Election 2000

Chronicle Election Preview

State House & Senate

If you're looking for an election bet to place at next Tuesday afternoon's happy hour, consider Texas Senate candidate Bob Deuell, running against Dallas incumbent David Cain. A lot of big Republican money already is. The Associated Republicans of Texas PAC, for example, has dropped $110,000 on Deuell's race since Sept. 29. In the same period, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the tort reform group that's been buying House and Senate seats for a decade, put $405,000 on Deuell, much of it in TV ads. Half a million dollars in less than a month could end the career of Democrat Cain, whose Senate district covers a small part of Dallas County and parts or all of nine East Texas counties.

Deuell might be the best-funded, but he's not the brightest. Several years before it occurred to him that he might someday be running for the office, he wrote a letter to his senator, David Cain, complaining about the state's restrictive gun laws and wondering if he could pack heat in his office, which he rents from a hospital. In the same letter, he complained about a restrictive provision in the state's gun law that prohibits weapons from being carried within 300 feet of a school building. How, Dr. Deuell asked, can a parent drop a child off for school and carry a gun at the same time? In the same letter, quoted extensively by Ross Ramsey of Texas Weekly, Deuell argued that guns ought to be allowed in school buildings, claiming that children in the building would be much safer "with me on the premises with a handgun than they are now."

Most of the state's attention (and about $4 million) has been focused on Senate District 3, where Democratic trial lawyer David Fisher faces Republican Rep. Todd Staples in a bid to flip a GOP seat and regain control of the Senate. But Dr. Deuell is the Republican Party's insurance policy. Should Fisher defeat Staples, the GOP can retain its 16-15 lead by knocking off Cain. With Staples outspending Fisher in District 3, and an unanticipated flood of late money behind Deuell in District 2, the Republicans are expected to hold their majority in the Senate.

Democrats are likely to maintain control of the Texas House -- where they now hold a 78-72 lead -- but it could be close. Here are the House seats where the late money is flowing.

  • District 9: Incumbent Wayne Christian (R-Center) vs. Joe Evans

  • District 11: East Texas, Chuck Hopson, D, vs. Paul Woodard, R, for an open Rep seat

  • District 18: Incumbent Dan Ellis (D-Livingston) vs. Ben Bius

  • District 20: Incumbent Zeb Zbranek (D-Winnie) vs. Eddie Shauberger

  • District 21: Incumbent Allan Ritter (D-Nederland) vs. Mary Jane Avery

  • District 28: Incumbent Robby Cook (D-Eagle Lake) vs. Phil Stephenson

  • District 48: Austin Ann Kitchen, D, vs. Jill Warren, R, for an open Dem seat

  • District 68: Incumbent Rick Hardcastle (R-Vernon) vs. Betty Furr Ritchie

  • District 73: Incumbent Bob Turner (D-Voss) vs. Steve Fryar

    Most of the action is in East Texas, where Democrats are hoping for spending in Senate races to help take out far-right Republican Wayne Christian. Republicans are favored to hold the Republican open seat in District 11, while Democrats are expected to hold the Democratic open seat in Austin. In House races, it's not only Texas Republicans who are writing the big checks. The National Republican Campaign Committee has written $45,000 checks for Avery, Fryar, and Bius. The national Democratic Party wrote off Texas when George Bush ran as Ronald Reagan's vice-president and hasn't spent any money here since.

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