AUSTIN, Texas — Perhaps no modern-day contest for governor was as colorful as the year a popular Austinite and a West Texas businessman went head-to-head 28 years ago, seeking Texas’ highest elected office.
Both were popular. Going into the November 1994 general election, Democrat Ann Richards and Republican George W. Bush each had favorability ratings close to 60%.
During Richards' term as governor, which began in 1990, the Texas economy was on the upswing and crime was down. But the state was in transition. The growth of big city suburbs brought many new Republican voters. Still, most of the polling prior to the election showed both candidates in a dead heat and both were vigorous campaigners.
In the end, voters had the last word: Bush won with 53% of the vote while Richards had 45%.
Richards never ran for public office again but remained a popular figure on the national political scene. She died in 2006.
As for the person who won the governor’s race in 1994, it was a victory that led to a much larger role in government, as George W. Bush later became president in 2000 and was reelected in 2004.
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