liberal in the context of the Texas House, but not a simon-pure liberal, and he is probably more disliked by the liberals to his left than by the conservatives to his right. During the last session, he did some of Gus Mutscher’s dirty work, specifically, sponsoring a resolution to set up an investigation of the Sharpstown scandal that was about as effective as John Dean’s investigation of Watergate. Parker’s argument that session was an oldie but a goodie: you gotta go along to get along. While the kamikazes in the Dirty Thirty were denouncing Mutscher, he, Parker, was getting a run with all his good bills that did such good things for the folks. The. Thirty felt that Parker only voted with them when it wouldn’t cost him anything, when it wasn’t important. Some suspected him of “infiltrating” Dirty 30 strategy meetings, in his liberal guise, in order to report to Muscher on the liberal game plan. Personality plays an important part in speaker’s races, far more so than in normal elections, since many votes are negative or grudge votes. During the course of several sessions in the House, most members worth their salt manage to insult, step on the toes of and otherwise cross a goodly number of their colleagues. It can be definitively reported that, in marked contrast to some of his opponents, Parker does have a personality. Whether that’s to his benefit is an open question. He is loud, jovial, a man of quick, if not subtle wit. He can be enormously effective in debate, remarkably gross in private conversation and, according to a staff member who should know, a mean sumbitch. Perhaps the best thing he has going for him is his friends, among them Dan Kubiak of Rockdale, John Bigham of Belton and Bob Vale of San Antonio, all of whom were fringe. Dirty 30 or better. His biggest plus is the active support of his longtime friend Neil Caldwell, one of the true-bluest liberals in the House, who has won new respect this session for his untiring work as appropriations chairman. Caldwell reports with some chagrin that he, formerly famous as a card-carrying pinko socialist comsymp, is now considered “Establishment” by some of the, younger House liberals. No politician walks away from power, but Caldwell, unlike his friend Parker, is, to some extent, actually happier as a good guy Out than as a powerful In. It is this quality that makes other House liberals wistfully say, “If only Caldwell were running” or “Actually, Caldwell would be my choice.” But Caldwell would have to be drafted over his own dead body: he is about as immune to ambition as politicians come. He would also make, perhaps, a less viable candidate than Parker, since the mention of his name gives large portions of the lobby the screaming meemies. PARKER IS NO lobby favorite himself, but he can’t even get credit from the libs for the things he does right. He went down in flames last month, crashed and burned, with a bill to create a state office of environmental quality. The bill, a strong one, would have given the state and the people some real tools to use against polluters. The lobby pulled out all stops to beat it and it was gutted so badly by amendments that Parker pulled it down before a final vote could be taken. Libs were heard speculating that Parker had run with the bill just to get credit from the environmentalists, that he knew the bill could never be passed. In fairness to Rep. Fred Head Parker, he likes to win too much to take on suicide missions: he worked like a dog for that bill. Finney’s weakness is said to be that he won’t close. “He’ll say, ‘I’m thinking about running, I’m going to run and I’ll be wanting your help,’ ” said one lobbyist. “But then he never comes out and asks for it. He won’t close. He makes a great sales pitch and then he doesn’t close.” Parker, by contrast, is known to spend as much time as a lobbyist wants, answering questions, outlining plans, for a couple of hours on two or three occasions. Then he reportedly says, “Make up your mind: either you’re on or you’re off. I’ve spent all the time with you I’m going to spend.” Some of Finney’s lobby support has reportedly talked to Parker recently. Parker’s competition on the left is the ever-amazing Fred Head of Troup. Ironically, Head’s voting record is actually more conservative than Parker’s. But Head’s East Texas district is also way to hell and gone to the right of Parker’s labor stronghold in Port Arthur. One state official with no personal interest in the speaker’s race said, “Head has to vote his district to some extent, but I’d say that he sticks his neck out to vote right a helluva lot more than Parker does.” Head is one of the great pluggers of our era, a man who beat an incumbent speaker on his own turf \(see Obs., the pluperfect Mr. Square was sadly shattered by an incident a few months ago at the Austin airport. Head, in a hurry to catch a plane, went through the metal-detector search operation once and was then asked to go through again. He did, but was seriously aggravated and walked away muttering \(dare we suggest annoyance, to kick open the door to the departure area. Unfortunately, the door was glass and’ shattered with an impressive crash. Head wound up apologizing, paying for a new glass door and acquiring a rep for being unable to control his temper. The rep was doubled in spades during a disastrous meeting of the reapportionment committee, of which Head is chairman, early this month. Head, as they say in Texas political circles, flashed ass. The situation is that a majority of Head’s own committee is against him. Speaker Daniel’s committee stackers blew it again. Head is for single member districts: the majority of the committee wants to report out a bill leaving everything as it is now, including multi-member districts. Head is probably right in his contention that the courts will hold the plan unconstitutional, but he just hasn’t got the votes to do anything about it. His game plan turned out to be the brutally simple measure of refusing to recognize anyone in the majority on his committee. Now it may be possible that Head was right, that he had a right, under the rules, to do that. But it wasn’t, to put it bluntly, fair. And Head is running for speaker as the inheritor of Daniel’s mantle of openness, fairness, democracy, etc., etc. The goons on Head’s committee, any one of whom would doubtlessly have done the same thing to Head if he had had the opportunity, kicked up such an uproarious fuss that Head wound up apologizing to the entire House for his behavior. Ah, irony, thy name is the Texas Lege. ASSESSMENTS of the damage caused by Head’s lamentable performance in committee ranged from Rep. Dave Allred’s lengthy expatiation on the theme of, “It’s not serious” to Caldwell’s terse, “Hurt himself: a gut lick.” Head started this session as the leader of the pack in the speaker’s race and was last heard claiming to have 67 pledges. A snide conservative observed, “He must have meant six or seven.” Allred, an admitted partisan, says Head exaggerated by only six or seven. The speaker’s race, more than most forms of politics, is susceptible to the bandwagon phenomenon and, conversely, to the old sinking ship trick. It’s a race in which it is vitally important to all members’ political May 25, 1973 7.
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