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In Texas, 'Goliath' Gramm Meets 'David,' the Civics Teacher

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Washington

Get ready for a deluge of David-and-Goliath metaphors.

That's how reporters are touting November's U.S. Senate race in Texas, following the surprising Democratic-primary win last week by Victor Morales, a high school civics teacher who campaigned from his family pickup truck.

By narrowly beating U.S. Rep. John Bryant, Mr. Morales won the right to take on Sen. Phil Gramm, a former GOP presidential contender, who has amassed more than $3 million for his re-election bid.

Mr. Morales, 46, is on leave from his teaching job at Poteet High School in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite. He is also a city councilman in nearby Crandall.

Mr. Morales has made his lack of big-time political experience a staple of a platform that also highlights his teaching background as well as his support for welfare reform and affirmative action.

In an effort to portray Mr. Morales as ill-informed on national issues, Mr. Bryant asked him in a debate to give an example of how the federal Department of Education has helped his students. Mr. Morales answered that he could not.

"I'm just an ordinary guy not making any wild promises," he told The Washington Post.

About 6,000 students from 205 high schools nationwide will get a chance to wield a little political clout in cyberspace, through NetVote '96, a program backed by telecommunications giant MCI.

MCI Communications Corp., which is still making a final list of participating schools, plans to conduct opinion polls, a voter-registration drive, and presidential straw-polling through the service.

"We want something that these kids can really sink their teeth into," said Tony Barto, the director of government markets for Washington-based MCI. "Let's hear what they're thinking."

The NetVote '96 home page can be found at http://netvote96.mci.com on the Internet's World Wide Web.

NetVote '96 results will also be posted on ElectionLine, a Web site for campaign coverage run by ABC News, Newsweek magazine, and The Washington Post. It is located at http://www.electionline.com.

Having failed in his bid to secure the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander has a few ideas about how to change the selection process.

In "What I Learned About How We Pick a President," an article in the March 25 issue of The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, he likened running for president to "scaling a cliff for three years in the dark to earn the privilege of shooting one NBA-range three-point shot, i.e., the New Hampshire primary."

Mr. Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee, suggested several reforms:

  • Raise individual contribution limits from $1,000 to $5,000. Mr. Alexander, at a disadvantage in raising money against better-known candidates, said he spent 70 percent of his time in 1995 raising money.
  • Deregulation. Mr. Alexander said about 10 percent of the $10 million he raised went to accountants and lawyers assigned to ensure compliance with Federal Election Commission rules.
  • Ensure that the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus cannot be held before February and hold the others in March, April, and May. That would give candidates a better chance to explain their positions, Mr. Alexander said.
  • Create a television channel similar to C-SPAN to cover politics outside Washington, including such stories as the Michigan charter school program and the Milwaukee school-choice program.
  • Let candidates speak for themselves. Mr. Alexander praised C-SPAN's election coverage and the newspapers and television networks that printed or aired major portions of stump speeches.

--Robert C. Johnston
& Mark Pitsch

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