Corpus Christi Speakers at the convention of the Texas Women’s Political Caucus here were prone to say things like, “We have to work twice as hard to get half as far.” This attitude may account for the positively stupefying display of energy by the 200-odd delegates to the convention. In addition to a full program offered by the convention as a whole, delegates attended an endless round of meetings of the chicana caucus, the labor caucus, the Democratic Party caucus, the education caucus, the lesbian caucus, the male caucus, the El Paso caucus, the Bexar County caucus, etc., etc. And this is not to mention the nightly open houses, some of them starting at midnight, sponsored by all and sundry, plus the extensive freelance socializing. A hypothetical black, lesbian, Democratic teacher affiliated with a union and residing in Tarrant County would have dropped dead of exhaustion before the end of the convention. Any group of women who can assert themselves enough to get out of bed at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning to attend an “Assertiveness Workshop” surely don’t need to be there. And those TWPC women are hell on standing ovations. There was more getting up and getting down at that convention than at a high Episcbpal service, and more applause than at a Willie Nelson concert. Any speaker who didn’t get at least two standing ovations was an utter stiff. Such an appreciative group. Starting at 8 a.m. some mornings, they gave standing ovations to the arrangements committee, the resolutions committee, the folks who did such a great job printing the program, and so on. All the retiring officers 6 The Texas Observer were thanked ad nauseam and reporters even got thanked for coming to cover the thing. Clearly, the TWPC is determined to inject a little more graciousness into the political process. THE TWPC MAY not be going downhill these days, but it is definitely engaged in an uphill struggle. The membership has declined from 1,500 in 1972 to 670. There are two official explanations for the decline, each of them valid to some degree. In the first place, this is an off political year. Those who bestir themselves over politics only biennially or quadrennially can be expected to fork over their dues in 1976. In the second, Jane Wells, member of the state board of education and a founder of the TWPC, claims to consider the membership drop almost a healthy phenomenon. She says the organization has sort of been shaking out the chaff, the folks who weren’t prepared to work hard. “The women who are in the caucus now are the real workers,” she said. Down with dilettantes. But another reason for at least part of the membership drop is the increasingly apparent liberal bent of the non-partisan caucus. Caucus members speak in private of their “token Republicans,” who are, indeed, few and far between. Nancy Bowen, a Corpus Christian who serves on both the city planning commission and the Nueces County water board, explained why she dropped out of the caucus. “I found the turn of the local organization somewhat objectionable in that their views were more liberal than mine on some issues.” For “liberal” read total commitment to the Equal Rights Amendment and to what is called in some circles “abortion on demand.” The TWPC does stick closely to women’s issues, but some women’s ‘issues are more “liberal” than others. The caucus is not, however, dominated by any particular style. One statewide officeholder habitually refers to the caucus as “all them hairy-legged women,” but in fact long hair and jeans were outnumbered at the convention by a sort of burbly, Junior League chic epitomized by retiring chairperson Jane Macon, a San Antonio attorney. And all the sessions were pleasantly leavened by a sprinkling of doughty, older women, some of whom have been hanging in there since their suffragist days. On the positive side for the caucus is a growing recognition of its real and potential political muscle. It may be as much due to the changing times as to the work of the caucus, but since the TWPC’s inception in 1971, the percentage of Texas public offices held by women has gone from 6.4 to 14.1. And the caucus has clearly been THE key element in the victories of several female politicians. Lt. Gov. Mary Ann Krupsak of New York, a guest speaker at the caucus, said flatly she would never have been elected had it not been for the New York caucus. During the last legislative session, the Texas caucus hired itself a full-time lobbyist, a likeable and efficient Austin attorney named Gretchen Raatz. Raatz, who favors a no-bull style, summed up the caucus’s legislative record by saying, “We won one, lost one, and killed 15. I’m told we did as well as the Texas Manufacturers Association and a helluva lot better than the oil and gas lobby.” That kind of record has attracted the attention of the Texas AFL-CIO and of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, neither of which is noted for its propensity to indulge in quixotic political efforts. Both labor and the trial lawyers are cooperating with the caucus for the first time on a political “get” list. It is politely known as “targeting,” i.e., picking out certain incumbent is obnoxious to all three groups defeating the undesirable. The next step is It is expected that some of the gentlemen who made the TWPC’s honor roll of “hardcore sexists” in the legislature will be on the final target list. Raatz described some of the difficulties in making the selections for that list there being such a vast array of talent to choose from but said that she had consulted widely before making the final choices. The lucky winners are Sens. Tom Creighton of Mineral Wells, Mike McKinnon of Corpus, and Mad Dog Mengden of Houston; and Reps. Terry Canales of Premont, Buck Florence of Hughes Springs, Smith Gilley of Greenville, Bill Heatly of Paducah, Bill Hilliard of Fort Worth, Ed Mayes of Granbury, Ben Munson of Denison,. George Preston of Paris, Dick Reynolds of Richardson, Calvin Rucker of Cedar Hill, E. L. Short of Tahoka, Bill Sullivant of Gainesville, Tom Uher of Bay City, Larry Vick of Houston, and Joe Wyatt of Victoria. THIS TWPC convention was singularly devoid of conflict. In the past, some fine old fights have developed over one thing or another, but this year the major officeholders in the organization all slipped in without opposition, like a veritable railroad. The new chairperson \(which caucus folk have a blessed habit of Martha Smiley of Austin, an assistant attorney general. Smiley was the first woman elected president of the student body at Baylor University and is a graduate of UT Law School. She plans to work to increase caucus membership, particularly in rural areas, to write a biweekly column for various state newspapers on women and politics, and to form coalitions with other women’s groups to look for qualified candidates. That means qualified candidates not just for elective positions, but women such as Helen Copitka, who was recently named to the new six-member pardons and paroles commission. \(Copitka
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