AUSTIN -- Two months after an eye-popping 2.9 million people turned out to vote in the Texas Democratic primary, veteran party workers and energetic political neophytes are looking ahead to this week's state convention in Austin like newlyweds look forward to their honeymoon.
They're certain -- perhaps hopeful is the better word -- that they are embarking on an event that will change life for the better. Yet they can't escape the sinking feeling that somehow something might go terribly wrong.
"Our party is as fired up as I've seen it since maybe 1982," said Ed Martin, the former longtime executive director of the Texas Democratic Party who's still an adviser to party leaders and candidates, referring to the last year that Democrats swept every statewide race on the ballot.
He cited the growing discontent with President Bush after two terms dominated by the war in Iraq and increasing frustration with the Republican-controlled political machinery in Austin that has pared back social programs, allowed college tuition to rise and turned over many key functions of government to private business.
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