Pubdate: Thu,  5 Sep 2002
Source: Plainview Daily Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Plainview Daily Herald
Author: Betsy Blaney, The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez said Wednesday the issue of 
a controversial drug bust in 1999 in this Panhandle town should not be 

"I think it's improper for anybody running for office to politicize this 
issue," Sanchez said in response to a question after he spoke to a crowd of 
about 100 people in downtown Tulia. Sanchez did not discuss the drug bust 
in his remarks, but mentioned the town had come under national scrutiny 
recently because of controversy surrounding the bust.

"It's an extremely serious issue, and I'm glad the attorney general has 
gotten involved. I hope and pray we have a good resolution to the problem."

Forty-three people were indicted in connection with the July 1999 drug 
sting, including 37 blacks. Of those arrested, 11 were found guilty and 17 
others accepted plea agreements.

Appeals of numerous convictions are continuing and civil rights groups have 
vigorously protested the Tulia bust, which brought questions about the way 
the state's drug task forces conduct investigations.

Last week, Attorney General John Cornyn announced his office would conduct 
a state investigation. He said he decided to look into it after confusion 
arose as to whether the Department of Justice had closed its investigation. 
The federal probe, which is being handled by the department's civil rights 
division, remains open.

Cornyn, in Lubbock on Tuesday on a campaign stop for his U.S. Senate bid, 
said his decision to launch the investigation was not politically motivated.

"I would probably be criticized if I did nothing," Cornyn said. "I would 
probably be criticized for what I've done, and I chose to simply to do my 
duty as I see it."

Cornyn's Democratic opponent Ron Kirk has accused Cornyn of delaying the 
investigation until it was politically expedient.

"The attorney general sat on his hands until it became a national 
embarrassment," Kirk said after Cornyn announced the investigation last week.

"I can't speak for (Kirk)," Sanchez said later in Lubbock. "I can only take 
care of my own campaign."

Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for Rick Perry's Republican campaign, said it 
appears that most candidates in Texas agree that Cornyn is exercising the 
right leadership by investigating the incident.

"As a result, it will not be a campaign issue," Sullivan said.

Cornyn said representatives of his office will go Friday before a House 
legislative committee in Austin to provide details of how the investigation 
will be handled. Investigators could begin the investigation in Tulia this 
week, he said.

Many of the cases against those charged were based solely on the testimony 
of officer Tom Coleman, who said he spent 18 months working undercover to 
make drug cases against a large portion of the town's black population.

Coleman, who is no longer in law enforcement, worked alone and used no 
audio or video surveillance. Little or no corroborating evidence was 
introduced during the trials. Coleman himself was charged with theft and 
abuse of power during the investigation. The charges against him were later 

The charges against the last defendant were dropped in July.

Sanchez's bus tour also stopped in Amarillo, Canyon and Plainview on Wednesday.

Sanchez had a high profile supporter in the crowd of about 150 in Lubbock. 
Former Gov. Preston Smith said he believes Sanchez would make a good governor.

"I'm just a Democrat," he said. "Democrats elected me, and I'm going to 
support Democrats."

Perry and Sanchez both campaigned on education issues on Wednesday.

In stops in Amarillo and Canyon, Sanchez called for a "decent wage" for 
teachers and smaller classrooms, especially in pre-kindergarten through 
third grade. He also proposed distance learning technology as a way to beef 
up resources for classroom teachers, especially in rural towns.

"We should never lose focus that public education is the single most 
important issue we face as a state," Perry said while in Amarillo. "The 
good news is we're making some really good progress and we have the test 
scores to back up that statement."

Sanchez repeated his assertion that teachers shouldn't be forced to "teach 
the test." He said evaluations should be conducted throughout the year to 
determine strengths and weaknesses of students.

In stops in El Paso and the Panhandle, Perry called for creation of a $20 
million grant program aimed at attracting students whose parents never went 
to college. The program, which he introduced in May, would use federal 
Workforce Investment Act funds to help higher education institutions 
recruit, counsel and prepare the first generation students for college.

"The sons and daughters of a college graduate are substantially more likely 
to attend college," Perry said. "There was a day when a high school degree 
was good enough, but that day has long passed. ... We must take greater 
measures to ensure that a college education is an opportunity for all, not 
just a dream for a few."

In Amarillo, he visited with two students who received money for education 
through the Texas Grant program. Tekara Hicks, a sophomore, said in a story 
for Thursday's Amarillo Globe-News that she doubted she would be at 
Amarillo College if not for the grant.

"It's less stress on the parents and yourself and you can do better in 
school," she said.
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