Can a rich Hispanic save the Democrats? The moment that Texas Democrats came back to life occurred in early July at an Austin fundraiser for the party’s effort to regain control of Congress. Amid the usual chitchat, an electrifying rumor swept through the crowd; said one attendee, you could see it travel through the room, lighting up person after person. The rumor, which soon made the papers, was that A. R. “Tony” Sanchez, the Laredo oilman, banker, lawyer, and University of Texas regent (appointed by George W. Bush), is contemplating a race for governor in 2002. Here are the questions racing through Texas political circles.
Why are Democrats so excited? To be viable, a candidate needs two things: money and votes. The party’s last gubernatorial nominee, Garry Mauro, had neither. Sanchez has both. He’s rich and Hispanic—a political convenience store, quick and easy shopping for everything you need to win an election. He owns the state’s eighteenth-largest gas-producing company and, with his family, is the controlling stockholder in International Bancshares Corporation. He is willing to spend upwards of $15 million of his personal fortune to win the race.
How serious is Sanchez about running? Serious enough to schedule a meeting with Democratic consultant Paul Begala in Washington. But advisers say he will put off his decision until after the November election. In the meantime, he will be looking at polls and making sure everyone is on board, including his family.
Can the Hispanic vote win an election for the Democrats? Maybe. The rule of thumb is that, all other things being equal, Republican statewide candidates start with an eight-point advantage over Democrats, thanks to massive growth in suburban Houston,