FORT WORTH — Move over Republicans, it's the Democrats' turn.
After two debates featuring the three Republican gubernatorial candidates, the two front-runners for the Democratic nomination -- former Houston Mayor Bill White and hair-care millionaire Farouk Shami -- get their turn tonight on statewide television.
Democratic observers say they expect the debate to focus on the daily problems facing Texans -- from dropout rates, transportation needs and unemployment to rising utility and insurance costs -- and how to fix them.
"Republicans never mentioned the challenges that are most important to Texans day to day," said Ed Martin, an Austin-based political strategist and former executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. "For 10 years there haven't been any solutions, and in two [GOP] debates there haven't been any solutions.
"This primary actually is perfect to show ... [that] we're going to have a workhorse as compared to some Republican political show horses."
Of the seven Democratic gubernatorial candidates, five -- teacher Felix Alvarado, physician Alma Aguado, college professor Clement Glenn, private investigator Bill Dear and rancher Star Locke -- didn't meet the criteria to participate in the debate.
White said he believes that he's the right leader to help Texas.
"I will work hard every day so that Texans get their money's worth out of state government and Texans are equipped with the skills and technology they need to compete for good jobs in the global economy," he said.
Shami said he mainly wants to let Texans know that they have a choice in the primary.
"I feel confident people will see the choice they are faced with: a career politician who offers no real solutions or a business-oriented approach to leading our state with proven experience building a company from scratch and solving problems," he said.
Observers say White and Shami have distanced themselves from the rest of the Democratic candidates through statewide campaigning, money raised or spent, and name recognition.
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