Podcasts & RSS Feeds
Most Active Stories
Thu October 3, 2002
Fifth Congressional district could be up for grabs
By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter
Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: 45-year-old Jeb Hensarling may be a first time candidate, but he claims the best endorsements the party can offer. Yesterday, former presidential press secretary Karen Hughes helped him raise money. Vice President Dick Cheney did the same last week.
Vice President Dick Cheney: The President and I have enormous respect for him. We're proud to give him our strong support.
Zeeble: Candidate Hensarling may be largely unknown to the voting public, but he's no political outsider.
Jeb Hensarling, Republican candidate, Congressional District 5: I've been involved in politics in one form or fashion most of my life, volunteering or otherwise. For two years, I headed the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington from 1990 to 1992.
Zeeble: Hensarling also worked for Senator Phil Gramm in the late 80's. These days, he's campaigning as a small businessman who wants to help other businesses succeed while furthering President Bush's tax cut and national security agenda. Meanwhile, he says his Democratic opponent, Judge Ron Chapman, not only lacks his business background, he's a liberal besides, in a district that now leans Republican.
Hensarling: So he's not a bad man, but he's kind of calling himself a conservative now and I don't really think he is a conservative.
Zeeble: Ron Chapman disagrees. He says there's really no difference between him and his opponent regarding stances on Iraq or the first Bush tax cut. But as for another tax cut, that's different matter.
Judge Ron Chapman, Democratic Congressional District 5 candidate: We're in a deficit situation, the economy is in the ditch. We've got to get economy going and get consumer confidence back again, before we can look at any further tax cuts.
Zeeble: Chapman adds his 23 years as a judge give him the experience necessary to work successfully in an often-divisive Congress. Hensarling's endorsements don't worry him, because Chapman has his own, from Democratic Representatives Martin Frost and Charles Stenholm and Eddie Bernice Johnson to Senate candidate Ron Kirk. Chapman says he's also hearing something unexpected from voters.
Chapman: After 9/11, I see a bit of change. They want a more mature and experienced person representing them rather than a newcomer...
Zeeble: ...who, he adds, is too close to big business and corporations. Campaign contributions bear that out, according to filed reports. 30% of Hensarling's $1.2 million has come from business PACs, even more from individuals tied to big business. Most of Ron Chapman's funds - one-third of Hensarling's - come largely from unions, attorneys, and individuals ideologically in line with those groups. But while money makes a big difference in most campaigns, cash or even candidate platforms may pale in comparison to other factors, like voter turnout in this non-presidential election year.
Harvey Kronberg, Editor, Quorum Report: Here's what's about to happen.
Zeeble: Harvey Kronberg edits the Quorum Report, a respected Austin-based political newsletter.
Kronberg: I'm not ruling out a surprise. But I do believe we face a historic African-American turnout in an off-year election.
Zeeble: That's because former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk tops the Democratic ticket. Then there's Hispanic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez, whose millions will also aid a 'get out the vote' effort. And while Kronberg praises the GOP's own voter turnout record, he says the Democrats appear better organized than they've been in years.
Kronberg: If you have vastly more complete list of voters and have the capacity to deliver them to polls and bring them back to home or work or wherever, you have something significantly different than we've ever seen Democrats be able to do.
Zeeble: A slim majority of District 5 voters live in Dallas County, where Chapman has run, and won, before. While Kronberg expects a majority of rural voters in the 11-county district to vote for Hensarling, the surprise he's not ruling out is that Chapman could take the seat back for Democrats, who lost it in 1996. Both Chapman and Hensarling say this is a tight race. Both are confident of victory. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.
To contact Bill Zeeble, please send emails to email@example.com.