1 T WAS NOT Victor Morales, not voters confusing Victor Morales with Attorney General Dan Morales, not even his own poorly conceived election campaign that defeated Dallas Congressman John Bryant in the Democratic primary runoff for the U.S. Senate nomination. It was the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes. And John Bryant was not even a subject of the program that cost him the election. Early last spring, 60 Minutes was in El Paso reporting on a feature that would link several Texas Democrats to profits made in colonias the substandard residential subdivisions scattered along the Texas-Mexico border from Brownsville to El Paso. Former Governor Ann Richards was one of the Democrats 60 Minutes looked at. But El Paso Congressman Ron Coleman, who served with Bryant in the state house until 1982 when both progressive Democrats were elected to Congress, was the centerpiece of the 60 Minutes colonias feature. \(Bryant and Coleman also had been part of a 1970s progressive cabal whose seating block in the Texas House was known as For at least two terms, Coleman had been thinking aloud about retiring, making the argument that El Paso should be represented by a Mexican American. 60 Minutes helped him make up his mind. After the colonias feature aired, Coleman was damaged goods. But months before the colonias story was scheduled to run, as TV reporters openly worked El Paso sources, a Mexican American was getting ready to make the race against Coleman. Border Patrol Sector Chief Silvestre Reyes, an El Paso native encouraged by some members of the business establishment who disagreed with Coleman’s progressive politics, saw the Congressman’s predicament as a singular opportunity. So in the end, Coleman’s sloppy and ethically questionable management of his financial affairs cost him his seat in Congress and the opportunity to retire on his own terms, passing the reins and his progressive legislative agenda to his aide, Jose Luis Sanchez. \(Sanchez was narrowly achieved his goal of stepping aside to make way for a Mexican American. But Reyes whose courtship of the media while he was employed as a civil servant was at times a more visible and effective campaign than the one George Shipley and Gray McBride put together for Bryantwas not the successor Coleman intended. Another unintended consequence of Ron Coleman’s appearance on 60 Minutes was the defeat of John Bryant. Eliminate El Paso Countyand elected officials there claim that’s what the Texas House Appropriations Committee does every two yearsand John Bryant all but won the election. On April 9, more Democratic primary runoff voters turned out in El Bryant’s hometown county of Dallas \(popuBexar In El Paso, 39,120 Democratic primary voters went to the polls, and Victor Morales got 24,320 of those votes. Morales defeated Bryant by a total 11,700 of 484,598 votes cast statewide, and the 9,520-vote margin in El Paso provided the critical mass of votes that carried Morales to victory. The best and most accessible page of post-election numbers-crunching was written by Austin American -Statesman political columnist Dave McNeely. In his April 18 column, McNeely cited Dan Weiser of Dallas, “whose hobby is analyzing election statistics,” and who estimated that Hispanics represented 40 to 45 percent of the March 12 Democratic primary turnout. Based on his extrapolation of historic voting patterns in predominantly Hispanic counties, Weiser calculated that approximately 88 percent of those Hispanic voters cast their votes for Morales. Statewide turnout in the March 12 Democratic primary election was 9.2 percent of registered voters; in the April 9 runoff it dropped from 9.2 to 5 percent. However, according to the Statesman’s computer analysis, in counties in which at least 75 percent of residents are Hispanic, the turnout actually increased to 13.6 percent. That high turnout wasn’t driven by Victor Morales’ fiftythousand-dollar campaign. Instead, several capital-intensive congressional runoffsin particular, the Reyes-Sanchez race in El Paso and the runoff in District 15 in Lower Rio Grande Valley, where Ruben Hinojosa defeated Jim Selmandrove voters to the polls. Morales’ vote surplus in El Paso, and Hidalgo County in the Valley, accounted for just under 20,000 votes. That’s high numbers for low dollars. But November’s election will be domi See “Morales,” p. 7 r ,,,,, THI TEXAS 1 0 FEATURES An Uneasy Truce in the Affirmative Action Wars By Michael King 4 Comanche Peak Epidemic?: Chernobyl Comes to Texas By Betty Brink 7 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorial Why Morales Was Victor 3 Las Americas Neo-Liberalism Meets Reality By John Ross 10 Molly Ivins Morales, Less Gramm 12 Jim Hightower Rising Pork; Congress Up in . Smoke; and the Poor Rich 12 Chemical World Health Crisis On the Border 13 BOOKS AND THE CULTURE The Value of Things Poetry by Camille Domangue Whine and Poses Book review by Brad Tyer Nuclear Trilogy Book review by James W. Kunetka Mapping Sexuality Book review by Lars Eighner Free At Last Dance review by Ann Daly Declaration of Independents Film & book review by Steven G. Kellman 15 16 18 20 21 22 AFTERWORD Rite of Passage By Dagoberto Gilb Political Intelligence 23 24 Cover art by Kevin Kreneck EDITORIALS The 60 Minute Man THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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