Returns .. them with a traditional Democratic approach,” was the analysis of Carter campaign co-chair Bob Armstrong. And that’s as close to the truth as any political pundit could get you. Texas Democrats outnumber Republihold themselves together, with no sizeable Democrats turn out their vote, they win. And that’s the way it was. Unlike 1968 and 1972, Democrats mainly stayed in the fold, and a solid campaign organization shepherded them to the polls. Look at the county-by-county map of this year’s returns and you’ll get a general idea of how to produce Democratic victories in Texas: stay within sight of the Republican in Dallas; win big in such cities as San Antonio, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Austin, Beaumont, and Galveston; get all you can in Harris County and Ft. Worth; pray for an early blizzard in Midland and Odessa; then wipe them out in the towns and rural areas of South and East Texas. The only major divergences from norm in this particular Democratic victory were a disappointingly close win in El Paso County and a surprisingly close second by Carter in Tarrant County. The governor came through. There’s a rush to credit Dolph Briscoe with the Texas win, and it is clear that the governor was a major force in holding Democratic conservatives in line and was effective in his rural campaigning for Carter. But a good dose of praise is due such Democratic progressives as State Rep. who produced a massive turnout among blacks and Mexican-Americans. Then there’s Jimmy Carter, who just might have been instrumental in the victory. Despite all the huffing and puffing in the press over the alleged Carter slander of LBJ, the truth is that Carter helped himself here, especially on his last trip through South Texas, San Antonio, and Ft. Worth. The Carter campaign in Texas was broad based, energetic, and effective. It bore up admirably in the closing days when the Republican effort resorted to scare tactics, bleating warnings that election of Carter would mean confiscation Of guns, unionization of farms, and government policy dictated by George Meany. The Carter organization stayed in touch with Democrats throughout the state and kept the troops calm. To their credit, a majority of Texas voters were not spooked by the negative barrage. Whatever the analysis, Ford is a lame duck. He’ll find some solace, of course, in the $100,000-a-year retirement he will draw from the taxpayers. When Fred Harris was running for the Demo presidential nomination, he made a campaign stop in the Iowa town where his uncle Ralph worked for the railroad. At breakfast the next morning Ralph suddenly looked up at Fred from across the table and observed, “You know, bud, if you get that job you’ll be fixed for life.” That may be the thought behind the brave smile Ford had on November 3. The Congress November put a little better look on the face of the Texas congressional delegation. Oh, sure, Lloyd Bentsen won as handily as predicted, taking about 57 percent of the vote in his race against Alan Steelman. The senator was as stuffy as ever in the moment of victory, crediting it to hard work and an efficient organization. Admittedly, too, practically all House incumbents were reelected, including John Young \(D-Corpus one of Washington’s sex charges last spring. But there is good news. In particular, the one incumbent who did not win was ultraHis race was tighter than the bark on a tree, with former State Sen. Bob Gammage \(Dlead out of nearly 190,000 votes cast. Paul has called for a recount, though the early result of. that has been to increase Gammage’s lead from 250 to his current 260. No one can rest, easy with that thin of a margin and a recount underway, but best guesses are that Gammage will hold on. Not only is the dismissal of Paul \(whose political views voutly to be wished, but the election of former-Dirty Thirtian and steady liberal Gammage is a plus for Texas. On the other side of Houston, the good news is that Rep. Bob Eckhardt did all but stomp on challenger Nick Gearhart, taking better than 60 percent of the vote. Eckhardt took this race seriously \(Obs., stunned his friends and supporters by campaigning vigorously. It paki off, as he grabbed Gearhart by his big media budget and squeezed the life out of his political ambitions. In addition, Eckhardt’s big win will stand as a strong deterrent to major conservative challenges against him two years from now. There even is good news from Dallas, where State Rep. Jim Mattox took a populist message to generally-conservative fifth district voters and came away with a solid 54 percent win. He was up against the choice of the city’s big business establishment, Republican Nancy Judy. This campaign to fill Alan Steelman’s old seat truly was a battle, with ideological lines clearly drawn, ill-tempers flashing, and hard words exchanged. Mattox laid out about $90,000 to Judy’s $145,000, with labor picking up the heaviest share of the tab for Mattox and big business backing Judy. “I know who elected me,” exulted Mattox in a victory statement. “It wasn’t the downtown newspapers; it wasn’t the downtown business establishment; it wasn’t the North Dallas fat cats; it wasn’t the utility lobbies.” Who was it? “The working people, the small business owners, the senior citizens, and the average consumers,” reiterated the new congressman. It was good stuff, and it put a good man in Congress. That is big news in itself, since you would have to take to the archives to fmd the last progressive that Dallas sent to Washington. There were no other major surprises in congressional races, though oldtimers short of their usual runaways. The 76year-old Poage, who was first elected to Congress in 1936, had a particularly close he carried by only 2,000 votes. That’s not exactly bowling them over in the old Poage style. Straight-ticket voting in labor and black precincts saved him even deeper embarrassment in Waco, which is ironic since he votes against their interests at practically every opportunity. Another factor holding Poage back was his support of the U.S. Army’s intentions to add another 60,000 acres to Ft. Hood, thus miffing farmers in his district. All of this feeds speculation that Poage will step down in 1978, with such Democratic lights as State Reps. Lane Denton and Dan Kubiak mentioned for the seat. Little by little, our House delegation is looking better. We’re not yet up to the standard of, say, Iowa, but there’s progress. November 26, 1976 3
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