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Robert Seltzer: Local races are the opening act for the presidential big show

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Location: San Antonio, TX

Obama is a rock star, Clinton has found her voice (and her tear ducts), and true conservatives hate McCain.

Huckabee plays bass, Paul plays foil, and Romney and Giuliani do not play at all, not anymore.

The presidential primaries prove that politics represents the most entertaining reality show of all, with more edge than "American Idol," more bite than "Celebrity Apprentice" and more relevance than "Survivor."

Bitterly divided, with red and blue turning our nation into an ugly color-coded map, we are united on one thing — our interest in the political drama unfolding before us.

Who cares about the writers strike when the candidates can script such compelling story lines day after day?

With all our energy and excitement focused on the presidential primaries, however, it may be time to shrink the political map, lest we forget that there are also state and regional races at stake.

Here are a few of them:

In the U.S. Senate primary, we have incumbent John Cornyn pitted against Larry Kilgore, who received 8 percent of the vote in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary. Kilgore is so out there that he makes the fringe look mainstream. Polite and earnest, he has one overriding issue — to help Texas secede from the union.

"Twenty-four million people can do a better job of governing themselves than 300 million," he told the Express-News Editorial Board.

What if he gets elected to the Senate without pushing his secession agenda through?

"I would not vote on any bills," he said.

At least, that would include bad bills, of which the country has seen quite a lot lately.

In the Republican primary race for the seat in Congressional District 23, Lyle Larson expressed disgust over a push poll financed by his opponent, Francisco "Quico" Canseco.

The poll asks constituents if they would support Larson if he "voted for and received large pay raises every year." There is only one problem with the question. The county commissioner always rejects pay raises for himself; his salary of almost $50,000 is half of what his colleagues make.

"The poll is just intended to test his negatives," Canseco told the Editorial Board.

OK. But it seems more like manufacturing a negative than testing one. And that comes under the category of "distorting the record."

As polite and earnest as Kilgore, without venturing quite as far into the ideological hinterlands, Tony Kosub is a middle school teacher running against State Rep. Frank Corte, the dean of the Bexar County delegation. The challenger brands his opponent a "tax and spend liberal." Which is kind of like labeling Howard Dean a "wallflower."

Those are just some of the other races that should capture our attention; there are many more.

If the presidential primary is merely a part of the mosaic, however, it is a big part, and with at least one party nominee in serious question, the Texas contest will be more crucial than it has been in years.

March 4 — mark it on your calendars.


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