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Political Play of the Week

Doing things the Texas way

Blood loyalty over party loyalty

By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Some things that are done in Texas are just not done in Washington. And I'm not talking about table manners.

I'm talking about things that can get you a slap on the wrist in Washington. And maybe even the political Play of the Week.

In Texas, a media adviser can work for both Republicans and Democrats -- like Mark McKinnon, who once worked for Democrat Ann Richards and in 2000, helped craft President George W. Bush's media message.

This week, the Austin-American statesmen revealed that McKinnon has contributed $14,000 to Democrats running for senator, lieutenant governor and attorney general this year in Texas.

Shock! Horror! -- That was the reaction in Washington. McKinnon had to apologize to the president and to White House adviser Karl Rove for committing such an outrageous faux pas. Supporting Democrats? Really! It just isn't done.

Or is it?

That's 'power-sharing' to Texans

"I knew that the folks in D.C. were going to be surprised and some were going to be chagrined," said Harvey Kronberg, a Texas political analyst. "But it's not all that uncommon here in Texas."

Texas has a tradition of bipartisanship.

Remember what then-candidate George W. Bush had to say in an October presidential debate? "In order to get something done on behalf of the people, you have to put partisanship aside, and that's what we did in my state."

In Texas, they call it "power-sharing."

"Even though we have a democratically controlled House, we have committee chairmen from both political parties in the Texas House of Representatives," said Kronberg.

As governor of Texas, Bush embraced that tradition -- literally -- at his second inaugural, with Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock -- a Democrat.

"When Bush was sworn in the second time as governor, his father is standing behind him, and as he turns after taking the oath of office, he walks past his father's outstretched arms to Bullock, who truly was his practical political mentor, and he embraces Bullock first," said Kronberg.

The issue came up in this year's Texas Senate campaign, when it was revealed that Democrat Tony Sanchez didn't just support Bush for governor and president, but also contributed more than $350,000 to Bush's campaigns.

Of course, you can take this bipartisan stuff too far -- like in 2000, when one of Mark McKinnon's employees mailed a copy of a Bush debate preparation tape to the Al Gore campaign ... and got caught. That much sharing is just not done, even in Texas.

But was it so terrible for McKinnon to give money to his old friend and client, Ron Kirk -- now the Democratic candidate for senator? Then-Gov. Bush once referred to Kirk as "vice president" back in 1999.

But Bush has become a Washington man.

Could Texas have it right and Washington have it wrong? That's a possibility. It's also the political Play of the Week.

"This isn't about politics,'' McKinnon told the Austin-American statesman. "It's about blood.''

Blood loyalty over party loyalty. That's the Texas way.




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