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To the extent Texas Democrats think about the 1998 elections at all, it’s with a healthy dose of humility and embarrassment. Garry Mauro, then the land commissioner, lost the gubernatorial race to a fellow named George W. Bush by 37 points, to this day the worst performance by a Democrat running for governor since Reconstruction. But W. was popular. In the race for lieutenant governor, Democrats performed much better. Republican agriculture commissioner Rick Perry scored only 50.04 percent against his old friend John Sharp, then state comptroller, a well-liked, good-ol’-boy Democrat, who won 48.19 percent.But the 1998 election, as dismal as it was in many respects for the minority party, was a high-water mark in others. Sharp came closer to victory than any statewide Democratic…
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