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Texas Democrats Gear Up for Senate Race

By Scott PendletonStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 15, 1994



AUSTIN, TEXAS

MIKE ANDREWS, a six-term congressman, is abandoning a safe seat as a state representative to run in the Democratic primary for the United States Senate and, he hopes, in the general election against Republican incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison.

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On Saturday, Mr. Andrews met with perhaps the most Democratic audience in the most Democratic part of Texas: the Black Women's Political Caucus in minority dominated east Austin.

Predicting the costliest race ever, Andrews said: ``We're going to have to run very hard to win.'' Indeed, Democrats will, if the audience of seven caucus members is an indication. In June's special election, Mrs. Hutchison got two-thirds of the vote. The race to recapture the Senate seat that Democrats held for 12 decades is ``a defining moment for our party,'' Andrews says.

The first hurdle is the March 8 primary, in which Andrews faces Richard Fisher, a millionaire who advised Ross Perot during his presidential run, and Jim Mattox, a formercongressman and state attorney general.

The candidates also debated health care and collecting child-support payments before Texas Democratic Women members.

``We cannot win if we appeal only to the Democratic base,'' Andrews says. The party must appeal to ``middle-class, moderate, common-sense voters,'' but he cautions: ``The Republicans won't lack for financial resources.''

The key to victory, Mr. Fisher says, will be voters who helped elect Governor Richards - independents and Republican women.

Fisher spent $2.1 million of his own money to run in the special election. Though he finished fifth, he kept campaigning with the fall election in mind.

Counters Mr. Mattox: ``Probably, the most important issue in the [primary] race is Fisher's money. He has tremendous wealth, nothing else.''

Has Hutchison's acquittal Friday on ethics charges made her invincible? Mattox says: ``Remember a guy named George Bush who, at one time, was rated higher than any other president ever had been? He is not now the president.''