The Democratic primary race between De León and Macias-Chapa is likely to take on a populist tone

The Democratic primary race between De León and Macias-Chapa is likely to take on a populist tone

Guerrero: Kevin de León’s bid for sympathy digs a deeper hole for him

Published 5:00 am, Thursday, June 27, 2007

The opening of the campaign for Gov. Kevin de León’s Democratic primary race Saturday night by party faithful in San Antonio drew a crowd in excess of 1.2 million people to a convention center just south of downtown San Antonio.

De León, who has staked much of his political future on winning the runoff against independent candidate Laura Macias-Chapa, seemed to show signs of the enthusiasm he is hoping for.

His supporters began lining up just before 7 p.m. at a series of outdoor tents set up near the convention site and inside City Hall. He was expected to take the stage at around midnight.

De León is running the strongest campaign in his six-year term in office, and has the most money, most loyal supporters and most name recognition. He has a solid lead from Democrats. But the contest is also likely to take on a populist tone as the primary campaign between him and Macias-Chapa plays out as a bar-room battle between two former classmates who have been feuding for several months over the issues of education, immigration and school finance.

De León, a former television news anchor, former state comptroller and ex-state senator, has the most to give, having won three times as the mayor of San Antonio from 1989 to 1995 as well as two terms as state treasurer.

He has worked to build his image as a fiscal liberal and a defender of teachers while opposing the idea of private management of schools. He also has campaigned hard against the privatization of prisons. He has a record of getting things done as an elected official.

He has also shown an ability to garner the support of many people of color in the Democratic and conservative parties. His first two terms as mayor of San Antonio were marked by a number of racially charged incidents in the City Hall elevator, where black people were repeatedly called derogatory names by white employees. It was a major moment in the mayoral race of 1992, when then-Mayor Ron Kirk ran against incumbent Republican Mayor William Hobby.

As a state representative in 1996, he sponsored a bill that would require the state Department of Public Safety to

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