Friday, March 02, 2007

Giuliani has a friend in TxDOT

Giuliani looking to secure a fan base in San Antonio


Greg Jefferson
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2007

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who's gaining ground in the long race to the GOP presidential nomination, will stop in the Terrell Hills neighborhood for a fundraiser Saturday night.

Several recent polls showed Giuliani widening his lead over Arizona Sen. John McCain, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney trailing much farther behind.

But the primaries are a year away, and it's an open question how conservative voters — who have a lot of sway in picking the party's nominees — will react to Giuliani, who is pro-choice and supports gay rights.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, is on the host committee for the tonight's fundraiser at the home of DFB Pharmaceuticals President John Feik.

"I don't back people based on who may or may not win in the primary," Wentworth said. "I back people based on principle. I back the person who would make the best president."

Wentworth, also a moderate Republican, said he's been a supporter of Giuliani's since watching him at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and has already sent a $1,000 check to his presidential exploratory committee.

The host committee also features, among others: Texas Transportation Commission member Hope Andrade; San Antonio Spurs Chairman Peter Holt; lobbyist W. James Jonas III; state Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; and Valero Energy Corp.'s political action committee.

City Councilman Kevin Wolff, who lived in New York during the waning years of Giuliani's administration, plans to attend the fundraiser.

He'll be shopping but not necessarily buying.

"I have a very favorable impression of his performance during 9/11," Wolff said, "and a mostly favorable opinion overall of his time as mayor. Other than that, I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude."

A spokeswoman for Giuliani's exploratory committee said the fundraiser, which is scheduled to run from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., would not be open to the news media.

McCain, who announced his candidacy this week on the David Letterman Show, also has been piecing together an organization in Texas. San Antonio businessman B.J. "Red" McCombs, former Gov. Bill Clements and ex-Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher of Houston are honorary chairmen of his exploratory committee. James Huffines, chairman of the University of Texas board of regents, is leading McCain's efforts in Texas.

Without a Bush on the ballot, the votes of Texas Republicans are considered in play this election cycle. The state primary is March 4, 2008.

Richard Langlois, chairman of the Bexar County Republican Party, said many local GOP leaders and activists are quickly lining up behind Giuliani and McCain — which means steering clear of about a dozen other hopefuls.

Langlois is one of them: He's supporting Giuliani, a tough-on-crime former prosecutor.

"I think he's the person who can lead the Republicans to victory," he said. "I just don't feel John McCain has a lot of popularity among voters."

© 2007 San Antonio Express-News:

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