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majority black congressional district in Texas. “Because I didn’t do what white, liberal, extremist Democratic leaders wanted me to do, they’re trying to punish me,” Wilson told The Houston Chronicle. “It’s a racist attitude. They think they ought to control the minds and hearts of every black in the Democratic Party, and if you don’t do what they say, they’re going to try to drag you back to the plantation like a runaway slave.” And yet his most effective foes were fellow black lawmakers from Houston. Their message was that the long-time incumbent had abandoned his district. Coleman bought three 30-minute time slots on Houston’s KCOH radio station. He dedicated his time on the city’s airwaves to dissecting Wilson’s voting record and emphasizing how the incumbent had hurt his middle and low-income constituents on issues such as public education, health care, and college tuition. “Democracy works, if you work it,” says Coleman of his efforts on behalf of Allen. For his part, Noriega helped mobilize Allen’s Hispanic outreach program, which pulled in support from the roughly 1,800 Hispanic households in the district. “They were ripe for empowerment and getting involved in something over which they felt they could have some controlsome way of influencing their own destiny;’ says Noriega. For decades, Wilson’s reign seemed like the only true destiny in the district. Allen should know. In 1998, she ran against Wilson for the same seat and lost badly. During that race, her candidacy generated little buzz and a mere $10,275 in funds. Six years laterrunning against the same incumbent and on more or less the same platformAllen’s campaign received national attention and more than $150,000 in donations. Allen succeeded in tapping into Democratic outrage across the country for funds, partly due to Democratic blogs, such as the Daily Kos. “Ron Wilson has sold out the Democratic Party time and time again, and it’s time we take him out;’ reads a posting on the web site, which is run by progressive activist Markos Moulitsas Zuniga. “It’s critical that we send a message to Democrats nationally that cooperating with Tom DeLay and Republicans on redistricting is completely unacceptable… the Democratic grassroots won’t tolerate it.” From Northfield, Minn., to Brooklyn, N.Y., Democrats read similar messages and contributed to Allen’s campaign over the Internet. Nathan Epstein, a 29-year-old DVD programmer from Los Angeles, gave Allen $20.27. Epstein says he doesn’t know much about Allen and has never set foot in Houston. “I just wanted to help out the party;’ says Epstein. But the majority of Allen’s campaign contributions came from a single source, the Texans for Insurance Reform, a political action committee formed earlier this year by Texas law firms specializing in personal injury suits. Treasurer Mike Slack, an Austin-based class action lawyer, redirected Observer questions about the PAC to Dan McClung, a powerful Democratic operative from Houston. Like so many of the influential Democratic consultants in Houston, he once worked for Wilson. No more. McClung also helped redirect Democratic donations to Marc photo: Felix Gillette Veasey’s campaign against Rep. Glenn Lewis in Fort Worth. In that race, Texans for Insurance Reform gave Veasey more than $30,000. Veasey used the cash in part to promote a platform that focused on issues closer to home. He emphasized the lack of economic development under Lewis’ watch. He suggested that perhaps Lewis was too busy padding his resume in Austin to bother wooing restaurants and grocery stores to return to commercial corridors overrun with liquor stores and pawnshops. Lewis, however, says that Veasey’s motivation for running had nothing to do with street-level considerations. Lewis attributes Veasey’s candidacy to an internecine spat between Democratic leaders that started last summer on the eve of the redistricting hearings in Dallas. At that time, Veasey was working as a field coordinator for to the Republican redistricting plan, which had targeted his boss’ seat. Veasey visited Lewis, asked him to testify at the hearings, and handed him a set of talking points. Lewis read over the script. He agreed with most of it, but he told Veasey that in addition to criticizing Republicans, he planned to chastise former Speaker of the House, Democrat Pete Laney. Veasey warned Lewis to avoid criticizing Laney. “I told him, if you go and talk badly about the former Democratic leader to Statehouse representatives, people are going to be upset with you,” recalls Veasey. “You shouldn’t do that.” “The whole thing was condescending,” recalls Lewis. In the end, he voted against the redistricting plan but refused to testify at the public hearings. A few months later, Veasey announced his candidacy against Lewis. continued on page 20 3/26/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5