Republicans Gain One More Senate Seat From Texas NPR June 7, 1993, Monday


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June 7, 1993, Monday


LENGTH: 1097 words


HEADLINE: Republicans Gain One More Senate Seat From Texas





BOB EDWARDS, Host: Texas Republicans are still marveling at the historic two-to-one margin of victory Kay Bailey Hutchison ran up against Bob Krueger in Saturday's U.S. Senate election. Hutchison used opposition to Bill Clinton's economic package as the centerpiece in her campaign, and scored big in virtually every area of Texas. She drubbed Krueger even in Democratic strongholds. Both Democrats and Republicans now are trying to make sense of Saturday's landslide. To find out what happened, and what effect the results might have nationally, NPR's John Burnett reports.


JOHN BURNETT, Reporter: Kay Bailey Hutchison, the new Senator-elect from Texas, stands before a bank of microphones in her husband's opulent law office in a downtown Dallas highrise. She looks remarkably poised and rested, considering the wild night she just had.


Sen. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R-TX): I have had a wonderful morning. I couldn't sleep last night. I got up early and started at eight o'clock this morning with transition meetings.


BURNETT: With 'landslide' splashed across almost every front page in Texas, the 49-year-old former state representative and TV news reporter had surpassed the expectations of her own campaign. The final spread was 67 to 33 percent, the largest victory any Republican has won in a senatorial or a gubernatorial race in Texas. In 1961, the late John Tower was the first Republican from Texas since Reconstruction to become a U.S. Senator. His long-time aide, John Naggs [sp], now an Austin political consultant, says somewhere Tower is grinning over the turn of events; Republicans now hold both Texas Senate seats. Naggs thinks that analysts are overlooking the important the abortion issue played in the race. Hutchison is an abortion-rights moderate. She opposes government involvement in a woman's pregnancy before six months, but, at the same time, she supports states' rights to restrict abortions. Her middle-of-the-road position sparked protest from anti-abortion activists in front of her Dallas home, and led to Gloria Steinem calling her a 'female impersonator.' But, in the end, John Naggs thinks Hutchison was vindicated by the huge numbers of Republican and Independent women who voted for her on Saturday.


JOHN NAGGS, Political Consultant: Kay Hutchison was able to sort of bridge this abortion issue which has dogged the Republican Party in Texas the last few years. People have tended to be, at one poll or another on that issue, and she took a moderate position on it and it worked, and I think that had a lot to do with the grass-roots Republicans rallying and unifying to her cause.


BURNETT: Speaking to reporters at her victory party Saturday night, Hutchison says the intraparty squabbling over abortion, which plagued the National Convention in Houston last summer, needs to end.


Sen. HUTCHISON: Well, I have said all along that I am a Republican that wants the Party to be open to people who disagree on abortion. I think we have such a core philosophy that a small government that is supportive of small business people, and I think that those are the issues that are so important right now, and I don't want anyone not to feel welcome in the Republican Party, if they're pro-life or pro-choice.


BURNETT: This was Krueger's third electoral defeat for a U.S. Senate seat in as many decades. He ran in 1978 and '84, as well. Many GOP activists at Hutchison's victory party tried to shift responsibility for the Democratic debacle from Krueger to the president. Senator Phil Gramm is thought to be planning a run for the White House himself in 1996.


Sen. PHIL GRAMM (R-TX): I think the Democrats are going to try make poor Bob Krueger the fall guy, but Mark Spitz could not swim with the Clinton millstone around his neck in Texas today. I think the people of Texas clearly are unhappy with the president, and they want to stop his spending machine, and they saw this election as a way to do it.


BURNETT: But, in fact, Democratic leaders at Krueger's election-watch party in Austin seemed to be in circumspect mood. Instead of protecting the president, State Democratic Chairman Bob Slagle admitted that Krueger had suffered from the long shadow of the Clinton presidency. Using another aquatic analogy, he said, 'It's a lot like trying to swim upstream with a battleship anchored to your back.' Former State Attorney General Jim Maddox says he doesn't think the election was a referendum on the president, but Mr. Clinton's policies and problems certainly helped undermine a Democratic victory in Texas.


JIM MADDOX, Former State Attorney General: To some, the issues that he was talking about - gays in the military, the $ 200 haircut, the increasing of taxes on- and not giving tax cuts to the middle-income community - those were all kinds of things that the Republicans were able to latch onto, and to cloud Bob Krueger's campaign message.


BURNETT: Some are saying that no Democrat could have been elected with Bill Clinton's job rating in Texas hovering in the mid-20's. Others say Krueger professorial campaign style, and his last-ditch reliance on negative advertising, turned voters off in droves. Whatever the reason for Saturday's lopsided victory, it's an enormous headache for Bill Clinton, says Stu Rothenberg, editor of a political newsletter in Washington. He says he expects Mr. Clinton's adversaries in the Senate to use the Texas vote as ammunition to demand more changes to his economic package.


STU ROTHENBERG, Editor: What I think the results in Texas do is they embolden opponents. They embolden the Republicans to resist the president, and that's simply another problem for Bill Clinton. It's one more vote, but it's- more than that it's more energy and enthusiasm on the president's opponents. And, so, maybe they'll be willing to fight a little bit longer, feeling that they have him on the ropes now.


BURNETT: But, Bill Clinton has three and a half years to turn his presidency around; Bob Krueger is out of time. In Austin, I'm John Burnett, reporting.




[The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines, it has not been proofread against audiotape and cannot, for that reason, be guaranteed as to the accuracy of speakers' words or spelling.]








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