Texas Swings to the Right in Vote For US Senate and School Reform

IN Saturday's stunning election results, Texans showed just how conservative the state has become by showering votes on Republican candidates and defeating a school-funding reform measure.

No candidate obtained a majority in the race to fill the United States Senate seat vacated by Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen. A runoff is expected in June between the top finishers, Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison and Democrat Bob Krueger.

Ms. Hutchison, the Texas treasurer, is her party's highest state officeholder. She finished first with 29 percent of the vote. Also at 29 percent, but a few hundred votes behind Hutchison, was Mr. Krueger, appointed by Gov. Ann Richards (D) to be interim senator.

Third and fourth places went to two Republicans, US Reps. Joe Barton and Jack Fields. Their 14 percent showings put the GOP total over 57 percent, reinforcing the trend in which Texans vote Democrat in local elections but fill national offices with Republicans.

Democrat Richard Fisher, who helped write Ross Perot's campaign manifesto, "United We Stand," received just 8 percent of the vote. The United We Stand America, Inc., organization that Perot is building did not endorse any candidate, but Austin organizer Jason Powers predicted that it will make an endorsement in the runoff.

The turnout was low. Leading up to the election, the campaign was frequently eclipsed by the Waco standoff. And with 23 candidates running, the contest never came into focus. The only issue to draw attention was whether or not Hutchison whacks and pinches her employees on the arm when she is piqued.

Mr. Barton and Mr. Fields have pledged to support Hutchison, giving Democrats an uphill battle. The state's other senator is Republican Phil Gramm. A Hutchison runoff victory would mark the first time Texas has lacked a Democrat in the Senate. "This race is going to determine whether Texas has influence in Washington," Governor Richards said. It also may help determine whether President Clinton will be able to defeat GOP filibusters in the Senate.

Hutchison has predicted a bitter fight against Krueger, who called her a "country-club candidate." State Republican Party chairman Fred Meyer accused Krueger of talking conservatively in Texas and voting liberally in Washington. Both Hutchison and Krueger are moderates within their respective parties.

Yesterday state officials began conferring over what to do next about school funding following voters' rejection of Proposition 1 on Saturday. It was referred to as the "Robin Hood" amendment because it would have taken money from school districts with lots of high-value property and given it to nearby districts with low-value property. Low-value districts must set high tax rates but still are not able to provide as much money per pupil as wealthier districts.

Proposition 1 was intended to end two decades of court challenges over the inequality of property taxes within school districts and to head off a Texas Supreme Court threat to close Texas schools on June 1 unless an equitable funding system is enacted. Following its defeat, Libby Linebarger, the state representative who was the chief author of Proposition 1, predicted "chaos." Added Governor Richards: "We've got to go back to square one."

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