Laredo multimillionaire businessman Tony Sanchez, had served as a regent of the University of Texas at Austin, having been appointed to the University of Texas Board of Regents by then-Governor Bush in 1997, and he also served on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission from 1985 to 1991-having been appointed by then-Governor Mark Wells White in 1985.
Sanchez was best known for getting involved in successful battles such as: challenging the architectural plan for a new art museum and to consider a Hispanic candidate for President of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Sanchez started making waves on running for governor back in late 2000, when he was helped by Kelly Fero, who served as a consultant on Jim Mattox's unsuccessful campaign for Governor in 1990 and John Sharp's 1998 unsuccessful bid for Lieutenant Governor, and also had discussions with George Shipley, a longtime Democratic strategist and consultant. In the Democratic primary, Sanchez easily defeated Morales by a landslide margin of 60 percent to 32 percent in the March 12, 2002 primary elections. However, the bitter primary campaign between Sanchez and Morales resulted in negative campaign attacks including Morales criticizing Sanchez for connections between a failed Sanchez-owned savings and loan and Mexican drug lords. Sanchez pummeled Morales by picking up the questions on the tobacco settlement and suggested the former Texas Attorney General was only running for office to protect himself from federal indictments. Sanchez managed to get the endorsements from the Austin Chronicle, Corpus Christi Caller Times, and the Waco Tribune Herald during the general election campaign.