Washington Prowler

Texas Two-Stepping Ahead

George W. Bush's successor learned from a master, as Ron Kirk is finding out. Plus: Al Gore lite.

By 6.20.02

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SMART MISCHIEF
While Democratic Texas Senate candidate Ron Kirk is away, Republican Gov. Rick Perry is creating mischief, and helping his state attorney general, John Cornyn, at the same time. On Tuesday, Perry appointed former Democratic state attorney general Dan Morales to the state anti-crime commission, a post that will give Morales, who hoped to challenge Perry for the governorship, but who lost in the Democratic primary, a public platform to speak from on an issue Morales claimed to care a lot about.

More troubling to Democrats in the state, however, is that Morales no longer appears interested in criticizing Perry or his administration.

"This is the kin of crap Karl Rove pulled all the time down here with Bush," says a Democratic state party official in Austin. "Co-opt the opposition. Morales is a turncoat; now he sees why no one supported him for the Democratic gubernatorial slot."

Sounds like sour taquitos to us. But why such anger?

John Cornyn isn't just the state attorney general, he's also the Republican candidate for retiring Sen. Phil Gramm's seat, and he and Kirk are locked in a tight race that Democrats across the country have targeted as a "must win" if they are to hold and expand on their control of the Senate.

At a recent off the record briefing with reporters and editors in Washington, DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe told 20 or so attendees that even if Democrats lost the Senate, winning the Texas Senate seat would be sweet, because a loss at home would embarrass Bush.

Which is, in part, why Kirk is out of the state right now, allowing Perry to make the headlines with Morales.

Kirk, who is a former mayor of Dallas, is having problems raising money inside Texas, pulling in less and less at fundraisers. "It's an ongoing problem," says one Democratic political consultant in Houston. "Kirk isn't getting the checks cut for him the way he was three months ago. It's troubling because the race is tight, and he's going to need every dime. He's going out of state to make up the difference."

Tuesday and Wednesday found Kirk in Los Angeles sucking up to Magic Johnson and one of the Baldwin brothers. (Who can tell which one? They all sound the same.) Expected take: a little over $125,000. Then on to San Francisco, where Barbara Boxer will fete her potential colleague in the hopes of pulling in another $75,000 or so. "That's not bad for a three-day swing out west," says the Houston consultant. "That helps move him into the fall for media buys and the like."

But the traveling hat in hand show doesn't end out on the left coast. From Frisco, Kirk heads east to New York, where Hillary Clinton will host a Manhattan fundraiser. Chuck Schumer apparently isn't invited. ("It's Senator Clinton's event," says one of her New York aides. "He doesn't go to hers and she doesn't go to his.") But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will be there to toast the man he hopes will be the Junior Senator from the Great State of Texas.

GORE FOR BROKE
Democrats in Washington will be eyeing the goings-on in New York next Thursday when Florida loser Al Gore holds his first big fundraiser for his Leadership '02 PAC there. It will be the first fundraiser Gore has held in New York since his loss in 2000. "We're hoping for more than $100,000 in funds," says a current Gore adviser. "But there is a lot of fundraising going on up there with other candidates, other campaigns. We don't want to set the bar too high."

Speaking of Gore, he has launched his PAC's long-awaited Leadership02.com website. The picture he uses of himself appears to be circa 1992, and for a man who claims to be the best known Democrat in the country, he sure likes to keep a low profile. Take, for example, his bio: "A candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 1988, he won Democratic primaries and caucuses in seven states. Four years later, Gore joined Bill Clinton as the Vice Presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket in 1992. He was sworn into office in 1993. Clinton and Gore were re-elected into office in 1996. In 2000, Gore ran for the Democratic nomination for President again and swept every single state that held a Democratic primary or caucus. He went on to win the popular vote in the 2000 presidential campaign."

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