Texas Democrats moved a step closer to fielding a "dream team" ticket in November that proponents say could change the face of the state and that will test the ability of both political parties to campaign for votes across racial and ethnic lines.

Tuesday's primaries made wealthy businessman Tony Sanchez the first Hispanic nominated for governor by a major party in Texas and sent former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk and schoolteacher Victor Morales into an April 9 confrontation for the Democratic nomination for the Senate.

Kirk, the first African American elected mayor of a major city in Texas, is favored over Morales, the party's 1996 Senate nominee, because of superior resources and endorsements from leading state Democrats.

But a divisive runoff that splits the Latino and black communities could damage the Democrats' prospects against Republicans in the November elections.

Whoever wins the runoff, "it's a dream ticket," said Donna Brazile, who was campaign manager for Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. "Now it's time to see if the black-brown coalition can survive its first real national test."

Splits between blacks and Latinos hurt Democratic candidates in mayoral races in Los Angeles and New York last year, and party officials said yesterday they are working to ensure that whoever emerges as the party's Senate nominee in Texas has demonstrated the ability to put together a coalition of white, black and Hispanic supporters.

Privately many Democrats see a Kirk victory as crucial to the party's autumn strategy of mobilizing substantial turnout among black and Hispanic voters in Texas, acknowledging that their nominees for Senate and governor will begin the general election as clear underdogs to Gov. Rick Perry and John Cornyn, the state attorney general who won the GOP Senate nomination on Tuesday.

Republicans hold every statewide office in Texas and are poised to capture the state House for the first time in more than a century, thanks to a favorable redistricting map.

But Henry Cisneros, a former U.S. secretary of housing and development who supports Kirk, said the potential Democratic ticket represents "the future of Texas" and a "precursor of what much of American politics will be in the future" as demographic changes reduce the strength of the white vote in many populous states.

Jerry Polinard, a professor at the University of Texas-Pan American, said there is no underestimating the symbolic value of the ticket Democrats have begun to assemble, but he added a note of caution eight months in advance of the elections. "Symbolic value can never be ignored," he said, "but there still is a huge difference between getting the nomination and getting elected."

Republican and Democratic candidates will face unusual challenges in Texas this year. For Democrats, the test will be to find a way to maximize turnout among Latino and black voters without alienating Anglo swing voters, whose support may be decisive in November. For Republicans, it will be running aggressively against Democratic nominees for governor and Senate with ties to the Latino or black communities without offending minority voters.

Democrats point to candidates below governor and Senate, particularly lieutenant governor candidate John Sharp, a moderate Democrat who narrowly lost that race four years ago, as evidence that their ticket will appeal across the board to Texas voters. "I don't see a downside," Cisneros said. "I see a recognition that if everyone has a representative at the table, everyone has a reason to come forward to vote."

But Brazile said Democrats must begin appealing to white swing voters, particularly women, right away to dispel fears that they are focused strictly on increasing black and Hispanic turnout.

Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, which studies Latino voting trends, said more than 350,000 Hispanics voted in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, which he called a "quantum leap" over previous primaries and evidence of Sanchez's drawing power.

Overall, about 1 million Democrats cast ballots on Tuesday, compared with about 650,000 Republicans, the biggest Democratic advantage in a midterm primary since 1994. But David Carney, a top strategist for Perry, said Democrats should have turned out even more votes. "They've got themselves in a tizzy that somehow they're going to have a tremendous boost in turnout," he said.

Carney said Perry and other Republicans will not concede the Latino vote to the Democrats. He accused Democrats of "being patronizing" toward Latino voters and said the key to winning those votes will be issues and message. "It comes down to message, not to mechanics and process," he said.

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez, shown at a news conference in Austin, won the Democratic primary election, making good on his claim to invigorate Latino support.