November 30, 2009
By JOE HOLLEY
The Houston Chronicle
The year was 2002, and long-suffering Texas Democrats came striding out of the wilderness behind a veritable “dream team” of statewide standard bearers: for governor, Tony Sanchez, a Hispanic businessman who happened to be a multimillionaire; for lieutenant governor, John Sharp, a cagey Anglo politician and former state comptroller; for U.S. Senate, Ron Kirk, the first African-American mayor of Dallas. Party sloganeers proclaimed '02 “the year of the comeback.”
It wasn't. A Texan president's popularity and fundraising prowess and the failure of the Democrat at the top of the ticket to ignite voter enthusiasm combined to deflate the dream. The party failed to capture a single statewide election.
Now, with the possibility that a popular big-city mayor is about to announce a change of plans and run for governor, Democrats are beginning to dare hope yet again. Maybe, just maybe, Houston Mayor Bill White — if he decides to make the switch — can energize the party, attract independent voters and capture a statewide office for the Democrats for the first time since 1994. Some hope the popular Houston mayor can be a Texas Barack Obama, beyond a certain “eary” similarity. . .
During his Monday news conference at City Hall, White said he will make his decision by Dec. 4.
“I think Democrats have a right to be pleased about this development, but the giddiness will fade,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. White, he notes, is a credible candidate, but Texas still is a Republican state by a margin of 8 to 12 points.
“Nobody knows whether he has that next gear to generate excitement in a statewide race,” Jillson said, “whether he can go down into the Rio Grande Valley and pull people out, whether he can put enough money into it and raise enough money to wage a credible fistfight in the street.”
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