October 12, 2006
Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style
Date: Thursday, October 12
Synopsis: Asking what the politics are that launched George W. Bush to national office, award-winning filmmaker Paul Stekler takes his camera to Texas for a lively, behind-the-scenes look at a pair of 2002 elections - one for state representative in a district that includes Lyndon Johnson's hometown, and a polarizing race for governor.
It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Texas's role in national politics today is as big as the Lone Star state. Only a generation ago the heart of Texas was "Johnson Country" - solidly Democratic. Today it is solidly Republican. Not a single statewide office is currently held by a Democrat. The state's former governor, George W. Bush, is the third Texan - after his father and Lyndon Johnson - to serve as President since 1963. And the Texas brand of Republicanism he brought to Washington has come to dominate the national stage.
So a challenge to an incumbent Republican Texas legislator by an upstart 24-year-old Democrat with a Princeton education should have resulted in a predictable defeat. But as dramatically captured in "Last Man Standing: Politics - Texas Style," Patrick Rose's challenge of Rick Green was proof that nothing stands still for long in American politics. Some of Texas's leading political lights, whose very names demonstrate the pull of the state's politics on the nation - Bush strategist Karl Rove, former Governor Ann Richards, Clinton appointees Henry Cisneros and Paul Begala, and writer Molly Ivins - help decode the state's electoral dynamics, illuminating national politics in the process.
Last Man Standing" meticulously delves beneath the surface - the filmmakers shot 200 hours of footage over five months - and stereotypes of Texas politics fall by the wayside. For one thing, Texas itself is on the cusp of a sweeping demographic change that threatens to unsettle the state and nation's political landscape. The political force of Texas's exploding Mexican-American population - much more likely to be Democratic - rises to the top when the Democrats nominate oilman and banker Tony Sanchez for governor, the first Latino to run for governor on a major party ticket. They also make Dallas's first African-American mayor, Ron Kirk, the state's first major-party black candidate for Senate.
We felt that 2002 would be a turning point in Texas politics, that it represented a struggle between two competing futures of American politics," says director and producer Paul Stekler. "In the Green-Rose race, within the context of a multi-cultural Democratic ticket battling the Republican Party built by Karl Rove and President Bush, we knew we'd found a dramatic way to tell a story about where we are in politics today and what it takes to win."
About the Director: Paul Stekler's credits include such critically acclaimed documentary work as "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire" (winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival), the four-hour PBS special "Vote for Me: Politics in America," two segments of "Eyes on the Prize II," and "Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics" (broadcast on P.O.V.). His films have been recognized with two George Foster Peabody Awards, three Alfred I. duPont - Columbia University Awards, and three national Emmy Awards. Stekler, a former political consultant who runs the film program at the University of Texas at Austin, received a doctorate in Government from Harvard University, where his work focused on Southern politics.
Co-Sponsored by: James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy