ter, is there much control over how the money can be spent. In any case, Morales didn’t mention the issue, perhaps because he has been financing his legal defense out of his campaign For the party’s more pragmatic thinkers, it’s hard to beat Sanchez as a candidate. He may or may not beat the Republican incumbent, Rick Perry, but his big spending on television will help out his fellow Dems above and below him on the ballot. In fact, party insiders say, his candidacy was a deciding factor in whether or not the Dems would field candidates for many statewide races. Recall that just two years ago, most Rs ran unopposed in statewide races because the Dems simply felt they could not be competitive. Keeping a low profile at the COPE convention was the man waiting in the wings to lead state Democrats, John Sharp. It was Sharp who helped organize the search that found Tony Sanchez, and he stands to gain the most from it. Four years ago, he narrowly lost the lieutenant governor’s race to Rick Perry, despite having George Bush at the top of the ticket. This year Sharp is running against incumbent Land Commissioner David Dewhursta relative political novice and a real rightwingerand there is no Bush at the top of the ticket. Because of Sanchez’s money, the Dems have a real chance at winning this most important statewide race, as well as several others. Thus there was a palpable sense of relief when the delegates delivered the hoped-for anti-climax: Sanchez won the voice vote, with what was obviously a comfortable margin. Ironically, the real loser may have been former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk. Kirk, Dallas’s first black mayor, is battling Houston other seriously contested party nomination, the nod for U.S. Keeping a low profile at the COPE convention was the man waiting in the wings to lead state Democrats, John Sharp. It was Sharp who helped organize the search that found Tony Sanchez, and he stands to gain the most from it. Because of Sanchez’s money, the Dems have a real chance at winning the lieutenant governor’s race, as well as several others. Senate. Kirk was the favorite heading into the convention, having already lined up commitments from several unions in the preceding weeks, along with the endorsement of Joe Gunn. \(It didn’t help Bentsen’s case that he was one of the few Democratic Congressmen to vote for President Bush’s fasttrack trade negotiating authority bill, a key union issue that convention, a group of Sanchez/Kirk backers reportedly agreed to switch to Bentsen, in order to secure for Sanchez several large pro-Benstsen Houston-area unions that were threatening to go to Morales. The resulting compromise produced a rare dual endorsement for Bentsen and Kirk, and, of course, a win for Sanchez. \(Kirk, who calls himself a “raging Gunn called it a victory for civil rights, and he has a point: Thirty years ago, who would have predicted that the Texas AFL-CIO would have endorsed a ticket headed by a Hispanic and an African American? f this was a preview of what we can expect to see in the IprimarySanchez bashing Perry while Morales attacks Sanchezit’s good news for the Perry campaign. Sanchez is not likely to agree to Morales’s call for a half-dozen agreed to at least two, and it will be a tall order for the political novice, whose speaking and politicking skills still need some polishing. But the primary fight may be good news in a round-about way for labor, too. Just prior to the COPE convention, Sanchez made an appearance at a political convention held in Austin by AFSCME, the public employees union. Speaking just days after Morales announced his candidacy, an unusually invigorated Sanchez promised them the moon. AFSCME organizer Larry Blanchard, who spends a lot of time organizing correctional officers, was ready to hear some good news, and he liked what Sanchez had to say. Shivering in the chilly morning shadows outside the Hyatt’s entrance, he went over the election issues that matter to his members: The state prison system is still operating with a 3000-officer shortage; the turnover rate is hovering around 22 percent, and the much-vaunted officer recruitment drive is not panning out, he said. Blanchard just returned from the training academy in Beeville, where TDCJ was expecting an incoming class of 230 recruits. Only about 100 showed up. Blanchard isn’t expecting to get collective bargaining for public employees next session, just some little things would be nice; a bill offering arbitration for C.O.’s with job complaints and exit interviews for those who quit, for example. That measure made it through both houses with little opposition last session. Perry showed not the slightest interest in the bill, Blanchard said, until he vetoed it. A Democrat, any Democrat, in the governor’s office means a seat for labor at the governor’s table and a chance for Blanchard and company to come in out of the cold. 2/1/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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