2002: A Race Odyssey

See how they run: The next statewide elections are twenty short months away.

Where did 2001 go? The calendar says the year has barely begun, but around the Texas Capitol, the attitude is, Out with the old, in with the new, bring on 2002. The hallways, back rooms, and watering holes are abuzz with speculation about who might seek higher office— U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general. (Sorry, president is taken.) The normal Texas political cycle—legislative sessions in odd-numbered years, elections in even-numbered years—has been distorted by the ennui that has gripped the Capitol this spring in the absence of major issues facing lawmakers and by the far more absorbing prospect of a 2002 campaign in which both parties will go all out to capture every high office.The main reason for the intense early focus on 2002 is that George W. Bush, who dominated Texas politics for six years, has moved on. His successor, Rick Perry, is unelected, unproven, and relatively unknown. The next election will determine whether the changes of the Bush years—when Republicans went from holding just one statewide office (Perry as agriculture commissioner) in 1994 to winning all of them in the 1998 elections—are permanent and whether Texas is rock-solid Republican country or a two-party battleground after all, where Bush’s popularity can no longer mask the residual strength of the Democratic party. So the stakes in 2002 are simple: for the Republicans, complete and total dominance of Texas politics for the foreseeable future; for the Democrats, survival. This is what the Democrats have been waiting for (if one can look forward to a last stand with anticipation): an election without Bush on the Republican ticket. The R’s have lost their star and the D’s hope that they have recruited one in Laredo oilman and banker Tony Sanchez, who is looking at running for governor. But figuring out the lineup for each side is like trying to put together a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Here are the pieces—and some questions that may help you solve

Tags: POLITICS

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