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Kevin Lopez and JoAnn Ramon, heads of two different Democratic coordinated campaigns in San Antonio. Jake Bernstein Election, continued from page 7 bipartisan legislation Perry killed. Instead, Sanchez attacked Perry solely for taking contributions from special interests affected by the legislation. The campaign included a fancy faux-movie poster entitled “The Sum of All Vetoes,” and a television commercial that ripped off MasterCard. But it didn’t stick. For already skeptical Anglos, the Democratic strategy converted the dream into a stereotype. Every Republican from Karl Rove down knows that what some Anglos dislike about affirmative action is their perception that it’s unfair; that based on some quota, the undeserving receive something that rightfully belongs to the deserving. \(Cornyn played on this by wrongfully accusing Kirk in commerteam was an explicit quota, but it didn’t have to be. The players on the team were capable and knowledgeable men. The only novice, Sanchez, showed a willingness to listen and to learn essential in a successful politician. That reality didn’t make it past the barrage of negative ads from both sides. The Sanchez campaignsetting the tone for the entire ticketfailed to produce any real policy alternatives. Voters quickly grew weary of platitudes devoid of specifics, like “scrub the budget” as an answer to a $10 billion deficit. With help from the Republicans, the message that trickled through for Anglos was that once again, minorities were asking for promotion without proving their worth. It was a little before 6:00 p.m. on election day in San Antonio at the Sanchez headquarters, a giant, empty showroom off the highway. The final push was on, and the atmosphere was chaotic. At least 100 people, mostly teenagers milled about, most working, others socializing. On one side, phone bankers dialed and pleaded. Across the room, workers set up two kegs for the victory party. Rows of empty chairs faced a giant television screen. Christian Archer, who spent the last few months of the election running the ground operation, shouted into a phone and walkie talkie almost simultaneously. Archer fielded calls from precincts about voters who needed rides or were encountering difficulty in casting their ballot. Amidst the anarchy, one of Archer’s young field workers approached. “We’re going to do this again tomorrow, right?” he asked. Archer stared in disbelief. “No,” he replied weakly. Some Democratic leaders cynically never thought Tony Sanchez had a chance to win. Instead they hoped his money and presence on the ballot would help those, like John Sharp, below him. When the final results were tallied, Sanchez lost to Perry by 18 points. Few Democrats in competitive races could escape being swamped by a rout that large. In the end, Democrats tried everything. Sanchez alone ended up spending at least $40 per vote. In addition to the massive, albeit self-defeating media campaign, they also mounted an enormous field operation. Millions of pieces of literature arrived in mailboxes across the state. Thousands of paid “volunteers,” mostly youngsters below voting age, canvassed homes looking for people who leaned Democrat. An unprecedented number of live and automated phone calls were placed. “This has been the biggest, largest ground war ever waged in Texas by the Democrats,” boasted Archer. “We’ve never been able to frilly fund this kind of effort across the state.” There is nothing more important to the survival of the Democratic Party than a strong grassroots operation.Yet it’s also the hardest to accomplish, particularly with the low-income people who are the Democrats’ base. “It’s hard getting people into the system,” says Claudia Flores, who helped Team Texas with Latino turnout in Houston. “They are hesitant in getting involved. They don’t think it makes a difference. That’s the perception you have to overcome.” Without doubt, the Sanchez field operation’s Achilles heel was its lack of message.The money available only made it worse. The Sanchez campaign, no doubt taking a cue from its candidate, was marked by a corporate ethos that many say robbed it of the passion necessary for a political campaign.The readily available money encouraged greed, and a surfeit of trinketsfrom rain ponchos to backpacksgave the campaign the feel of a giveaway, not a movement. “There was a backlash to so many ads,” recalls one Sanchez field worker in East Texas. “Too many phone calls, too many signs, but there was no real message.” 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11/22/02