region of the state, particularly in affluent suburban counties.
Some analysts said Democrats lost because minority turnout fell below expectations.
Stein said an early analysis indicated that Hispanic turnout rose only slightly over 1998, when Hispanics cast 11 percent of all votes. He had expected 18 percent this time, still far below their 32 percent share of the population, according to the 2000 Census.
The Democratic candidates "were attractive to black and brown voters, there just weren't enough of them," Stein said. He attributed stronger turnout among whites to their higher average age and habit of voting.
According to one exit poll, those Hispanics who did turn out voted overwhelmingly Democratic - unlike 1998, when Bush won nearly half the Hispanic vote.
"A big Latino turnout in a Republican year breaks this conventional wisdom that Hispanics were turning more Republican in the Bush years. You can forget that," said the institute's president, Antonio Gonzalez.
Others, however, warned that Democrats are having an increasingly difficult job winning white voters, offsetting any gains they hoped to achieve by registering new Hispanic voters.
Kirk downplayed the factor of race in Tuesday's election.
"Texas may not be ready to elect a black, but this year America didn't like any Democrats - didn't like them black, didn't like them white," Kirk said. "We did not lose this race because of racism."
Kirk said he will return to practicing law and won't run for Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate seat, even if she steps down when her term ends in 2006.
Sanchez told supporters he'll soon announce his plans.
Hispanics interviewed by The Associated Press said they wouldn't be discouraged by a Sanchez loss, and also indicated that ethnic pride was a strong factor in their voting.
"When I was a little kid, I was a dirty Mexican," said Enrique Hinojosa, a 67-year-old retiree in the Lower Rio Grande Valley town of Los Fresnos. "I still remember it. Now all our commissioners, our judges, they're Mexicans, and why not? One day we'll be the majority."
What is worse is that the Democrats do not see it as such or expect us not to see it!
So the overwhelming majority of blacks and hispanics are suppose to vote for 'racial' candidates but 'white' voters are suppose to ignore that.