- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

DALLAS One of the bitterest and most expensive primary campaigns in memory will wind up here Tuesday as Democrats name their choices to oppose favored Republicans for governor and a U.S. Senate seat in November.
Tony Sanchez, 59, the Laredo banker who has spent nearly $2 million a week for the past several weeks most of it his own money seems certain to win the Democratic gubernatorial contest.
Major polls show him handily ahead of former state Attorney General Dan Morales, 45, of San Antonio, who has been outspent more than 40-to-1.
In the Democratic race for the Senate seat now held by Phil Gramm, a runoff between the top two contenders is likely. That would come April 9.
Polls have consistently shown Rep. Ken Bentsen of Houston, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and maverick schoolteacher Victor Morales of Crandall running neck-and-neck.
Mr. Kirk, latest polls indicate, has moved steadily up particularly in the past two weeks, when he has spent considerably on television ads. Mr. Bentsen has used the media selectively, somewhat hampered by having less money.
Mr. Morales, who was a surprisingly strong loser to Mr. Gramm six years ago, has spent less than $15,000 on the governor's race. Often he has chugged around the state in his white pickup truck on weekends unable to campaign in midweek because he could not take leave of his teaching job in east Texas.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry is unopposed in the primary, and state Attorney General John Cornyn, running for the Senate, has only token opposition. Both have massive funds in hand, and President Bush is planning to help them raise more.
A statewide poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News showed Mr. Sanchez ahead by 14 points; a Scripps Howard Media Center poll found him ahead by eight points.
For the Senate spot, the Dallas News poll indicated that Mr. Morales and Mr. Kirk were tied at 25 percent, with Mr. Bentsen third at 17 percent of those responding.
In the Texas Poll by Scripps Howard, Mr. Bentsen was ahead with 17 percent, Mr. Morales second with 16 percent, and Mr. Kirk trailing with 13 percent.
Both polls were finished last week.
Though the Senate candidates have generally dealt with issues rather than personalities, Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Morales have provided voters with the most vicious campaign in a generation at least.
Each has accused the other of criminal activity: Mr. Sanchez cited a federal investigation of Mr. Morales because of reported fraud in dividing hundreds of millions in attorneys' fees from the state's tobacco settlement; Mr. Morales accused his opponent of being involved in laundering drug money through his Laredo bank.
Both denied any criminal activity.
Mr. Morales accused Mr. Sanchez of "patron-style campaigning boss-style, political boss-style."
A Sanchez television ad provided more heat near the end of the campaign. It accused Mr. Morales of steering tobacco lawsuit funds to "an intimate friend."
Bill Miller, an Austin political consultant, said he felt the use of the word "intimate" appeared designed to suggest homosexuality.
"It's code and it's improper," Mr. Miller told the Dallas News yesterday. "It's a bad message for a candidate to use against other candidates."
Mr. Sanchez, his strongest TV blitz set for the closing hours, said in Houston yesterday he felt good about leading and predicted he would win "big."


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