Politics & Government

Minority party candidates offer options in Texas governor's race

AUSTIN -- Twenty-three years old and fresh out of law school at the University of Georgia, Kathie Glass got up at 4 in the morning July 7, 1977, and drove all the way to Texas, reaching the Lone Star State by midnight. She had purposely planned to arrive on 7-7-77, she says, because "I wanted to make a grand statement about changing my life."

More than three decades later, after a successful career as a Houston lawyer, the 56-year-old mother of two is still making bold statements as a feisty Libertarian candidate for governor, one of three alternative contenders in a race dominated by two marquee combatants, Republican Gov. Rick Perry and his Democratic challenger Bill White, former mayor of Houston.

From the opposite direction comes Deb Shafto, a 71-year-old retired schoolteacher from Houston who co-founded the Texas branch of the liberal Green Party a decade ago and is now its standard-bearer in the governor's race.

Although the party was stung by disclosures that Republican operatives participated in its efforts to get on the ballot this year, Shafto has relentlessly sought to keep the focus on her crusade to combat global warming, stoke alternative energy, reform education and improve the quality of life for the state's poor and disadvantaged. One of her signature proposals -- and most controversial -- would impose an income tax on those making about $87,500 and above.

Andy Barron, a genial orthodontist in Belton, is seeking the state's top job as a write-in candidate. While joking that he may be "the largest underdog in Texas history," Barron, a devout Christian, was serious enough about the race to put his practice on hold and is pushing a conservative message that includes restoring prayer in public schools, reducing government intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens and eliminating property taxes, a goal he shares with Glass. His website proclaims, "Yes We can, Through Christ."

All three candidates acknowledge that they are engaged in long-shot campaigns, but all say they are fulfilling a time-honored role in American democracy by giving voters options beyond those presented by the two establishment candidates. Glass and Shafto will get a shot at statewide exposure when they join White in an hourlong debate that will be aired Tuesday from Austin's KLRU public television. The Star-Telegram and other major Texas newspapers will sponsor the event.

Perry declined to participate in the debate after White declined to meet the governor's demand to turn over certain tax records.

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