On Tuesday, March 9, Texans could either choose the next president of the United States or they may participate in a relatively anti-climatic primary. Although several candidates have influenced the race, most notably Howard Dean, two main contenders remain - with similar platforms and starkly different backgrounds.
As John Kerry and John Edwards approach Bush's home state of Texas, they could draw on their differences to distinguish themselves for votes, while uniting in emphasizing the problems that Governor Bush left in his week. "They can come to Bush's backyard and see for themselves his failed policies," comments Michael Lavigne, communications spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party.
"Republicans don't have Texas lock and key," notes Larry Romo, a member of Veterans for John Kerry. "In Texas it's important we show that we have a large outreach here."
Democrats still in the running for the nomination - Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, Kerry, and Edwards - will compete for a Hispanic voting base concerned with job loss and immigration issues as well as education and the military.
"In San Antonio - Military City, U.S.A. - everyone has a relative or friend who served in the military or they're doing business with the military," notes Romo.
Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, could also use her Spanish fluency and support for bilingual education to appeal to Hispanic voters.
As a successful trial lawyer, Edwards is also in the upper tax bracket He will draw on his upbringing in a North Carolina mill town, which now has a large Hispanic population, to demonstrate his fight for lower-income Americans.
Edwards will also emphasize trade, which he has sought to use as one of the markers that give him an edge over Kerry. Although Edwards was not in the Senate in 1994 when Congress passed NAFTA, his 1998 Senate run highlighted his opposition to foreign trade agreements. Kerry voted for NAFTA, and has since called for a "120-day review" of all foreign trade agreements.
In San Antonio and Texas border towns the loss of manufacturing jobs are at least in part the consequences of NAFTA; Edwards' promise to keep "American jobs in America" may get Texans' votes.
However, Kucinich could rouse the maquiladoras belts with a planned tour of border towns after a swing through San Antonio on March 5. According to San Antonio campaign organizer Lori Ramirez, Kucinich will call for a withdrawal from NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.
In terms of immigration, Lavigne explains Bush's proposal "is not clear enough. It's just an idea, and Texans want a solution." On immigration, Kerry and Edwards are very close: Both support "earned legalization" for law-abiding undocumented workers who have lived in the U.S. for a substantial period of time.
Job creation is also a sticky issue. Bush's lieutenant governor and now-governor Rick Perry recently has received criticism for overestimating Houston job creation figures, and Bush recently retracted a statement that projected an additional 2.6 million jobs in America by the end of the year.
Glen Maxey, Texas organizer for Dean, believes Dean is responsible for raising the Texas Democrats' level of excitement. Although their candidate is no longer actively campaigning, Dean supporters still plan to vote for a Democrat in the primary.
"Whether they're Dean delegates or Kerry delegates or Edwards delegates, as the State Dean coordinator, I don't really care the option," says Maxey, noting that 180 Texas counties had organized grassroots campaigns for Dean.
"If Edwards makes even a medium showing on Super Tuesday, then Texans will have a large role in selecting the next president of the United States," notes Lavigne, who has seen a "ground swell" of Democratic support at the state party headquarters. "Voters in Texas are much more savvy than Bush gives them credit for. They're not going to vote for him just because he claims to be from Texas." •
The details of Kucinich's visit to San Antonio were not confirmed by press time. For details, see www.geocities.com/jmayer_mac/southcentraltexas_kucinich.html. The Kerry campaign has set a tentative date of March 7 to visit San Antonio. Edwards has not announced a San Antonio visit.
| The Texas primary is Tuesday, March 9
Run-off elections, if necessary, are April 13. You can find out the names of your elected officials by clicking on a link at the Bexar County Elections Office website at www.co.bexar.tx.us/elections and typing in your street name.
This site also contains a list of Early Voting sites and sample ballots for the Republican and Democratic parties. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open these files.