Page 10


Strauss gaining ground The battle for the chairmanship of the Democratic Party is producing mostly confusion at this point. At last count, there were four major candidates; Texas’ very own Robert Strauss; former chairman Larry O’Brien; George Mitchell, national committeeman from Maine; and Charles Manatt, Democratic chairman from California. In addition, no one is quite exactly sure that they’ve got the votes to throw out incumbent Jean Westwood. First O’Brien was supporting Strauss, saying he thought Strauss would make a swell chairman. Then Strauss turned around and said he thought O’Brien would make a swell chairman. In the meantime, they’re both campaigning for themselves. Mitchell seemed to be in the happy position of being everybody’s second choice. But then some premature publicity revealed that Mitchell was the guy the McGoverns really wanted after Westwood, so that didn’t make Mitchell too popular. Now Manatt is the favorite dark horse. Strauss, meantime, has taken up the role of the maligned innocent. “McCarthyism -quoth he to those who objected to his friendship with Connally. What’s more, he said he doesn’t deserve the rap that’s been hung on him as the candidate of conservatives and labor leaders. “I’m not mad about it, but I’m hurt,” said Strauss. He added that he isn’t really the candidate of the South and labor. Roy Evans, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, an irrepressible fellow, did not burst into tears of sympathy for Strauss. Instead he fired off a release saying, boy, howdy, Strauss is sure NOT the candidate of labor. “Let me make it perfectly clear,” announced Evans, “that as far as the Texas AFL-CIO is concerned, Mr. Strauss is definitely not our candidate.” National labor leaders may forget what Connally & Co. did to labor while Connally was governor, but Texas labor remembers it like it was the Alamo. And Strauss was a Connally man. Then who should pop up but former Sen. Ralph Yarborough, who is not just a real big John Connally fan himself. Yarborough, like G. B. Shaw, does not believe in understatement. If Strauss gets the chairmanship, said Yarborough, it will be “another Democratic disaster for 1972.” It will be a “disaster of disasters” and “an appalling setback to the hopes of the Democrats of America.” Yarborough called Strauss “a John Connally henchman” and so much for Strauss. Nationally, no one seems to be taking Strauss’ candidacy too seriously, although Texians, even of the non-lib variety, are still in a twit about it. Calls to national committee members have produced Political Intelligence comments indicating that they tend to dismiss Strauss, but they do think he’s a good fellow. Ah, the famous Strauss charm. It worries some anti-Straussites so much that they’re trying to coax P. Smith, the gov.-emeritus, out of retirement. P. Smith, you will recall, has no love for Connally nor any of his creatures. This will bowl you over. Former State Party Chairman Roy Orr and Dallas County Democratic Chairman Earl Luna have come out in support of Strauss. Luna is a political Cro-Magnon who fought the party reform rules. On is a Strauss protege \(see Obs., that the fact, as he called it, that Strauss has “almost singlehandedly raised $10 million for the party” will not hurt Strauss’ chances. Orr has some first-hand knowledge about how Strauss raises money for the party. In his letter of Oct. 19, 1971, to the members of the SDEC, Strauss said that Roy On “was one of the first to make a contribution [ to the Democratic fundraising gala in Miami in 1970] and he and his wife made the trip to Miami.” But after that gala dinner, Orr wrote Dorothy Palmic, SDEC secretary, “Strauss told me the trip was free to me since he had picked. up some money elsewhere. I will pay if I have to, but that was not the understanding.” Strauss himself says that his election as chairman has moved from a possibility to a probability, and claims to be only 12 or 13 votes short of the 105 member majority of the executive committee needed. Anti-Strauss Texas Democrats have discounted his claim as an attempt to create the illusion of a Strauss bandwagon. The Dallas Times Herald got in a thinly veiled endorsement of Strauss, taking swipes at “Miz Westwood,” Ralph Yarborough, “kamikaze policies” and “kooky causes like lettuce boycotting” before concluding that “responsible” party members may decide to choose Strauss. However, the endorsement of Strauss by the Democratic governors conference on Dec. 3 was not the kind of thing that could be dismissed an effort to promote a bandwagon effect. In fact, it looked a lot like a bandwagon. However, Westwood told the governors that she has the votes to resist an attempt to declare her chair vacant and will do so if it looks as though Strauss is going to take it. Anti-Straussites held a summit conference of sorts in an Austin office the same day and prepared some material to send out to members of the national committee. Among their concerns was the fact that at least two governors who had been contacted and who said they understood why Strauss would be undesirable as party chairman reneged at the governor’s conference. Good rumors Rumors, rumors, rumors about who will be what in the next state administration. One of the happier rumors is that Rep. Neil Caldwell of Alvin just might become the next chairman of the Appropriations Committee. If that does come true, it will mark such a startling departure from the Mutscher-Heatly regime as to make the Daniel administration look revolutionary. Caldwell is an actual Dirty 30ian and, in addition, one of the funniest men on God’s green earth. Another rumor is that Jerry Sewell, the handsome young major and Vietnam vet who got out of the Army on a c.o. \(see Obs., administration officer. Sewell has been working for Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong. Insiders also believe that Rep. Joe Allen of Baytown will wind up with a chairmanship: Allen and Price Daniel, Jr., are close. Price, Jr., has hired Carlton Carl, formerly press secretary to P. Smith, for his staff. Carl is considered the Man Most Unlikely to become another Rush McGinty. At the other end of the capitol, Lt. Gov-elect Bill Hobby announced the members of his staff. Chief among them is Steve Oaks, a Houston attorney with the Butler, Binion firm, who will be Hobby’s executive assistant. Oaks is widely reputed to be a nice guy and a sharp guy and all that, but it just won’t be like having Robert Spellings to fence with. Also in the executive assistant class is Dr. June Hyer, who is particularly knowledgeable about welfare problems. Hyer recently resigned as vice-president in charge of academic affairs for the University of Texas at San Antonio. Assisting Hyer will be Harry Ledbetter, who figured in the flap over Barnes’ political use of child development programs \(see Obs., As administrative assistants Hobby has taken on Tom Hagan, formerly with the Houston Chamber of Commerce, Bill Jenkins, who was on Hobby’s campaign December 15, 1972 7