A Nov. 7 roundup of election results in the Southwest incorrectly reported that Henry Cuellar (D) defeated Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Tex.). Bonilla was reelected. The same regional overview also incorrectly reported that Bill Richardson will be New Mexico's first Hispanic governor. He will be the fifth. (Published 11/8/02)
The race to succeed retiring Gov. Jane Hull (R) was decided yesterday when Attorney General Janet Napolitano (D) won the tight contest with former representative Matt Salmon (R) in the traditionally Republican state. Republicans won six of the eight House races, which included two new seats for Arizona from redistricting. The parties split control of the new seats, with Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva (D) winning in Tucson and businessman Rick Renzi (R) taking the other. Former state legislator Trent Franks (R), an oilman, will succeed retiring Rep. Bob Stump (R).
Bill Richardson, the former House member, U.N. ambassador and energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, will soon add another title to his political resume: governor. In an easy win over state Rep. John Sanchez (R), Richardson becomes New Mexico's first Hispanic governor, replacing term-limited Gov. Gary E. Johnson (R). Although some Republicans once had high hopes for Sanchez, Richardson had an easy ride in the final weeks and posted a double-digit win over his opponent.
Pete V. Domenici, a 30-year veteran of the Senate, easily fended off a challenge from attorney Gloria Tristani (D), a native of Puerto Rico and a Clinton appointee to the Federal Communications Commission. Domenici outdistanced Tristani by nearly 2 to 1.
Former state Rep. Steve Pearce (R) defeated state Sen. John Arthur Smith (D) in a once-close House race that widened in recent weeks, helped in part by Pearce's financial advantage and a campaign visit by President Bush. Pearce will succeed retiring Rep. Joe Skeen (R). Incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson (R), meanwhile, won handily over state Sen. Richard Romero (D).
In a surprising upset, state Sen. Brad Henry (D) narrowly defeated former representative Steve Largent (R), a Hall of Fame NFL receiver, in the race for governor. Largent had been expected to walk away easily with the race against a relative unknown, but he lost ground by waging a sluggish campaign and failing to minimize the damage from an independent candidate. The two candidates finished in a near dead heat, with Henry leading by just under 7,000 votes.
Largent was also hurt by television footage showing him uttering an expletive when asked why he was out of reach on a hunting trip during the World Trade Center attacks, when the House was in session. The footage was recirculated in advertisements run by the third candidate, former U.S. attorney Gary Richardson, who ran as an independent and drew votes from Largent's base. He finished with 14 percent.
Henry will replace a term-limited Republican, Frank A. Keating.
Oklahoma Republicans fared better in two key congressional races. Former secretary of state and national GOP official Tom Cole fended off an aggressive challenge from former state Sen. Darryl Roberts (D), a Vietnam veteran who had criticized Cole's lack of military service.
Oklahoma lost a House seat in redistricting; Largent resigned to run for governor and fast-rising Rep. J.C. Watts (R) stepped down. Republican incumbents held on to three other House seats, while the Democratic incumbent won reelection to the fourth.
Sen. James M. Inhofe (R) skated to an easy 21-point victory over former governor David Walters (D), whose conviction on campaign finance charges seriously damaged his chances.
Republicans further cemented their dominance of Texas politics as GOP candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate clobbered a pair of Democrats who had once hoped to embarrass President Bush on his home turf.
Instead, Gov. Rick Perry (R), who inherited his seat when Bush became president, racked up an 18-point win over wealthy businessman Tony Sanchez (D), a political neophyte who spent nearly $60 million of his own money on the race. On the ballot to replace retiring Sen. Phil Gramm (R), state Attorney General John Cornyn (R) handily defeated former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk (D), the only African American in a Senate race.
Democrats billed Sanchez, who is Hispanic, and Kirk as part of a multiracial "dream team" that would more accurately reflect the rapidly changing demographics of Texas. But Republicans emphasized close ties with the Bush administration, and were bolstered by frequent campaigning and fundraising in the state by Bush and Vice President Cheney.
The political landscape changed dramatically in the most recent House redistricting, which added two seats in Texas and reshuffled its delegation. Among the winners Tuesday was Henry Cuellar (D), who unseated incumbent Henry Bonilla (R); physician Michael Burgess (R) over Paul LeBon (D) for the seat vacated by retiring House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R); former Gramm aide Jeb Hensarling (R) over county judge Ron Chapman (D); and former district judge John Carter (R) over David Bagley (D) in a new College Station seat.