like Chinese water torture. The one good shot of the day was at St. Mary’s, where some La Raza students had showed up to do a little baiting. “Would you appoint four chicanos to top government positions if you are elected?” inquired a fellow who obviously thought he was going to put Briscoe’s tail in a sling. “I am very much interested in opening up state government positions to members of the minorities,” said Briscoe blandly \(if reason to stop at four.” It brought down the house. But the next appearance at Our Lady of the Lake was a disaster. There were maybe 30 people out to hear him, and most of them were there because Farenthold was scheduled to appear in the same room half an hour later. A chicano student in the back of the room asked Briscoe what he thought of a recent NLRB decision relating to the farm workers. Briscoe is slightly hard of hearing, which adds to the impression that he is dense, and asked the kid to repeat the question. The kid moved toward the front of the room, and as he passed along the aisle, more and more of the audience saw the Farenthold sticker pasted across his back. While the audience snickered, the kid leaned over the podium and asked his question again. Briscoe could have pulled it out if he’d any kind of an answer to the question, but he was completely unfamiliar with the decision. The kid finally turned and said to the audience, “He has nothing to say on the farmworkers.” Briscoe gracelessly cut the session short. Followed a radio interview, a reception at the home of a rich chicano \(very But no excitement anywhere all day, even though Briscoe lawn signs are legion in San Antonio and his workers claim he’ll carry Bexar County. Briscoe is at his best during a one-to-one interview. He threw back his head and roared at the Observer’s first question. It was the first inkling we’d had all day that he has a sense of humor. Instead of the dour, boring, stick man we’d been watching, we found him pleasant, chatty and pretty frank. We put it to him that after May 6, it could well be that he is all that will be standing between liberals and Ben Barnes. He would not offer the least glimmer of hope that there is an apertura a sinistra in . his campaign. We had been told by wily staffers that in private Briscoe is resigned to a corporate profits tax. Not for us, he wasn’t. No way, said the man. The answer to the tax problem is for the state to live within its means. We went on to the great school-tax evasion story. According to Briscoe and the local paper down there, Briscoe was the hero of that story. 12 The Texas Observer Sixty ranchers brought suit against the Eagle Pass school district on the grounds that rural land was being taxed unfairly in relation to city land. When the judgment went against the ranchers, most of them were so sore they said they wouldn’t pay. But Briscoe heard the schools would be in bad trouble if they didn’t so he personally went about talking the other ranchers into coughing up. There was $400,000 involved in the suit and of that Briscoe himself owed between $6,000 and $7,000. He owns outright 420.5 acres in the district. He also has part interest in the Olmitos Ranch, a measly 20,000 acres of which stick into the Eagle Pass district \(out of a Briscoe said, the upshot of the suit was that an outside assessor-appraiser was brought in and the result was that the school taxes of the rural landowners were actually raised. The Observer, bearing in mind that Briscoe was a Democrat in the 50’s, raised ye olde party loyalty question. Hoo! Turns out Briscoe rode the rails with Adlai Stevenson. Piled aboard the “victory special” bus and trouped through the hill country with the late, great radiclib. And proud of it. Shivercrats to you, too. Briscoe was less sure about whom he had supported in recent years. Price Daniel, probably. Should be a matter of public record. But no, he hadn’t supported either Barnes or Smith in any of their races. But he didn’t want to make any statement that might not be a correct statement and he had supported the Democratic nominees in the past but he doesn’t have the specific candidates or the specific amounts. We asked Briscoe if he is a peon pusher. Not to his knowledge, said the man whose ranch borders the Rio Grande. In fact, the immigration police have a camp just up the road and they drop by all the time. And all hands have orders to check a man’s papers before hiring him. And Briscoe’s staff maintains that if his hands are wetbacks, they speak mighty good English for same. Briscoe speaks some pidgin Spanish, but does not claim to be fluent. Wife Janie is. He won’t say how much he’s worth or where he gets it. Farenthold claims that Briscoe on the issues is a bowl of pablum. His fiscal platform, of course, is for the state to live within its means. On marijuana, he says he is interested in a quantitative approach, meaning that some cut off point will be set to distinguish users from pushers according to how much dope they have. When Briscoe was asked if he was generally liberal or generally conservative, he replied, “I am a moderate and I would call myself a progressive. I am middle of the road on some issues and I am conservative on fiscal questions.” Briscoe spent eight years in the Legislature during the 50’s. In 1968, he ran for governor and finished a resounding fourth, spending approximately $7 a vote. One of the major mysteries of his candidacy is why he wants to be governor at all. As John Henry Faulk points out, he’s already rich. There’s nothing in his record since he left Austin to indicate that he has a passionate concern for state government. He is emphatically not a man, like Ralph Yarborough, for example, who enjoys and draws strength from people-to-people contacts. One would have to conclude from his public appearances that he really doesn’t like people at all. But his media campaign may yet put him into a run-off with Barnes. It’s being master-minded by DeLoss Walker, the political operative who is credited with having made Dale Bumpers governor of Arkansas. Walker is clever enough not to let the people hear his candidate. The radio and television ads feature a rich baritone doing the voice-over while Briscoe helpfully keeps his mouth shut. “No one has every questioned Dolph Briscoe’s integrity,” the baritone intones. Sens. Oscar Mauzy and Bill Moore, those staunch Barnesmen, tried to with the tale of a 13-mile Dimmit County road that runs to-Briscoe’s front door. Mauzy and Moore claim the road serves no one but Briscoe and his guests. Local officials say it’s a school bus route, serves other traffic and leads to the only doctor in the area \(who is Farenthold believes Briscoe is the Establishment’s back-up man: if Barnes turns out to be too soiled for the public taste this year, the Establishment can fall in behind Briscoe without feeling ideologically uncomfortable. In fact, there are some indications that the Establishment prefers Briscoe to Barnes. John Connally is reported to have swung a key Dallas bank back to Barnes during his recent visit here. M.I. Concert The old people come and sit on the grass or in chairs they bring up front a few children frolic making faces at the trombones warming up, then they sit down, too. the American Legion Band plays the Tennessee Waltz and something sweet from Mendelssohn. the clarinet squeaks. into a silvery fog the red sun is dissolving, slowly everyone gets up and leaves as night comes flooding in under the maples, and behind them in the dark as cars start, head home, balloons bob and settle, paper bags glow beneath the trees .. . PETER WILD Alpine
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