GOP donating to Democrat in Texas

By WND Staff

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One of the most unusual political stories of the year is unfolding in George Bush’s Texas in the race for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Phil Gramm. In an unusual twist, businessmen usually supportive of Republican candidates are boosting the campaign of the Democrat.

According to two polls conducted last month, GOP state Attorney General John Cornyn, whose nomination was pushed by White House political director Karl Rove, holds a relatively slim lead over former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who made national headlines earlier this year when he became the first African-American to win a major party nomination for statewide office in Texas.

Cornyn led Kirk 37 percent to 32 percent, with 30 percent undecided, in a Scripps Data Center poll, and 45 percent to 39 percent in a poll done for the Texas Medical Association.

It would be a tremendous embarrassment to the president and the White House political operation – and a huge boost to Democratic chances of holding the Senate – if Democrat Kirk can overcome Cornyn’s small margin in the president’s home state.

The 47-year-old Kirk’s unusually strong position is partly attributable to the considerable exposure he received as the first black mayor of a major Texas city. But another factor has been his surprising ability to raise money among the historically Republican business community in Dallas.

“I got elected with 64 percent [of the total vote] and re-elected with 75 percent in a city that’s got less than a 30 percent African-American population,” Kirk has boasted of his achievement.

Among Kirk’s contributors this year are such ordinarily Republican donors as Rick Douglas, chief operating officer for real estate services for the Staubach Co.; David Biegler, former chief executive officer of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and a self-styled “strong believer in Bush”; and Lucy Billingsley, developer and daughter of longtime GOP contributor and real estate magnate Trammel Crow.

All three cited a close association with Kirk in Dallas community life and a lack of familiarity with Cornyn as reasons for supporting the Democrat – even though they have disagreements with Kirk on issues.

Biegler, for example, told the Associated Press that he disagreed with Kirk’s opposition to the confirmation of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Nonetheless, he still favored Kirk for the Senate. “You’re voting for a person,” said Biegler. “You’re not voting for George Bush’s agenda, or against it.”

Texas Republican Chairman Susan Weddington disagrees sharply with that bizarre assessment, pointing out that Kirk’s election could determine whether or not the Democrats’ one-seat edge in the Senate is maintained or Republicans regain the majority that will free up key nominations and policies.

In addition to Kirk’s opposition to conservative judicial nominees, she cited several areas where the Democrat would battle the Bush agenda. Kirk has said, for example, that it would be “irresponsible” to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He also opposes abolishing the estate tax and calls opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration “goofy.”

Recently, Kirk went so far as to suggest that Cornyn – and by extension, apparently, Bush – didn’t mind supporting a strike against Iraq because a disproportionate number of soldiers involved would be minorities. (“I would be curious to see if he [Cornyn] would go to war without any thought of loss if the first half-million kids to go came from families who made $1 million,” said Kirk.)

“That’s an insult to all the military families here in Texas,” Weddington said. “Texas should not be the state that sends another Cynthia McKinney to Washington” – a reference to the Georgia House member who lost renomination after suggesting President Bush knew about 9-11 ahead of time but did nothing because he wanted to advance the financial interests of his friends.

Weddington believes Kirk’s unusually strong standing in the polls stems from the high profile he earned as Dallas mayor. Cornyn, she points out, had a much lower public profile as chief legal officer of the state. Noting that four state attorneys general from 1952 until 1982 had failed to win higher office, she said: “Arguing cases for the state is not exactly glamorous or well-publicized work. But John has done it well – arguing before the Supreme Court the right of Texans to pray at football games, making cases against child predators and nursing-home fraud.”

Weddington predicted that as “voters get to know John more, the lead he is now opening up in polls will increase and he will win.”

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