April 09, 2002
Voting today

Today's runoff day, when we finally see who gets the Democratic nomination to oppose John Cornyn for the Senate seat that Phil Gramm is vacating. Once again there are some problems with missing officials at polling places around Houston, on a day when turnout is expected to be higher than usual (which still means 8 percent for the Dems and 5 percent for the GOP).

The Senate race took a few unexpected late turns, as Tony Sanchez quietly endorsed Ron Kirk yesterday. More unusual was a charge that the GOP is attempting to influence the runoff:

Meanwhile, state Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm accused Texas Republicans of trying to sabotage the Kirk-Morales runoff.

Malcolm said that since Sunday afternoon, thousands of automated phone calls have been placed to Democratic primary voters in several parts of the state blasting Kirk for being a "paid lobbyist for corporate special interests," including tobacco giant Philip Morris.

Before he was elected mayor of Dallas, Kirk was a lawyer-lobbyist and Philip Morris was one of his firm's clients. He continues to draw a salary from the law firm while campaigning for the Senate.

The same calls praised Morales and urged voters to challenge the "Austin bosses" and encourage Morales to "keep fighting for the little guy." The calls, which didn't identify their source, didn't specifically ask for votes for the schoolteacher.

Malcolm said Republicans were trying to suppress the vote for Kirk because they believe he would be a stronger candidate than Morales against the GOP Senate nominee, state Attorney General John Cornyn.

"This is a classic Republican dirty trick," she said.

Texas Republican Party spokesman Ted Royer said the state party wasn't behind the calls.

"This is another Democrat conspiracy theory with no basis in fact," he said.

If this charge is true - and even I need more than Molly Beth Malcolm's word for it - it's interesting to think that the GOP might be worried about Ron Kirk. They've dominated state politics since 1994. Are they afraid they might lose some control this year, or are they just taking no chances? Perhaps we'll find out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 09, 2002 to Election 2002