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Perot Group May Be Key In Texas Special Election

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THE wild card in the special election to replace Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) could be United We Stand, America (UWSA), the grass-roots, anti-deficit organization spawned by Ross Perot's independent presidential candidacy.

Today, President-elect Clinton was expected to name Senator Bentsen to the post of Treasury secretary. To fill Bentsen's Senate term, which expires in 1994, Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D) will call a special election next year. UWSA's role in Georgia runoff

UWSA already showed its strength by helping Georgia Republican Paul Coverdell win a tight senatorial runoff election last month against incumbent Wyche Fowler (D), spokesmen for both candidates and UWSA's Georgia operation say. There are no exit polls or other data, however, to confirm this claim, they admit.

Mr. Perot garnered 300,000 votes (13 percent) in Georgia, many times the number needed to swing the senatorial runoff to Mr. Coverdell, who ended up winning by 15,000 votes. In Texas, Perot won 1.35 million votes (22 percent), making UWSA potentially an even more powerful bloc in this state's upcoming race.

Special elections to fill other seats in Congress vacated by Mr. Clinton's appointees will provide more opportunities for UWSA, says Ken Kendrick, UWSA's Georgia coordinator.

UWSA is currently in the process of transforming itself from Perot's campaign organization to a nonprofit advocacy group. It will begin a membership drive on Jan. 4.

The decision to take nonprofit status is a change in direction from the organization's earlier thinking, and will mean that it cannot endorse candidates, Mr. Kendrick says. Nor did UWSA endorse Coverdell, he explains.

The group did send a clear signal by mailing postcards to 90,000 Perot volunteers and petition-signers, however, informing them that Coverdell had taken the "Lead ... or Leave" pledge and Senator Fowler had not, Kendrick says.

Lead ... or Leave is a Washington organization promoted by former Sens. Paul Tsongas (D) of Massachusetts and Warren Rudman (R) of New Hampshire. It asks candidates to sign a pledge to reduce the federal deficit by half within four years or refuse to seek reelection.


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