Page 67


Senator Bentsen 13 SERVER A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South March 14, 1975 THE TEXAS 500 Winning and losing with LBJr. Austin It’s always interesting to watch the House of Representatives do something really awful, especially when they know it’s awful and have a decent alternative. What they have done this time is give us a winner-take-all presidential primary so bad that it may touch off a “bring back the unit rule” movement. If the whole bloody mess weren’t Lloyd Bentsen Jr.’s fault, one might almost feel sorry for him. No sooner does he announce for President than he goes and steps in the Texas Legislature. Basically, he pulled a rank power play, in the old Allan Shivers-John Connally mold, although one trusts neither of those two would have been stupid enough to use Tom Schieffer as a tool. AT ISSUE was House Bill 679 by Rep. Tom Schieffer of Fort Worth, with 73 co-sponsors. House Bill 679 sets up a presidential preference primary for Texas, a measure some progressives have been advocating for years. But 679 is so ludicrously stacked in favor of favorite sons that Texas newspapers, with unwonted straightforwardness, took to calling it “the Bentsen bill.” Schieffer claims to have drafted the thing all by his own self, which one can only hope is true. If Bentsen had anything to do with writing it, that does not augur well for his presidency. One member of the opposition, who believes the Bentsen forces did write the bill, said it reminded her of LBJ and the Vietnam War; “he just got the poorest advisers he could get.” The major noxious features of the bill are: It is winner-take-all, Schieffer’s protests to the contrary notwithstanding. The primary would be held on the state senatorial district level. The candidate who won a plurality not necessarily a majority would get all three or four delegate seats in the district where he won. Thus, in a two-man race, the candidate with 51 percent of the vote would get 100 percent of the delegates and the candidate with 49 percent of the vote, no delegates. Worse, in a hypothetical 11-person race, with ten candidates tied at 9 percent of the vote each, and the 11th person coming in with 10 percent, the 11th person would get 100 percent of the delegates. Voters would not get to vote on presidential candidates at all. They would vote for a slate of delegates supporting a given presidential candidate, the slate chosen by a nominating committee \(of at least 10 people from each senatorial several drawbacks to this scheme. For one thing, a candidate like, say, Julian Bond of Georgia might have a hard time scrounging up a slate of candidates in certain reaches of East or West Texas. Even if he could get one together, it would not be likely to be composed of prominent folk. In Dallas, Bentsen could get, say, Wes Wise, Ron Clower, and Garry Weber on his slate while a non-Texan long-shot would wind up with Joe Doaks, Joe Six-pack, and Jim Average. Among other things, this system will discriminate against minorities. As presented by Schieffer and team, the bill will provide for minority representation. Their thesis is that Bentsen or any other candidate, knowing full well what the minority and sex requirements are for any given state delegation, will balance his slates in the various senatorial districts of his own volition. It is a fairly safe bet that