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Republicans over the fact that he was once invited to join the R’s by the party’s money men. But really, there isn’t a lot of party loyalty in this state, and that’s what the Dems are counting on. In large areas of Texas, people tend to vote for the candidate, not the party, which explains how Sharp very nearly beat Rick Perry for lieutenant governor in 1998, even with Bush winning in a landslide at the top of the ticket. Sharp is a much stronger candidate than current Land Commissioner David .Dewhurst, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. In addition to being better known by voters, Sharp’s a known quantity around the capitol, widely respected in both the bureaucracy and the lobby, where Dewhurst is generally considered a lightweight at best, a joke at worst. Sharp figures to once again draw a considerable number of moderate R’s and independents, as he did in 2000. And this time, the theory goes, he’ll have higher Democratic turnout along the border and in the inner citieshigh enough, by virtue of the diverse ticket, to put him over the top. And that brings us to the most radical thing about what the Dems are doing. Having lost every statewide office, some have argued, the party had nothing to lose in nominating the firstever Hispanic for governor of Texas and first AfricanAmerican candidate for U.S. Senator from Texas since Reconstruction. In fact, they had a great deal to lose. Like it or not, race is still a central organizing principle of politics in Texas, as it is in much of the United States. The Democrats may be the party of civil rights, but that doesn’t cut much ice in the Panhandle or East Texas, where there are many, many white Democrats and independents who simply will not vote for a black or Hispanic candidate, even if his family has lived here for 250 years, and even if he hunts deer with his children while Hispanics may soon be a majority in Texas, voting patterns suggest they won’t be a majority of registered voters for another generation after that. The Dems will always need Anglo voters, and they may have just written off a large number of them to the R’s. On a smaller scale, it’s a replay of the dynamic LBJ famously predicted when he signed the Civil Rights Actthat his party had just written off the South for two generations. In engineering the Sanchez-Kirk ticket, Sharp and the party leadership were essentially telling the party’s racist wingthere’s no other way to put itthat they could go to hell. And Phil Gramm and John Cornyn, with their carefully couched criticism of a “racially divisive” Democratic ticket at the Republican convention, were telling those same voters “Welcome to the fold.” It must have felt good to be on the right side of that tradeoff. Whatever the party may or may not be, it is truly inclusive. Look around the floor of a Democratic convention gays and lesbians, pro-choicers and pro-lifers, motorcycle gangs, housewives, elderly African-Americans, farmers, electricians, young Chicana organizers, all under the same roof, hooting at the same speeches and getting over-served at the same cash barsand ask yourself, “If this wasn’t a gathering of Democrats, what would it be?” During one of his few appearances on stage, John Sharp looked the delegates over and pronounced them beautiful. “It’s good to be here with all you good-looking, common sense people,” he said. Amen. 7/5/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7