Over the Rainbow

Democrats get their ticket. But can they get the votes?

Miller believes the candidacy of Sanchez is crucial to Democratic hopes, even if he doesn't win.

"He's got to get competitive early and remain that way throughout the process," opines Miller. "If he starts to fade, it hurts Sharp a lot, and Kirk Watson for attorney general, and down the line."

The scenario is particularly favorable to Sharp, a savvy politician. He lost the 1998 lieutenant governor race to Perry by only 70,000 votes and carried his opponent's home county.

The one-vote Senate difference could make Kirk a top target for GOP guns.
Peter Calvin
The one-vote Senate difference could make Kirk a top target for GOP guns.

"With his ethnic front covered, you figure Sharp can really make hay in rural and small-town areas," says Murray. "And now he won't get beat in the big cities precisely because the minority vote will offset the suburban Republicans."

"Sharp right now is positioned perfectly," agrees Miller. "Many people credit him with the vision of this ticket, and it's a smart vision whether it's his or not, a perfect confluence of his personal interest and the party's interest."

Miller says Sharp has been impressive by reaching out to Republicans and attracting supporters like former Astros great Nolan Ryan. "He's running like a Republican and appearing as moderate as possible. And that's a very good strategy for him. That's a winning strategy." Miller cautions that Sharp will be badly outspent by Dewhurst and could be vulnerable to an intensive negative media campaign over the summer.

The consultant says, "The whole game for the Democrats is the first four slots. Below that it's just not going to happen."

However the dream-team strategy plays out, Texan political junkies are guaranteed an upcoming political season as competitive and entertaining as anything the state's gridiron powers can field in the fall.

Close to You

When the TV cameras focused on Chris Bell for his Democratic primary victory speech at Ovations in the Rice Village last week, practically joined at his hip was City Controller Sylvia Garcia, the party's Precinct 2 commissioner nominee. Garcia proceeded to soak up the limelight as Bell lieutenant Jeff Steen and then the candidate himself waded through a lengthy list of thank-yous to politicians who had endorsed Bell in the 25th Congressional District race.

Garcia's name never came up -- she had previously declined to give Bell a thumbs-up in his rough-and-tumble campaign against City Councilman Carroll Robinson. The omission seemed to have no effect, as Garcia continued to smile and applaud.

Bell denies he intentionally snubbed Garcia, saying he understood her decision against making an endorsement. He says he expects to work closely with her as a fellow Democrat on the November ballot.

Several Bell supporters were not so understanding, making snide asides afterward about Garcia's alleged stage-hogging, and the fact Bell's wife, Alison, had to practically squeeze herself into the picture with Bell and the controller.

"Let's just call her 'static cling,' " hissed one. It was a bit reminiscent of runoff night in the mayoral election last December. Garcia had irritated mayoral supporters by waiting so late to endorse Mayor Lee Brown over Orlando Sanchez that it had little effect on the outcome. But she was similarly omnipresent at Brown's side during the victory celebration.

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