Viva la gente Texas upstarts: They beat both Democratic and Republican party Establishments.

April 12, 1996

TRANSLATION from the Spanish: "Long live the people." People as opposed to politicians, incumbents, party bosses and big names with big feet.

In a titillated Texas last Tuesday, just plain Democrats and just plain Republicans turned on their party Establishments in a display of contrariness right out of a movie script.

Let's give star billing to the winner of the Senate Democratic primary. His name is Victor Morales, a civics teacher out of Poteet High School. Seems the kids in his class dared him to run for the United States Senate so he gassed up his white Nissan pick-up and drove around Texas quietly asking people to vote for him.

Mr. Morales was running against a seven-term congressman, John Bryant, who had the endorsements of every big Democratic name in Texas from Ann Richards on down. So what happened? With help from a galvanized Hispanic vote, Mr. Morales trounced Mr. Bryant.

Oh yes, Mr. Morales has a Republican opponent to beat in the November election. Name of Phil Gramm, incumbent senator, failed candidate for president, expert on taxes and all that good Washington stuff and the odds-on favorite to beat upstart Morales.

Now re-focus on the Republican race in the 14th congressional ** district of Texas. Running for re-election was Gregg Laughlin, one of those House Democrats turned Republican. His reward from Speaker Newt Gingrich: a seat on the mighty House Ways and Means Committee. He also had re-election endorsements from a former president and a standing governor, both named Bush.

Mr. Laughlin should have been a shoo-in. For wasn't Phil Gramm himself (see above) the most famous of Texas converts to the GOP turncoats? But Mr. Laughlin was beaten by another kind of switcher, a fellow named Ron Paul, who had been a Republican congressman, then ran as the Libertarian candidate for president and now has returned to the party fold.

Tuesday was one great day for Mr. Paul's people and Mr. Morales' gente.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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