HOUSTON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Although it's officially a nonpartisan election, President Bush and his father have endorsed City Councilman Orlando Sanchez in his bid to unseat Houston Mayor Lee Brown in Saturday's runoff election.
President Bush was scheduled to tape a radio commercial and an automated telephone message Wednesday for Sanchez, only a day after the former Texas governor issued a statement endorsing the Cuban-American businessman he calls "a Houston success story."
"He is living proof that with hard work, determination and optimism, the American Dream is still available to all," Bush said. "Orlando Sanchez will be a great mayor for a great city. Please support him on Dec. 1."
Bush was returning the favor in a sense because Sanchez, a conservative Republican, supported the president in his two campaigns for Texas governor.
The White House endorsement came less than a week after former President Bush and Barbara Bush, who live in Houston, lent their support to Sanchez. Their endorsement is carried in a Sanchez television commercial being widely aired in the remaining days of the runoff campaign.
Although Houston city elections are supposed to be nonpartisan, White House interest is not new. In 1997, President Clinton recorded a radio commercial for Brown in his first race for mayor and Vice President Al Gore attended a fund-raiser in Houston.
Brown, the city's first black mayor, was endorsed Tuesday by Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAullife, who campaigned with the mayor in an Hispanic section of the city where Sanchez draws much of his political strength.
Brown, a former police chief and national drug czar, is seeking re-election to his final, two-year term in Saturday's runoff. Brown and Sanchez received the most votes in the Nov. 6 election, eliminating four other candidates for mayor.
Campaigning in the remaining days has focused on getting out the vote, according to political analysts, as each camp assumes those who might vote have made up their minds on the candidates.
"We are in the fourth-largest city in America with 2 million residents, and the fact of the matter is that 143,000 votes will win the mayorship," Sanchez spokesman Chris Begala told the Houston Chronicle. "If you can get 7 percent of the population of the fourth-largest city to go and vote (for you), you win. When you break those numbers down, that ought to tell how much of a grass-roots effort this is."
About 288,000 of 1 million registered voters cast ballots Nov. 6 and fewer voters are expected Saturday if the election follows the pattern of 1997 when Brown won his first term against Republican businessman Rob Mosbacher, the Chronicle said.