Parties do not exercise tight control over the nomination process for their political candidates, but the leadership can strongly encourage particular outcomes. The so-called "dream ticket" or "dream team" of the Democratic Party in the Texas state elections in 2002 resulted from concerted support from prominent members in the party to favor specific Democratic Party nominees over others. The resulting slate of candidates - led by Dallas's first African American mayor Ron Kirk for U.S. Senate and Latino businessman Tony Sanchez for Governor - reflected an effort to favor candidates from diverse ethnic groups that also had the potential to raise enough money to run effective campaigns. The dream fell short; the ticket was swept as Republican candidates were returned to all statewide offices.
The presidential administration of George W. Bush actively supported particular Republican nominees over others in state level contests across the country in both the 2002 and 2004 elections, and Texas was no exception. President Bush attended numerous fundraisers and gave dozens of speeches supporting specific Republican candidates. At one Texas fundraiser in 2002 he helped U.S. senatorial candidate John Cornyn and fellow Texas Republicans raise $1.4 million. These actions to recruit and support candidates helped create party unity and discipline, because the recipients often develop personal bonds and loyalty to their patrons within the party.
The ability of ranking party officials to control nomination choices, however, is usually contested, at least to some degree, and 2002 was no exception. Conservative Republicans targeted other Republicans they considered to be moderate, labeling them "RINOs" - or "Republican in Name Only."
On the Democratic side, despite substantial support from party officials, former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk's bid to be the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate was challenged by rival candidates Victor Morales and former attorney general Dan Morales (the two are unrelated). When the Democratic ticket failed to win any statewide offices, many fingers pointed the blame at officials of the Texas Democratic Party, though the official leadership's control over candidate selection is limited at best.