Washington Prowler

Ron Kirk Confounded

The Democrats' Senate candidate in Texas has a lot he should be worried about.

By 9.23.02

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Democratic Senate candidate Ron Kirk has a lot he should be worried about.

There's the new polling in Texas that shows him for the first time trailing Republican state Attorney General John Cornyn in a race the former mayor of Dallas was thought to have in hand heading into the home stretch.

And there are the miscues on the stump that have started popping up. Last week, Kirk, who is African-American, told an audience that he was opposed to unilateral action against Iraq and that his opponent would oppose it too if rich kids were going to be on the front line of the war. Almost immediately the Kirk campaign had to apologize.

Then there are the charges that Kirk is a kind of reverse carpet-bagger. No one questions his Texas roots, but instead of running a home-grown campaign, he has undertaken a Senate run that is almost wholly financed by out-of-staters. As previously reported by The Prowler (click here, here and here), Kirk has been criss-crossing the country, from New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco to Washington, D.C., raising money to get him elected. The likes of John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Vernon Jordan and pal Bill Clinton have all jumped in to help in the cause. Better than 60 percent of the money Kirk has raised has been out of state. And when final Federal Election Commission contribution filings are made before the New Year, some Democrats believe that number will be higher still.

"Given conservative politics in Texas, it's probably pretty tough for a liberal to raise the kind of money he'd need in state to run against a guy like Cornyn," says a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. "Kirk has to go outside for the cash."

But instead of worrying about his sinking poll numbers, or his missteps on the campaign trail, or his lack of grassroots funds, Kirk seems determined to continue on the same track. He has fundraisers planned on the West Coast later this month, and just returned from a big fundraiser in Washington, D.C., where Vernon Jordan hosted him while leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus were in town. In all, Kirk expects to net more than $1.5 million to help his campaign.

But instead of using that money to pay for lots of media buys in a large state where media spending is essential to get the word out, Kirk is purchasing some of the most expensive air time a candidate could afford: slots on top-rated syndicated show "Oprah" and on NBC's hit show, "The West Wing."

"He certainly isn't trying to reach out to new voters," says a Texas GOP operative in Houston. "Most of the people watching those shows are probably voting for him anyway. It's just throwing good money into a hole. It's that kind of thinking that has him behind in the polls."

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