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FEATURE David Dewhurst the Unlikeliest BY ROBERT BRYCE w hen it comes to campaigning, Labor Day weekend has become a demarcation line that every political candidate accepts and seeks to use for political advantage. Climbing up on the stump during the three-day holiday weekendwhich for decades has marked the beginning of the sprint toward Election Dayis, for politicians, akin to kissing babies and trashing their opponents. It’s simply part of the candidate program, part of the tradition. And while TV advertising has diluted the importance of the Labor Day weekend, this year was no exception. Politicians all over the Lone Star State were on the stump, exhorting voters to get out the vote. On Friday night, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez spoke at a rally in Austin. On Monday, he appeared at labor-related events in Corpus Christi and Fort Worth. His opponent, incumbent Rick Perry, had events in Houston, Huntsville, Palestine, and Dallas.The nominees for U.S. Senate were similarly active. Democrat Ron Kirk had several appearances over the weekend, including one at the Harris County AFL-CIO’s endorsement rally on Sunday as well as events in El Paso, Odessa, and Amarillo. His opponent, John Cornyn, also appeared at the AFL-CIO’s rally. John Sharp, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, had a full schedule. He was in Austin on Friday night alongside Sanchez. He was in Harris County on Sunday and in Corpus Christi and Port Arthur on Monday. Meanwhile Sharp’s opponent, David Dewhurst, the Republican nominee, was… Hmmm, where was Dewhurst? His campaign wasn’t saying. Spokesmen for Dewhurst would only say that his next appearance would be on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. And where would that be? They wouldn’t say. \(Dewhurst reportedly spent the weekend at his Dewhurst’s absences over the Labor Day weekend might have made sense if he’d been sitting on a fat lead over Sharp. He wasn’t. A mid-August poll showed Dewhurst trailing Sharp by four points. He was losing despite having outspent Sharp by nearly nine to one. By June 30, Dewhurst had spent $11.3 million to $1.3 million for Sharp. About half of Dewhurst’s money came from his own pocket. To make matters worse, Dewhurst’s already-small political base within the mainstream GOP was shrinking. In mid-August, Sharp began running radio ads recorded by strikeout king Nolan Ryan. In the ad, the retired pitcher, who’s often listed as a potential political candidate, tells voters “John Sharp is a Democrat, but one this Republican is supporting.” That same month, Sen. John Carona, a Dallas Republican, announced that he was supporting Sharp, too. Even though he is “a dedicated Republican” Carona told Harvey Kronberg, editor of the Quorum Report, that “Sharp is the better choice. I have seen him in action and trust him to be a conservative problem-solver.” Dewhurst’s lackluster campaign, the GOP defections to Sharp, as well as general disaffection for Dewhurst among mainstream Republicans, are among a yard-long list of items that make him the most curious, maybe even spooky he is, after all, a former CIA operativecandidate on the November 5 ticket. Indeed, his campaign, which appears intent on hiding Dewhurst the candidate, appears to adhere to the old Cary Grant put-down: “Not to know him is to know him well.” There is a raft of oddities about Dewhurst. For instance, when was the last time the Texas GOP’s nominee for a critically important statewide officea candidate who’s running as an arch-conservativewas a divorced bachelor? And while Dewhurst’s personal life has tongues wagging, his political profile is even stranger. The majority of the members of the Texas Senatewith whom Dewhurst will have to work closelydon’t like him and more important, don’t trust him. The best that one prominent Republican who’ll be on the November ballot could say of Dewhurst was, “He’s weird. But he’s less weird than he used to be:’ Members of the Texas Housewith whom Dewhurst will have to workaren’t enamored with him either. “People hold him in no regard. Not high. Not low. No regard,” said one Democratic member of the house. “He’s never shown himself to be knowledgeable or assertive on any issues. He’s just inept.” Fewvery fewhigh-profile Republicans have endorsed him. His stint at the General Land Office has been almost wholly without distinction. In 2000, he had a very public feud with a fellow Republican, Comptroller Carol Keeton 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10/11/02