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Schieffer Launches Campaign for Governor

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Fort Worth businessman and former diplomat Tom Schieffer today became the first Democrat to officially announce a gubernatorial campaign. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports on the tough battle ahead.

Schieffer: This is where my part of the American dream began.

61-year old Tom Schieffer underscored the importance of public education as he launched his campaign for Governor in front of the Fort Worth elementary school he attended.

Throughout his speech he said Texans are worried. They have dreams they see slipping away.

Schieffer: They worry that the children starting to school next year in Texas won't be able to compete in twenty or thirty years with the kids starting to school in china and India and South Korea. They worry that the jobs they need to feed their families and educate their children won't be there.

Schieffer believes his resume has prepared him to lead Texas. He was a state legislator 30 years ago; an oil and gas attorney; George W. Bush's business partner managing the Texas Rangers; President Bush's ambassador to Australia and Japan.

But Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson says Schieffer has some big challenges ahead.

Jillson: Name recognition is his biggest challenge. Some of his early history is very interesting but he hasn't been prominent in Democratic politics in a long time.

A statewide poll released this week by the non-partisan Texas Lyceum underscores that point. Some 73 percent of likely voters in the Democratic primary don't know who they'll support. Ten percent expressed support for entertainer Kinky Friedman who says he may run. Just six percent favored Schieffer.

Jillson says Schieffer faces another obvious hurdle in winning the Democratic nomination- his close association with the former Republican President.

Jillson: Democrats feel put upon by Bush and his triumphant Republicans. As they feel like they are now on the comeback trail they are loathe to take a Bush associate as their candidate for governor. He'll need to separate himself from George W. Bush.

Schieffer knows that and takes great pains to emphasize his democratic credentials

Schieffer: I am a Democrat- as Sam Rayburn used to say without prefix, suffix or apology.

Although Democrats have chipped away at Republican support in the Texas House, the GOP still has a solid advantage in statewide races. Jillson says Texas enthusiasm for Obama energized new Democratic support among ethnic minorities and younger voters. They represent the new, emerging Democratic Party in Texas. It's a much different Democratic Party that the generally white, more conservative one Schieffer represented in the 70's. The question for Schieffer or any other statewide Democrat - can they tap into that enthusiasm for change.

Schieffer: To win we have to make this campaign a cause.

Email Shelley Kofler