When Will They Learn?

GOP label doesn't sell in mayoral races

Relaxing in the Brown suite after the outcome became obvious, Councilman Bell reflected on the unsuccessful attempt to bring Republicans into his nonpartisan mayoral campaign. After his third-place primary finish, Bell endorsed Brown and worked hard for his re-election.

Bell's early mayoral challenge was predicated on the idea that Brown was vulnerable, a judgment that he feels has been validated by Saturday's close vote. Since Sanchez made the runoff largely on his conservative appeal, he was unable to broaden his base any further.

Had Bell faced Brown in the runoff, Bell says, the Republicans would have been just one of several constituencies in his coalition. While that would likely have cost him the millions of GOP dollars and high-profile endorsements that Sanchez cornered, Bell believes the campaign would have been stronger without them.

Brown and supporters, including Sylvia Garcia, react as Fort Bend County returns arrive.
Tim Fleck
Brown and supporters, including Sylvia Garcia, react as Fort Bend County returns arrive.
Brown and supporters, including Sylvia Garcia, react as Fort Bend County returns arrive.
Tim Fleck
Brown and supporters, including Sylvia Garcia, react as Fort Bend County returns arrive.
Polland and Sanchez celebrated early.
Tim Fleck
Polland and Sanchez celebrated early.

"Because of the tenor of the campaign I ran," explains Bell, "I don't think it would have changed in the runoff. The message was not really Democratic or Republican."

Bell says Republicans really thought they could win by combining a partisan pitch to their own ranks with the added votes of Hispanics, who would support Sanchez out of ethnic pride even if they didn't agree with his politics.

The problem with that strategy in 2001 is that Hispanics are not yet ripe as a decisive voting bloc because too few are registered to vote. By the time that Latino vote does come of age, Democrats hope up-and-comers like Controller Garcia and Councilwoman-elect Carol Alvaradowill be there to provide Hispanic voters a mayoral candidate whose political beliefs are as simpatico as their surnames.

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