DEMOCRATIC STATE SENATOR David Cain of Dallas had a disagreement with his ex-wife over whether their children should go to private school. Republican state senator Drew Nixon of Carthage took a trip to Greece during the height of the campaign. Both incidents became the central issues in their bids for reelection this year, but such is life at the bottom of the political ladder. While presidential candidates debate the great issues facing the country, legislative races often involve gaffes and gotchas that have little to do with the future of Texas. Here are some scenes from the low road.

The deadbeat dad. Personal attacks can be devastating. Cain’s big lead over Republican Robert Reese evaporated when Reese saturated the media with charges that Cain was being sued for child support. Only a last-weekend ad blitz by Cain saved his seat.

It’s all Greek. Incumbents are vulnerable to charges of losing touch with the people. When Nixon’s Democratic opponent, state representative Jerry Johnson of Nacogdoches, heard that he was in Greece, he ran newspaper ads juxtaposing his own busy campaign schedule with Nixon’s trip—and white space. Nixon won a surprisingly close race by about eight hundred votes.

What’s in a name? Image is everything. When Democratic incumbent Layton Black of Goldthwaite resigned his seat, Republican Suzanna Gratia Hupp was favored to succeed him. But she used her full name, instead of just her first and last, causing some Republicans to worry that the handgun advocate might be seen as a closet feminist. Not to worry—she won.

Haven’t got a prayer. Every candidate wants God on his side, but not everyone can have Him. Democrat state senatorial candidate Rick Rhodes of Sweetwater tried to pull off an upset against Republican Troy Fraser with a TV spot that said, “I want to be your state senator for all the right reasons, and I ask for your prayers and your vote on Election Day.” He may have gotten the prayers, but he didn’t get the votes. A similar ploy failed against Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center. Voters received a letter urging a vote for GOP challenger Hollis Cain that said, “It is time that Laney be replaced. Proverbs 29:2 declares that ‘When the righteous rule, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.’” Republicans are not rejoicing, though; Laney won anyway.

Lightning strikes. Sometimes you lose votes because of plain bad luck. An electrical surge during a thunderstorm activated the automated telephone dialing machine of GOP legislative candidate Wayne Christian of Center. The machine dutifully called three hundred households with a recorded message for Christian—at four-thirty in the morning. Finally an irate recipient phoned Christian personally, and the phone was shut down. Fortunately for Christian, the incident happened in May; he had time to repair the damage and win.