Run-off Election Night
Primary Run-off Report
Kirk Hatches a Victory
In the end, it wasn't close. At 59.7% to 40.3%, Ron Kirk's defeat of Victor Morales belied the late media polls that had shown Morales with a lead (7%!) only two days before, and belied even the party insiders' nervousness over Morales' ability to once again beat the long odds against him. When standard-bearer Tony Sanchez endorsed Kirk over the weekend -- late enough to make some observers wonder if desperation had set in -- it was official that the party was putting all its eggs in Kirk's basket. He didn't disappoint -- trouncing Morales in North, East, and Central Texas, and making enough of a late rush along the border to prevent a Morales comeback.
If there was a cloud over the Kirk euphoria in Dallas, it was overall turnout. The party faithful are going to have to do much better in November than 5.1% to fulfill Kirk's victory promise against Republican John Cornyn: "This state belongs to the people. We're going to take it back for the people!"
Meanwhile in Austin, at Serrano's, the people's self-described Everyman was taking the loss hard, and Morales' sort-of-concession speech was not his finest hour. When the evening began and the vote was still close, he said that was all he needed: "If we stay close, El Paso will come through for me, as it did against John Bryant [in 1996]." His campaign posters -- still standard-issue '96 vintage, complete with pickup -- evinced the same nostalgia.
But as the night passed and the numbers spread, Morales turned defensive and querulous. "I completely distrust the Democratic Party leadership," he told reporters. "This is not someone whining. Playing fair and doing the right thing was not in their book. Can I prove wrongdoing? Not likely. There is no way Ron Kirk could have had those numbers on his own." The moment had the uneasy resonance of a man whining -- and entirely on his own. In the end, Morales declared himself through with Texas politics -- then wryly hinted at a run for the presidency.
Dist. 51: From Sunset to Midnight
As the sun set over the East Side and Nuevo Leon, Lulu Flores declared herself tired but confident, noting her tanned arms and sore feet from block-walking the neighborhoods of state House District 51. "We did everything we could do," she said. "It's been a phenomenal campaign and a wonderful experience. It's in the hands of the voters. If we win, we can harness some of that energy." Inside, Flores' mentor, Kingsville Rep. Irma Rangel, echoed that confidence. "Lulu's leading in the early voting," said Rangel. "And one more vote than the other side, that's all we need."
By midnight at the Millennium Center, it was nearly that close -- but Flores had fallen short. Eddie Rodriguez had come back from 15% down in the initial primary, making up more than 900 votes in the run-off to win by only 117 votes. Although he had taken the lead by 9pm, with a third of the votes counted, and then led throughout the evening, the outcome remained in doubt until the final tally. "We really worked our butts off, and got it together in the run-off," said an exhausted Rodriguez amidst a noisy group of supporters. "And I can't say enough about working with Glen Maxey, both at the Legislature and in the campaign. A lot of people came together to get this done."
Maxey, who is stepping down from the Dist. 51 seat this year, declined to take credit, and called it a victory "for the grassroots campaign, and for Eddie. We were outspent about three to one," he said, "but I told Eddie he needed to touch every voter personally: with 10,000 signed postcards, with phone calls, with going door-to-door. You have to talk to the voters, and he did that."
Notes From the Millennium
For the first time, the Millennium Center hosted the peripatetic Travis County election returns, with the frigid air conditioning reminding observers they were in an ice rink. But the count proceeded without a hitch.
Rodriguez and Dist. 50's GOP winner, Jack Stick, were the only candidates to show. Stick, heavily outspent by former state Rep. Bob Richardson, beat him overwhelmingly, 69% to 31%. One Democratic Party insider was pleased at the outcome: "Stick ran hard right -- let's just say his supporters worked for him religiously -- and Jim Sylvester [the Dem nominee] should have a good shot at beating him." Stick told the Chronicle his issues would be "transportation, economic development, lowering property taxes, and the 'Robin Hood' public school finance plan." Asked whether he supported the school finance plan proposed by Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, Stick replied, "I haven't read the Ratliff plan, but whatever is done must be 'revenue neutral.' I will oppose any property tax increase of any sort."
In the bitterly fought Democratic Senate District 20 race, McAllen Rep. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa beat Barbara Canales-Black. And two high-profile Republicans were upset: U.S. Rep. Dick Armey's son Scott lost the Dist. 26 congressional run-off to Michael Burgess by 10 percentage points, and in Dist. 31, John Carter beat the better-known and better-funded Peter Wareing 57%-43%.