Naked City

Morales Doing the Nasty

Late last week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Morales pledged "a wholly positive campaign" against opponent Tony Sanchez. "I have never run a negative campaign," Morales told an Austin press conference, "and I don't plan to start now." Over the weekend, various media polls showed Sanchez, using saturation TV advertising, had overcome Morales' early name-ID and surged ahead by eight to 10 percentage points for the March 12 primary (although it's just a month until the vote, a slight majority of likely Democratic voters say they remain undecided). On Monday, after insisting the numbers indicated his campaign is "right where we want to be," Morales went negative. Big time.

Morales recalled the history of Sanchez's Tesoro Savings and Loan, which failed in the Eighties to the tune of a $161 million dollar federal bailout. He said Sanchez's record "as a businessman" is a legitimate cause of voter concern, and went on to charge that Sanchez "should have known" that in 1983 and 1984, drug dealers were laundering $25 million through Tesoro. (The same charges were echoed a day later by the state Republican Party.) Sanchez responded that federal agencies had cleared Tesoro of any wrongdoing, and he called Morales' charges "kicks from a drowning man." In an Austin campaign rally, during which Sanchez emphasized primary school education and health insurance reform, state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos denounced Morales for his attacks. "He has no shame," said Barrientos.

The early poll numbers also suggest that the two frontrunners may be headed for a runoff, since Houston lawyer John WorldPeace and Bill Lyon of Waxahachie between them are polling about 15% -- perhaps enough to deny a majority either to Sanchez or Morales.

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