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Plus: Backhanded Apology

Though Stewart insisted that Cornyn doesn't co-sponsor resolutions "as a general rule," the senator has, in fact, co-sponsored 16 resolutions this session. Some were obvious candidates--like the one introduced by Hutchison lauding the Baylor women's basketball team--but some were not, as when he joined five other senators in co-sponsoring a resolution eulogizing Yogi Bhajan, a Sikh cleric. Hutchison co-sponsored 12 resolutions, including recognizing National Mammography Day and the 65th anniversary of the Black Press of America, and joining Cornyn in supporting "Dia de los niños."

The evidence suggests that both senators are more than willing to add their names to symbolic resolutions they consider important. Their reluctance to do so in this case, even retroactively, has raised the ire of civil rights activist Daisy Joe of Dallas-based Black Citizens for Justice, Law and Order, among others. "I think we've gotten a message from our senators," Joe says. "These politicians just don't care about the people that put them into office."

Another way to look at it is that maybe they care a little too much. "Think about the Republican primary," Jillson says. "You're not going to have many black votes there." Hutchison had been considering a run against Rick Perry for governor next year. (She announced Friday that she would seek a third term in the Senate instead.) In any case, her absence from the co-sponsor list is unlikely to cost her moderate Republican votes, Jillson says, but it may solidify her standing with the party's right-wing base. Cornyn, on the other hand, isn't up for re-election until 2008, plenty of time for any backlash to subside.

Hutchison has cultivated ties with African-American groups, and though Cornyn didn't put his name on the resolution, he spoke in favor of it on the Senate floor, so the duo's absence probably reflects less on their personal convictions than it does on Texas politics. "It does not say, 'We approve of lynching in the past,'" Jillson says. "What it does say is that lynching is such a raw issue in Anglo Texas that we are not going to make a big deal about it." --Rick Kennedy

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