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While Dewhurst is willing to part with a king’s ranson to prove he belongs, if he’s elected, his inexperience and lack of political savvy could end up costing the state dearly. This summer, he took another bus tour, this one to 67 small towns and cities.The rural vote is clearly the place that Dewhurst feels he can win. Staying away from big cities, where rude reporters and impertinent TV cameras are always intruding, allows Dewhurst to sell himself in smaller crowds and in one-on-one settings. That kind of setting plays to his strength, says John Lyle, a Houston lawyer who has known Dewhurst since he was a teenager. “One on one,” Dewhurst is “as good a salesman as I’ve ever known in my life,” says Lyle. Dewhurst also has the backing of the right wing of the GOP He’s received big contributions from a host of perennial conservative funders including Dallas Dallas oil man Albert Huddleston East Texas poultry magnate, Lonnie also won the endorsements of dozens of small town officials, many of them Democrats. His web site doesn’t list any of his key group endorsements but he clearly has the strong backing of FreePAC, which mailed out brochures earlier this year of a gay couple kissing. The brochures, which were mailed to voters in several districts represented by Republican legislators, caused a firestorm of controversy. Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliffthe Republican from Mount Pleasant who will keep his seat in the Texas Senate and remains one of the body’s most widely respected membersheld a press conference in March to denounce the FreePAC mailing. Ratliff, backed by 22 other Republicans, called the mailing “hate mail and political pornography.” When asked to denounce the mailings, Dewhurst responded tepidly, saying only that the brochure was “unacceptable.” However, in the race for endorsements, Dewhurst is getting spanked. By early September, the only notable endorsements Dewhurst had won were from Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Restaurant Association PAC. By comparison, Sharp has been endorsed by most of the big statewide interest groups including the Texas Medical Association, Texas Association of Business, Texas Association of Realtors, Independent Bankers Association, Texas Civil Justice League, Farm Bureau, and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Those endorsements, says one former member of the because the groups know and trust Sharp. Plus, Sharp worked to gain their confidence. Dewhurst, he says, has never tried. “He’s been a statewide official for four years and he’s still an outsider in Austin,” says the official. “He never went to the Austin Club. He didn’t make friends with the lobby. He’s weird shy. He just hasn’t been in the mix.” While Dewhurst disdains everything about Austin, and presumably the lobbyists and Democrats who live in the city, he’ll have to find a way as lieutenant governor to make everybody happy, particularly the headstrong members of the Texas Senate. Which leads to the most important issue when it conies to Dewhurst… CAN HE GOVERN? Ah, that’s the $20 million question. Dewhurst will probably end up spending that much in his effort to find out whether anybody actually listens to him once he moves into the Capitol. And while Dewhurst is willing to part with a king’s ransom to prove he belongs, if he’s elected, his inexperience and lack of political savvy could end up costing the state dearly. The battle over the budget is always epic. But in the 2003 session, legislators will grapple with the biggest shortfall in recent memory, as they put together the 2004-05 budget. The state is likely to be short $10 billionor morein order to fund its existing programs. Dewhurst’s handlers insist that he’s such a savvy businessman that he can cut $5 billion from the state budget before breakfast. And he’s also pledged to balance the budget without raising taxes. Fat chance of that. When it comes time to make hard decisions on the budget, Dewhurst’s inexperience in legislative matters combined with the disdain many senators have for him could well make him wholly ineffective as lieutenant governor. As his friend John Lyle points out, Dewhurst is “certainly not a politician. Perhaps that’s the most refreshing thing about him.”While that may be the case, the lieutenant governor’s job demands well-honed political skills. It requires more diplomacy than just about any other in state government. The lieutenant governor has to maintain good working relationships with a universe of local and statewide officials in order to clarify and set the Senate’s agenda. Dewhurst may be able to rope a calf around the head, but lie hasn’t proven he can ride herd on a group of 31 senators. And that job will be doubly or triply hard given the enmity Dewhurst acquired during the redistricting fight last fall. As land commissioner, Dewhurst was part of the five-member Legislative Redistricting Board, which meets once per decade to decide how the state’s legislative districts are drawn. During that 10/11/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27