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The Texas Observer JUNE 7, 1968 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c The Conservatives Remain in Power Austin Don Yarborough polled more votes last week than he had won in his previous three statewide races but still lost to Lt. Gov. Preston Smith because Smith cut into the DY strength in the metropolitan and East Texas counties. Smith became just the fourth man to win a Democratic gubernatorial runoff after having trailed in the first primary. His chances were greatly enhanced by Smith’s taking six of the state’s 20 largest counties, counties that Yarborough had won in MayTarrant, McLennan, Travis, Smith, Bexar, and Cameron. The liberal and labor vote evidently showed up at the polls Saturday; Yarborough’s total approached the best the Texas left has mustered in Democratic primaries \(the figures that Ralph Yarrunoff is that the turnout came so close to equaling that of the first primary; nearly 1.4 million persons voted last Saturday, about 300,000 less than had gone to the polls in May. Normally a gubernatorial runoff will draw about twothirds of the vote that the first primary elicited. A turnout of 1.25 million had been predicted for Saturday. It seems evident that Smith’s emphasis on the crime issue and on continuing the conservative course that Texas government has followed for the last thirty years appealed to the prevailing mood of a surprising number of Texas voters. The virtual final count was 756,909 for Smith, 620,726 for Yarborough. Smith won wide support in the rural counties, managed to show some strength in the cities, and won a big absentee vote. He had plugged hard for the absentee vote, fearing that the combination Memorial Day-Jefferson Davis birthday holidays might lure many of his supporters from their home counties while leaving the liberal-labor vote which invariably shows up in command of the issue. As the vote began to come in Saturday night it became apparent that Smith’s appeal for absentee votes from his supporters had borne fruit. The combination of absentees and small rural county votes, where counts were completed earliest, gave Smith the lead from the start. The question became, in the first hour after the polls closed, whether the big cities, whose totals would come in later, could put Yarborough ahead. Reports to the Observer as the evening progressed showed Yarborough falling behind in Fort Worth, running ahead in Houston by the margin his supporters had anticipated, getting beaten badly, as expected, in Dallas, just holding even in San Antonio, and losing in Austin. Worried looks began to appear on the faces of many at Yarborough’s state headquarters as the trend of the big city reports started coming in. Yarborough won Harris, Galveston, Jefferson and Nueces counties, his most important prizes, but it was not enough. The landslide against him in Dallas and the surprising losses in Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio were barometers of defeat. East Texas, often a boon for liberal candidates, was not to help Yarborough this night, either, another in a series of indications of impending defeat statewide. Finally, a little after 9 p.m., the Associated Press declared Smith the winner. An hour later there was no arguing that conclusion. Smith awaited the returns at his Lubbock home. Yarborough was in Austin, spending most of the evening at a local motel before showing up at his headquarters around 11 p.m. to greet well-wishers after the verdict was certain. As he entered the crowded and aging house on West 17th Street, his supporters cheered him and Sen. Ralph Yarborough descended from the second floor offices offering his hand to the defeated candidate. “Congratulations, Don, for a brave and wonderful fight. For the amount of money spent compared to yours you made a terrific campaign,” he said. Yarborough thanked the senator and his campaign workers for their support. “We were running against overwhelming odds and enormous amounts of money that were spent not on our side. In spite of the fact that we didn’t win after all, there will be another day,” the candidate said. “Don,” the senator interjected, “I lost four consecutive statewide races before I won one.” Asked if he would run again, Yarborough said, “It’s too early to comment on that.” He chatted with campaign workers for a while and then left, about 11:30 p.m. in a light rain. Smith recalled for a reporter that he has since his childhood dreamed of being the state’s governor. “I’m not ashamed of it,” he said. “I remember when I was nine years old walking down a cotton row behind a span of mules and reading an old newspaper about Gov. Jim Ferguson. That was the, first time I’d read about a governor and I decided right then and there I wanted to be governor. I’ve worked toward that goal ever since,” Smith said. Smith had the overwhelming support of the Texas metropolitan press, as the leading conservative candidates normally have in contests against liberals. The dailies at Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, San Angelo, Lubbock, Amarillo, and in all other metropolitan centers unanimously supported Smith. There evidently was some hesitation on the part of the Houston Post; that paper was the last to come out for Smith, doing so in the last week of the campaign. The Dallas Morning News, the journalistic leader of the state’s conservatives, editorialized nearly every day during the final week in favor of Smith and at times caustically against Yarborough, warning editorially that the three-decades conservative reign at Austin was in dire jeopardy. Yarborough, so far as the Observer is aware, had the editorial support of the Tulia Herald, the Kountze News, the Austin Citizen, the Bovina Blade, the Houston Informer, Cedar Chopper’s Almanac. All are weeklies; the Observer, which also backed Yarborough, knows of no daily paper of Any size that supported Yarborough. Smith ran a considerable amount of newspaper advertising. Yarborough countered largely with an eight-page tabloid newspaper supplement placed in the state’s larger dailies the Sunday before the runoff, some two million copies being so distributed in the Houston Chronicle, Dallas News, San Antonio Light, and papers in Wichita Falls, Amarillo, Abilene,