- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2001

HOUSTON (AP) Forced into a runoff in his bid for re-election, Mayor Lee Brown has waged Houston's most negative campaign in decades by raising questions about his opponent's college grades, his City Council attendance, even his loyalty to fellow Hispanics.
"I have the experience. If you look at my opponent's experience in terms of managing anything, it's zero," Mr. Brown has said repeatedly in citing his four years in office, his tenure as police chief in Atlanta, New York City and Houston, and his stint as drug czar under President Clinton.
Mr. Brown, 64, a Democrat and Houston's first black mayor, is trying to keep Republican City Council member Orlando Sanchez, 44, from becoming the first Hispanic mayor of the nation's fourth-largest city.
A Houston Chronicle-KHOU-TV poll this week had the two men running even.
Mr. Sanchez did better than expected in the Nov. 6 election by finishing a close second to Mr. Brown in a six-man field. Because no one took at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers meet in today's runoff.
Over the past few weeks, the two-term mayor repeatedly has tried to smear his opponent.
Mr. Brown questioned whether Mr. Sanchez really graduated cum laude in political science from the University of Houston. The record of grades backed Mr. Sanchez.
Mr. Brown complained that Mr. Sanchez missed budget meetings. Mr. Sanchez noted that he was not on a council budget committee and was not required to attend.
This week the Brown campaign distributed Mr. Sanchez's five-page 1992 performance evaluation as a probation officer. Mr. Sanchez was rated as unsatisfactory in his work hours and as needing improvement in interest toward his job and attendance.
"I bet the man couldn't go back and get employed there if he tried," the mayor said.
Mr. Sanchez dismissed the barb, saying he was proud of his service. The same evaluation rated Mr. Sanchez's effectiveness, workload, creative ability and problem-solving as satisfactory, the highest ranking available.
The councilman also countered by saying that if Mr. Brown went back to New York City, "they probably wouldn't rehire him."
Mr. Brown was New York police commissioner in 1991 when clashes broke out between blacks and Hasidic Jews in the Crown Heights neighborhood. The city eventually paid $1.1 million to settle a lawsuit by Jews who said they were not protected during the riots.
Race has become an issue in the election in Houston, where Hispanics account for more than a third of the city's nearly 2 million residents and blacks account for 25 percent.
The Brown campaign paid for a telephone ad by the sister of James Byrd Jr., the black Texan dragged to his death behind a pickup truck by white ex-convicts. She criticized what she said was Mr. Sanchez's failure to support state hate-crimes legislation. Mr. Sanchez opposed a Brown-sponsored resolution in support of the hate-crimes bill then before the Legislature.
The Brown campaign at one point posted signs calling Mr. Sanchez "anti-Hispanic," and has claimed that Sanchez supporters hired poll-watchers to intimidate voters in predominantly black precincts. Inspectors will monitor today's balloting.
Officially, the race is nonpartisan. But that hasn't stopped the candidates from inviting the support of their parties' heavyweights. Through last week, the candidates had spent more than $5 million between them, with Mr. Brown accounting for almost 75 percent of the total.

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