EL PASO, Texas, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Rep. Ken Bentsen, the nephew of former senator and treasury secretary Lloyd Bentsen, stressed his congressional experience and record Tuesday in his first campaign stop since announcing his candidacy for the Senate.
Bentsen, 42, announced Monday he would enter the growing field of candidates expected to seek his party's nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas. Bentsen, a Democrat, has served four, two-year terms from the Houston area, the political base of the Bentsen family.
"I'm the only candidate in the race with the experience and record to do the job as our next United States Senator," he said in a phone interview Tuesday from El Paso.
Bentsen said he co-authored the first balanced budget in 30 years and the Children's Health Insurance Program, fought for prescription drug coverage for seniors under Medicare and a patients' bill of rights and helped pass legislation increasing investment in education.
"I bring to this race and really to the people of Texas -- that's what it's really about -- a wealth of experience and accomplishment in the United States Congress, which is what people are really looking for in their next United States Senator, "he said. "Somebody who's already proven himself in being able to get things done in Congress that benefit the state of Texas."
If he wins the Democratic nomination, Bentsen said he is confident he can defeat the Republican nominee in the general election next year.
"This is a state that is middle of the road," he said. "I think Texas has always voted for the person, rather than the party. I think the Democrats are going to have a strong ticket in 2002 and I think it will be a good year."
On Monday in Houston, 80-year-old Lloyd Bentsen told reporters he was proud his nephew was running for the Senate. The elder Bentsen suffered a debilitating stroke two years ago. He resigned from the Senate after the 1992 election to become treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.
Ken Bentsen's opponents for the Democratic nomination are expected to include former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales, 1996 Democratic Senate candidate Victor Morales, and Austin lawyer Ed Cunningham.
Attorney General John Cornyn has no serious opposition in his bid for the Republican nomination.
In September, Gramm announced that he would retire when his third term ended in January 2003. His departure creates an open senate seat from Texas for the first time since 1993.