Perry Discusses Trans-Texas Corridor with with Gov. Canales and calls it "Outreach" to Hispanics
Perry backed Rodriguez
March 14, 2002
Amy Dorsett and W. Gardner Selby, Staff Writers
San Antonio Express-News
Republican leaders had hoped the primary race for the Texas Supreme Court would demonstrate the party's inclusiveness.
However, the party's voters came through in only half the effort - advancing an African American candidate and denying a Hispanic one.
In one of the biggest upsets of Tuesday night, incumbent Xavier Rodriguez lost to Steven Wayne Smith, who captured 54.5 percent of the vote. Rodriguez, a San Antonian whom Gov. Rick Perry appointed to the court last year, was the only Hispanic on the state's highest court.
Smith will face Democrat Margaret Mirabal, an appeals court judge in Houston, in November.
In the race for Place 3, Wallace B. Jefferson, another Perry appointee from San Antonio, handily beat Sam Lee.
Jefferson won 63 percent of the vote and if he wins in the November general election, he would become the first African American on the court. Jefferson will face Democrat William E. Moody, a state district judge in El Paso.
As the fog of late night results lifted, many were ready on Wednesday to evaluate what the race results mean.
Perhaps the most ironic results of the evening were in the Rodriguez-Smith competition.
Smith, who campaigned as a more conservative candidate, is best known as an attorney for two plaintiffs in the 1992 Hopwood vs. Texas civil suit, which brought an end to the use of racial preferences in determining admissions to state-supported universities in Texas .
Rodriguez said there were two major contributing factors to his loss.
"This came down to a very easy ballot name vs. an unusual name, especially my first name," he said. "The bottom line was there was a vast majority of people I needed to target and I didn't reach them."
Smith's campaign manager David Rogers said voters are more concerned with policies than race.
"Republican voters have shown that when they are given a conservative candidate, they will vote for him, regardless of the color of his skin or the spelling of his last name," Rogers said.
Perry, who championed Rodriguez, said he didn't know why he lost.
"I can't read the voters' minds," Perry said. "Xavier Rodriguez was a fascinating candidate. I love him. I talked to him this morning. He's upbeat and going to serve us nobly through the rest of his term. And I certainly wish he had been elected. He's one of the most qualified jurists."
Tony Sanchez, who won the Democratic primary for governor and will face off against Perry in November, criticized Republicans on Wednesday for not making a sincere outreach to Hispanics or the border community - a charge Perry denies.
"Yesterday I was in Nuevo Leon with Gov. Canales as we signed an agreement to continue to study the transportation opportunities that we have with Trans Texas Corridor and its connection to Nuevo Leon and on down to Monterrey and Mexico City," Perry said. "That's the type of commitment I think people want to see, concrete real evidence of reaching out, working with our friends in Mexico. That commitment is real, it is there."
Rodriguez, 40, moved his family to Austin when he was appointed to the bench. Some job offers are already rolling in, he said, but he doesn't know where he'll land.
"I haven't quite decided what will happen," he said. "San Antonio is home. There's a magnetic draw."
© 2002 San Antonio Express-News: