Preston and Don Meet Austin “It’s rather difficult for me to understand how I could be seated to the left of this gentleman here,” Lt. Gov. Preston Smith began his remarks, jousting gently. Jousting back not at all gently, Don Yarborough said the issue was not between liberalism and conservatism, but his campaign against “exploiters, a little tiny group out for themselves, a little one percent,” and that Smith represented these exploiters. In their first, and probably their only face-to-face encounter, the two runoff finalists for the Democratic nomination for governor made speeches to about 200 journalists at a regional journalism society conference in Austin and then answered a few questions. Smith might have been a rural county commissioner discussing soil conservation techniques; Yarborough was aggressive and contentious. Seeking, perhaps, to turn his plain, West Texas ways into an advantage, Smith began by remarking that his advisers had told him “that I lacked something as a television personality. I didn’t take this seriously until my opponent’s supporters started buying time for me.” He had looked at himself in the mirror that morning, Smith said, and “To tell the truth I’m really not too purty. My delivery doesn’t represent a threat to the Bob Hope show. I’m more the Ed Sullivan type.” But he did have 18 years’ experience in state government, and his opponent had none, Smith said. This was the principal basis on which Smith argued for his election. His review of “the issues” was so rapid and cursory, one could not get down all of them as he named them and went on: “adequate teachers’ salaries, water and air pollution … These are standard areas in which improvement is desirable. Every candidate is for equitable taxes, wise spending, economy in government.” As he had said earlier explicitly, Smith implied in this presentation that there are no issues in the governor’s race except experience. “My opponent might be forgiven for making over-expanded claims and he might be excused on grounds of lack of knowledge, where if I made the same statement, I should not be forgiven, because I do or should know better.” However, Smith said there was also a “conservative or liberal” issue. The difference between one and the other, he said, “is a question of timing. It’s a case of saying ‘Look before you leap’ or vice versa. The liberal wants to make haste. He wants to get there first. The conservative want to know, Should we really get there?” Reading his speech, Smith continued 6 The Texas Observer that he was sure Yarborough would continue to blast the “so-called Establishment,” which Smith said is a term meaning “those people now holding office.” In fact, Smith said, “Texas is not nearly so bad off as the anti-Establishment people claim.” The progress of Texas “has actually been sure and steady in the last two decades.” The state has had economy in government, despite criticisms of increased investment in state hospitals and other state services, the lieutenant governor contended. His point was that in order to stay even in a time of inflation, appropriations have to be increased every year. “It would be false economy to withhold adequate appropriations froth colleges and universities and for other legitimate services,” Smith said. Finally, Smith wanted to say a few words about law and order and “an almost incredible lapse” of decent standards of behavior. “No reasonable person countenances police brutality or suppression of free speech. No reasonable person … questions the right of dissent,” he said. But he “refused to understand” that “rioting, burning, looting, and shooting” was a way to accomplish social change. The people, he said, are “demanding protection of their lives, their property, and their freedom,” and this was “a choice between civilized order and anarchy.” SPEAKING extemporaneously, Yarborough took the offensive at once. “If we hide behind PR men or have other people write our speeches for us, Preston if we have spot announcements, delivered by other voices,” on the radio, this will be “a great injustice” to the people. Smith had spoken in a quiet voice, with little variation of volume or tone. Yarborough came on now in a powerhouse oratorical style that was all the more startling in the narrow, crowded meeting room because it was directed right at the man sitting there at the head table beside him. Turning to Smith, Yarborough exclaimed, “I’ll pool my money with yours” and make up a pot to pay for equal radio and TV time. “Let’s put it on the table,” Yarborough said. “I won’t spend one penny more than you do …. Since you say you’re pressed on money, give the people of Texas a chance to be certain that the election will not be bought.” A little later Smith was to give an answer to this, but his answer was already implicit in the amused expression he let play over his features. “Perhaps it would be a good idea,” Yarborough said, “if we went on debates, in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and statewide debates,” giving the people “a chance to find out where we stand on conservatism, liberalism, or moderation, to see which man is most concerned about the people. “I’d rather be governor of Texas than to see the people of Texas make a mistake,” Yarborough said. He did not know where Smith stood on the issues, Yarborough said. On pollution control, Yarborough said to Smith, “You’ve said you’re for pollution control and motherhood … This generalized concern, that’s out of date. Politicians got by with that a long time agothey mighta got by with that 18 years ago when you first ran for office,” but not any more. “You’ve had a lot of experience, I don’t deny that,” Yarborough said, “but let me say this, it’s the people who have really had the experience. You not only have experience, you have a record …. “If you’ll debate me, I’ll pay half the tariff up to the point I can afford it,” Yarborough said. As for the pollution question, Yarborough repeated he “will back the Rex Braun bill that provides that a corporation can be prosecuted if that corporation persists in polluting the air.” He also reviewed other aspects of his platform: a consumer protection bill; lowering auto insurance rates by making overall profits of the companies “the basis rather than just the premium income alone”; a human resources council to test the abilities of anyone who wants them tested; vastly expanded vocational training programs; and 100 industrial teams to tell about Texas around the country and “attract billions of dollars of new capital into Texas.” “We are lagging behind in so many critical areas,” he said. “Our per-capita income has slid to 35th. We can do a lot better than that.” On liberalism and conservatism, Yarborough exclaimed, “I’m tired of this phony issue of liberalism and conservatism.” It is a way, he said, that “people that don’t have ideas” have of defeating people who do have ideas. “I’m not a liberalmake it clear! Put it on the record! I’m not a moderate. I’m not a conservative. I’m gonna make a decision based on the factsnot that 1% [`the exploiters’] that you’ve been representing up there,” he said to Smith. Closing on the subject of crime, Yarborough said, “I’m just as much against crime as he is or more, but I don’t intend to go all over the state of Texas demagoguing on the issue.” He noted crime had increased during Smith’s term as lieutenant governor. QUESTIONS, then To Yarborough: Did some Republicans hope he would be nominated thinking he would be easier to beat in November than Smith? “I’m sure I probably got some Republican votes,” for reasons perhaps including that one, but “I doubt that I
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