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Independence and Accommodation Franklin Spears’ situation now, in the runoff for attorney general against the. Establishment’s Crawford Martin, embodies the crisis in our democratic life. Senator Spears, by his votes in the legislature and his fights there for the causes of the people, has earned the affection and respect of those who believe in the people and their cause. Martin, on the other hand, has never hurt as he has put it to the people; he has drifted with the times, as he is doing now in his labor-baiting campaign. Yet merely to say the truth in this journal is not to solve, but also exemplifies the problem. For Spears, being a friend of people without power, of the underdog, cannot get from rich businessmen the money necessary to get a fair chance to persuade the people in the big dailies’ fullpage advertisements and on television. He is reduced to running the least vulnerable campaign he can. Martin, having made his peace with the violations of the plain people’s interests those rich businessmen insist upon, gets his free campaign ride into the people’s attention. Not all businessmen are so; we speak only of those people of wealth and power who do not care about the poor. SPEARS CARES, and he has proved it. Consider his 1961 term in the Texas House of Representatives. That one year, he voted to let the rural electric coops extend their service, which the private utilities opposed; to give old folks a tax exemption of $3,000 on their homes; to create a state utilities commission that would fix phone rates on calls inside Texas; to establish by law minimum transportations for migrant workers; to pass Rep. Charles Hughes’ abandoned property bill, which . the banks selfishly fought for years; to pass Rep. Bob Eckhardt’s dedicated reserve tax on natural gas, and against passing the corporate interests’ infamous general sales tax that is now law; for the rights of bus drivers to organize, and for higher unemployment compensation benefits. Senator Spears fought the loan sharks, generally siding with the reputable interstate small loan firms that give the poor a better deal by far. He sided with Senator Aaron Schwartz against indefensible secrecy in Senate proceedings. He introduced, as early as 1963, a bill for permanent voter registration the very reform that would have prevented most or all of the current voting irregularities for which Martin is now demagogically blaming him., From the first Spears has been for the repeal of the poll tax and for re-districting on the oneman, one-vote principle. For going into court for re-districting, he has been berated by Martin; but the people are in Spears’ debt for his refusal, with the other legislator-plaintiffs, to let an unconstitutional 2 The Texas Observer legislature perpetuate itself to the harm of the unquestionable. rights of the people. In the 1965 legislature, Spears proved his independence of the governor, fighting, for instance, the four-year term for governor, which would have been a disaster in this one-party state, and a 39-member Senate, a contrivance that would have kept in office rural senators otherwise replaced by redistricting. The people gave their views when they voted on these proposals, rejecting them both. Last year, too, Spears again stood up to the bankers, voting against their high-rate bill, which was so obscene, even the governor couldn’t go for it and vetoed it. And Spears voted for the legislation to lower the loan sharks’ nowlegalized high rates, which run up to 320% on very small loans. This is the record of a man of independence and fidelity to the people’s interests. It is true, as he has said, that he is “the real Democrat in this race.” WHAT OF MARTIN? One must look closely to see what. Most of all it is necessary to remember that he was a member of the enate’s ruling team in the years when Ben Ramsey was the king of the Senate and special interest lawyers like Ed Clark were the king’s privy council, and during which a series of ineradicable scandals pocked the history of the state. Senator after senator went down the drain in these scandalsimplicated, sometimes as a profit-taker, one way or another. The breath of these scandals never touched Martin personally; he must have conducted his affairs carefully and honorably to be a vital part of the machine and come through its rattling collapse unscathed. But he never raised his voice against what was going onagainst what everyone behind the scenes in Austin knew was going on. He went along to get along. ‘When things are all right, this is all right for a politician to do, but when things are not all right, it is not. Martin’s last year in the Senate was 1961. This was the year of the general sales tax. Since Pappy O’Daniel this hated tax had been the darling desire of the special interests, the panacea for their fear of taxes that they might have to help pay in proportion to their ability to do so. Martin voted yes on the final, now-in-effect general sales tax measure. He voted against Senator Henry Gonzalez’ proposal to levy a severance-beneficiary tax on natural gas. He supported, to his credit, the abandoned property bill, even as he voted for a disputed tax cut for the phone companies. On May 23, 1961 the Senate voted to support the reinstatement of the fired Gen. Edwin Walker, and Martin voted aye. A lot of politicians got on the record for segregation in Texas in 1957, and Martin was one of them. He voted for the bill that passed to let pupils be assigned to this or that school on the basis of a ridiculous series of factors obviously designed to be cover-ups for assignment by race. He voted in committee against asking for a ruling on the constitutionality of a bill to bar members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from all state and local public jobs. He did not acquit himself well or with any vision of this question. One might disallow this if his opponent had a similar record, but to the contrary, Spears has been an aggressive legislative integrationist. He has introduced a bill, for instance, to absolutely bar racial discrimination in every public facility and agency of the state. He has pressed this and other such legilation to public hearing, hearings that had some educational value. Spears has been right on race; Martin has been wrong. Martin’s record includes evidence that periodically he wishes not to be a special interest person. In 1951 he cast a vote against the Parkhouse bill outlawing the closed shop, even as he opposed the Sewell gas pipelines tax. In 1951 he favored raising the welfare spending ceiling, but in 1953 he favored cutting that ceiling from 42 to 40 million dollars. In 1955, he opposed a selective sales tax billbut he opposed the natural gas tax, too. On labor issues he became flatly anti-labor in 1955 and 1957, on workmen’s and unemployment comp, unions for bus drivers, the Ford bill, letting companies, shop around for friendly courts in labor injunction suits. He ‘opposed, in 1057, annual sessions and salaries, favored higher college tuition, opposed letting cities use federal help against slums, supported the Pool bill to gut Ralph Yarborough in the U.S. Senate race by changing the rules in mid-election to require a runoff. That year, one of the worst in his career, Martin voted for a resolution to limit the income tax to 25% of income! In 1959, influenced by Gov. Price Daniel, to whom he is kin, he voted for a gas pipeline tax \(which he was to oppose once lobbyists on the key selective sales-tax votes and on raising college tuition, he opposed a study of migrant labor conditions, and he even voted wrong on the historic legislation initiated by Rep. Eckhardt that has saved the beaches of the Texas shoreline for us and for our posterity. PERSONALLY both Spears and Martin are nice fellows, and both are honorable men. But on the record, Spears is a politician in the traditions of Sam Houston, Jim Hogg, Jimmy Allred, and Ralph Yarborough, and Martin is a politician in the traditions of those nameless accommodators whom the people remember not. If Martin wins, as the odds say he will, things will be as usual. We shall not here try to say how things in Texas are. Our readers know. If Spears wins, as he will if the loyal and liberal Democrats turn out to vote in the runoff, things will not be as usual. As Spears himself says, “I want to fulfill the role of a watchdog in the statehouse. I will be no one’s lap-dog, whether he be inside or outside of the statehouse.” 0