Page 20


The good guys win Austin The liberals came out ahead, for a refreshing change, at the Jan. 19 meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee. “We aren’t supposed to say we won,” said Billie Carr, the Houston liberal leader, in an uncharacteristic attempt at tact. Her smile can only be described as smug. Meantime, the conservative members of the SDEC were wandering around with “thuffering thuccotash” expressions on their collective phiz. At last report \(Obs., conservatives, more or less led by the peerless Corky Smith of Dallas, had managed to reinstate a winner-take-all clause in the rules for the selection of delegates to the 1974 Democratic convention. According to. the Smith proposal, at precinct conventions \(the outcome of which rather strongly colors the composition of the later county and percent of the voters could elect 100 percent of the delegates. That people’s hero Bill Williams, chairman of the Harris County party, vigorously opposed the measure, to no avail whatsoever. AT THE meeting of the rules sub-committee on Jan. 12, Williams got a little help from Rep. Anthony Hall of Houston and Umberto Quintanilla, a man of genuinely good intentions who was more concerned about the SDEC’s affirmative action program to involve minorities than he was about the ideological skirmishing, the import of which was scarcely discernible to the naked eye. At the Jan. 12 meeting, the liberals appeared to have once again acceded to one of those “compromises” that merely require the libs to give up everything. The specific question was whether a minority of 20 percent at a precinct convention could caucus to elect 20 percent of the delegates to the county convention. Williams held forth stoutly in favor of fair-share representation, but the rules subcommittee reached a compromise. The compromise was that any minority that represented 20 percent of a precinct convention would have the right to caucus and nominate delegates, which the full convention would “consider for election.” Having considered them, of course, any sane 80 percenter would vote to throw them out. Robert Strauss, Democratic Party chairman and alleged leader of the great compromisers, contributed to the festivities on the 12th by having his assistant Mark Segal send a telegram to the subcommittee essentially endorsing this 14 The Texas Observer dynamic compromise. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen praised it and Gov. Dolph Briscoe praised it. And liberals all over the state started cockroaching like sumbitches. There was a high-noon showdown in Briscoe’s office on Thursday, Jan. 17. The purpose was to avoid a fight during the full SDEC meeting on the 19th. Briscoe wanted to stave it off, as did SDEC chairman Calvin Guest, and they roped in the conservative leaders John Brunson of Houston and Gordie Wynne, Jr., of Wills Point \(a Dallas suburb, more or There representing the libs were Harry Hubbard, the AFL-CIO president, Ken Wendler, Travis County chairman, Carrin Patman, the freelance goodie two-shoes, and George Bristol of Bentsen’s staff. After considerable wrangling Colin . Carl, a liberal SDEC member from Travis, was called in. Carl, a product of Hahvand and UT law school who is now on John Hill’s staff, brought forth the libs’ basic legal position Brunson and Smith were arguing that state party rules did not require proportional representation. Carl argued that, since the conservatives had agreed that the delegate selection procedures for the ’74 convention should not change the presidential-year party rules, they were caught by a sub-sub-section of their own rules and would wind up violating those rules if they did not permit proportional representation. The upshot of thit meeting was Memorandum I. That night, every lib in town who could be located was rounded up for a skull session and six or seven minor changes in Memo I were advanced. Followed a second meeting at the governor’s office on Friday afternoon, this time including Billie Carr, who was considerably peeved over not having been invited to the Thursday session. FURTHER bartering was done. The liberals won two essential points: fair-share representation on the precinct level and abolition of Corky Smith’s notorious ambiguity concerning the unit rule “the majority of those voting on any issue or vote shall prevail.” In return, the conservatives got the right to elect 14 at-large alternates by the majority of the convention. Assuming, as one logically might, that the majority of the state convention is conservative, one must still realize that the 14 at-large delegates slots are likely to be used to balance the state’s delegation so that it will pass muster as to its proportion of women, blacks and chicanos. Although the national Democratic Party does not now \(nor ever for minority representation, a state delegation can still lay itself open to challenge by seriously under-representing any minority. Dolph Briscoe popped in at the end of this session to give the settlement his blessing. All hands thanked him kindly for his great efforts. Such was the pluperfect state of the great compromise that Carr told Brunson and Wynne at the end of the meeting, “If you people double-cross us on this and you’ve lied to me before, John Brunson I will hang you by the balls. That is, if you’ve got any.” THE LIBS HELD yet another confab on Friday night with wider participation. There was a suggestion from some parties there present that the libs could cut a deal with the Wallaceites, who presumably would also favor proportional representation. Some of the dreamier libs suggested that they could entirely forget the’ compromise arranged in Briscoe’s office and go with a deal with the Wallaceites that would save the 14 at-large alternates for fair-share representation. This opened the confab to any number of noble speeches concerning the fact that words of honor had been given, words pledged, and so forth. If our word is no better than their word, if we play the same kinds of games they do, then who are we to go around claiming we are any better than they are?, inquired the libs who had made the deal. All who thus spake righteously, and even pompously, may or may not have been aware that they had as much chance of cutting a deal with the Wallaceites as the Trick did of cutting a deal with Archie Cox. But in the meantime, both Calvin Guest and Dolph Briscoe had assured the libs that they would not only abide by the compromise but would also make sure that the new guidelines were distributed to each and every party chairman and that any violation of same could be challenged. The one semi-clear test of liberal-conservative strength on the SDEC came over the vote on who should fill the vacancy on the SDEC from El Paso. Woodrow Bean, one of the great’s of our era, beat George McAlmon, a liberal lawyer, by 35-26. The complexities of El Paso county politics may be beyond explanation, but McAlmon, who supported Sissy Farenthold in the last Democratic gubernatorial primary, was the choice of the El Paso County Democratic Executive Committee. Woody Bean, who had supported Briscoe, and who was once considered one of the great west Texas liberals, changed his stripes enough to vote with former SDEC chairman Roy Orr and to be nominated on this go-round by Wallaceite Dr. Mel Bradford. M.I.