Naked City

El Paso Dreams

Texas Democrats, who held their convention in El Paso last weekend, were not nearly as entertaining as their GOP counterparts in Dallas the previous week. The blandness seemed largely by design: Party honchos had shooed away high-profile national Dems like U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, calling their proposed attendance a "distraction" from the focus on the state campaigns, and spent the weekend establishing their credentials as the "mainstream" Texas party. Tony Sanchez headlined the floor speeches with a proposal for a "Texas Political Integrity Act," a new ethics law that would tighten rules governing campaign finance, lobbying, and open records law violations. He blasted Gov. Rick Perry for turning the governor's mansion into "little more than a checkout line" for the benefit of insurance companies, HMOs, utilities, and other corporations -- and the Perry campaign responded quickly that Sanchez had his own ethics problems, associated with his banking interests in Laredo.

That's about as heavy as the fireworks got. The party platform supported abortion rights, affordable insurance, and other health care and education initiatives, and a "moment of silence" in public schools. It also called for a ban on the execution of the mentally retarded, but stopped short of endorsing a state moratorium on all executions proposed by state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh and Rep. Harold Dutton. Nor does the platform require background checks for all handgun purchases. Mainstream, indeed.

Not all the delegates professed delight with the party's focus on moderation in all things. A new "Progressive/Populist" caucus was formed at the convention, with the goal of "returning our party and state government to the people first, by curtailing the influence of corporations and powerful moneyed interests in diluting the power of people."

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