- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

DALLAS Tony Sanchez, a 59-year-old Laredo banker, easily defeated two-time state Attorney General Dan Morales yesterday in the Democratic primary for governor.
Early returns gave Mr. Sanchez, a political novice who had spent more than $20 million of his own money in the bitterly contested race, a wide lead and projections were calling him the winner an hour after the polls closed.
With 1,250 of the state's 4,892 precincts reporting, or 26 percent, Mr. Sanchez had a comfortable lead, with 60 percent of the vote to Mr. Morales' 38.7 percent.
In a hard-fought three-way Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, a runoff was widely expected. Early returns had Crandall schoolteacher Victor Morales with 39 percent, ex-Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk at 26.8 percent and Houston Congressman Ken Bentsen at 26.4 percent.
As predicted, Hispanic voters came out in record numbers because of the Sanchez-Morales fight for the nomination for governor.
Returns were exceedingly late from some areas, most notably Houston and San Antonio, where some precincts had to be combined because election workers failed to show up and other precincts didn't open as scheduled. In San Antonio, a judge ordered 50 precincts to remain open three hours later than usual because of the mix-up.
Mr. Sanchez will oppose Gov. Rick Perry in November's general election. Mr. Perry, who moved up from lieutenant governor when George W. Bush became president last year, had no Republican opposition.
State Attorney General John Cornyn easily defeated a field of little-known candidates in the Republican U.S. Senate primary to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Phil Gramm.
Both Republican candidates boast multimillion-dollar campaign treasuries, and the Sanchez campaign has vowed to spend whatever it takes to remain competitive. Mr. Sanchez is said to be worth $600 million.
Sanchez backers in Austin partied early as their man led from the first 15 precincts counted. He pulled decisively ahead in the polls as a result of Mr. Morales' criticism of Mr. Sanchez's insistence that half of the only debate between the two be conducted in Spanish.
"English is our language," Mr. Morales said during the March 1 debate in Dallas.
He called Mr. Sanchez's Spanish requirement "asinine" and he accused the Laredo businessman of "trying to split the races."
The debate was conducted for the first hour in English and the second hour in Spanish.
Mr. Morales expanded on the claim in the last 10 days and met resistance from Hispanics, who considered his remarks a blotch against their heritage and Mr. Morales.
Some south Texas counties were reporting margins of 3-to-1 and 4-to-1 for Mr. Sanchez.
In the Senate race, Mr. Kirk had spent nearly $1 million more than his two leading opponents combined. If he won, he can expect considerable support from around the nation in his attempt to become Texas' first black senator.
But if, as early returns suggested, no one wins 50 percent of the primary vote, there will be a runoff election in April between the top two candidates.
In the Republican primary for Rep. Dick Armey's Dallas-area House seat, the majority leader's son, Scott, was ahead with about 40 percent of the vote in early returns.


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