AUSTIN – The Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (COPE) endorsed two minority and pro-affirmative action candidates for governor and Senate at its Jan. 15 convention here. For many delegates, the defining issues were previous political activities, affirmative action and fair trade.

Tony Sanchez, a Mexican-American banker who is running for the Democratic Party nomination for governor, garnered the nomination over former state legislator Dan Morales, even though Morales claimed a 90 percent pro-labor voting record.

Sanchez, who has never been elected to public office but was appointed a University of Texas regent by former Gov. George W. Bush, has a strong pro-affirmative action record, while Morales opposes affirmative action.

Sanchez was a backer of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) lawsuit, which won a more equitable system of school financing. In his speech to the convention, Morales said he fought against it and reaffirmed his support for the infamous Hopwood case, in which white students sued the University of Texas Law School for “reverse discrimination.”

In contrast, Sanchez said that the Hopwood case “set Texas back 50 years.” He recalled the precedent set by Texas African Americans when Heman Sweatt integrated the law school in the early days of the civil rights movement.

“In [Sweatt’s] time,” Sanchez said, “they had a greater percentage of African American law students than they have now!”

A dual endorsement was given to Ron Kirk and Rep. Ken Bentsen for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by ultra-rightist and Enron-supporter Phil Gramm.

Kirk is the former mayor of Dallas and African-American. He told the convention that he would not vote for Fast Track-type legislation.

“Protection for the workers will be there before I sign on!” Kirk said.

Bentsen is a congressman with an excellent labor voting record, except for the Dec. 6 pro-Fast Track vote, a vote that convention delegates were keenly aware of. Both candidates were endorsed for the Democratic Party primary.