Texas Sprouts New Bush as Son Enters State Race

Article excerpt

WITH the election exactly one year away, the battle for the Texas governor's mansion has begun. Today, professional-baseball executive George W. Bush, son of former President Bush, will visit Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas to officially announce his candidacy. The leading Republican contender to Democratic Gov. Ann Richards, he will pose a formidable challenge to the popular governor, who was a frequent critic of President Bush.

A political neophyte, Mr. Bush has been discussed as a potential gubernatorial candidate since 1989, so his announcement is no surprise. Best known as the managing general partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, he campaigned frequently for his father and has been a fixture on the GOP circuit.

Ms. Richards will be hard to unseat. A popular Democrat in a strongly Democratic state, she has solid connections in the entertainment industry that will help her raise money. At her recent birthday party, singers Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and other entertainers helped the governor raise $2 million in one night.

Early polls show Richards with a high favorable rating and a comfortable lead over Bush. However, the challenger has strong name recognition for a candidate who has never sought public office. And he is running at a time when Texas politics is changing. His father took Texas in the 1988 and 1992 presidential elections, and the state recently elected Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison to the United States Senate. The state now has two Republican senators for the first time since Reconstruction.

Bush also will employ savvy political consultant Karl Rove. Considered the heir apparent to the late Lee Atwater as the GOP's best campaign strategist, Mr. …