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Texas Election Campaign Goes Down to the Wire


Voters in Texas will decide the winner in a four-way race for governor and at least one hotly contested congressional seat. Some candidates in the Lone Star state can be found outside voting stations asking for support right down to the last minute.

Texas is considered a red state, that is one that leans Republican, but incumbent Governor Rick Perry has been facing a tough challenge from three rivals, including one from his own party running as an independent.

At a rally in Dallas Monday night, Governor Perry was onstage with the man who preceded him as governor and who continues to support him; none other than President Bush.

BUSH: "Rick Perry has got a record and deserves to be re-elected governor of Texas!"

PERRY: "You go out and work your heart out tomorrow and I will be honored to be your governor for four more years."

The person in the best position to steal conservative votes from Perry is Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who has challenged Perry's budget balancing strategies, his plans for a major transportation project and his tough talk on securing the state's border with Mexico. Although she chose not to run against the governor in the Republican primary, she is confident her independent bid will pay off.

"We are going to have the first independent governor since 1859; it is going to be Carole Keeton Strayhorn," said Ms. Strayhorn.

But another independent has stolen much of the spotlight in this contest-former country singer and mystery novel writer Richard "Kinky" Friedman, who believes his humorous and iconoclastic campaign could make him the state's first Jewish governor.

"It will be like a Texas Camelot, the whole image of Texas will be changed overnight," he said.

The man who may end up ahead of the independents, however, is Chris Bell, the Democratic candidate. He can count on votes from loyal party members who vote all Democrat and he is still fighting for the votes of other Democrats who may have strayed toward one of the independent candidates.

"I think we are in a great position to close the gap. Democrats are waking up," he said.

Public opinion polls, however, show Perry comfortably ahead, but it is likely he will win re-election with the lowest percentage of votes in Texas history.

The other interesting race here in Texas is the battle for the 22nd Congressional district south of Houston. That is the district that had been held by Congressman Tom DeLay, who resigned earlier this year under a cloud of scandal.

Since it was too late to select a Republican to be on the ballot, most analysts see the district going to Democrat Nick Lampson, who is continuing to work for votes on Election Day.

"The last several days I have been on the phone, dialing and reminding people of how important it is to get out to vote and I will continue to do so," he said.

But Lampson is facing a tough and somewhat unexpected challenge from Republican Shelley Sekula Gibbs, who currently serves on the Houston City Council. With support from the Republican Party, she has mounted a write-in campaign, something very difficult to pull off, but given the strong conservative base in the district, polls show her in a tied race with Lampson. She has been outside polling stations making sure that voters who want to write her name on the ballot will know how to do it.

"We want to make sure that the people who take the time to come and vote do have all the tools that they need to write me in," she said.

One of the biggest challenges for voters will be spelling her full name correctly. Misspellings can lead to ballots being challenged and thrown out.

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