leaders \(such as Neil Caldwell, Ed Harris, factor or not, it is true that neither the House nor the Senate are in progressive hands. Clayton has a tight grip on the House reins, and such old Senate bulls as A. M. block in that body. Running the Gamut MR. JUSTICE YARBROUGH. For sheer grittiness, Houston lawyer Don Yarbrough \(the other of the year” award. He caught the entire political and legal establishment off guard in the spring, winning nomination to the state supreme court. Not only did that make the state’s lawyers take notice, but they noticed that he faced a whole mess of lawsuits against him. Then they heard him say that God told him to run, and that he would consult the Bible in court decisions more often than law books. Then they noticed he had no Republican opposition; ergo, he was about to be elected to the highest court in the homeland. Good God, what a furor! Not only did responsible lawyers brand him wacky, but they also made perfectly clear that he was not one of their own. The state Bar sought to have him disbarred on some 53 counts, and the Bar frantically began to scrounge for a write-in candidate who could spare them this humiliation. Trouble is, the Bar produced two write-in candidatesSam Houston of Denton and Tom Lorance of Houston. No write-in candidate has ever won a statewide race in Texas, and the presence of two in the race just muddled the situation hopelessly. There was a great deal of public handwringing by prominent lawyers, and the state’s daily press fell in line with pompous editorials about the need to keep such riff-raff out of the courts. Naturally, Yarbrough trounced the establishment, winning 1.22 million votes against a combined tally of 415,000 for Lorance and Houston. Yarbrough immediately announced he intended to serve every hour of his six-year term, giving the legal poobahs this observation to mull: “There’s a message in more than 1.2 million votes. Lawyers are spending money taking surveys as to why people hate lawyers. The problem is that their attitude is one of arrogance which characterized those ego-jerks who elevate themselves to leadership within the state Bar.” The lawyers blamed his election on the failure of either Lorance or Houston to withdraw, and on the failure of the voting public to understand the issue. There’s truth in that, but not as much as they would like to think. The press covered the Yarbrough general election campaign as thoroughly as any, and voters are not always as stupid as lawyers assume. Straight-ticket voting undoubtedly helped Yarbrough, but there’s plenty of people in that 1.2 million who voted for the wild man just to twit the lawyers. Make a list of people’s dislikes, and high up on it will be lawyers. It’s a distrust that Carl Sandberg captured years ago when he wrote, “Why does a hearse horse snicker when he hauls a lawyer’s bones?” RAILROAD COMMISSION. State Rep. can Walter Wendlandt two-to-one in their race for the important post of railroad commissioner. Newton was backed by the oil, gas, and trucking industries, which are spent half a million dollars to win the seat, including last May’s primary, the run-off, and the general election. Wendlandt, an energy expert and former head of the commission’s gas utilities division, was an advocate of consumer involvement in commission deliberations. He spent $15,000 on his try. Newton said he didn’t intend to speak for consumers or any group on the commission. WATER BONDS. In the “You-can’tfool-all-the-people-all-the-time” category, Texans rendered a convincing “no” to the proposed constitutional amendment authorizing another $400 million in bonds for water development projects. The vote was 1.2 million against it and 900,000 for it. Opposition to the proposition was led by an environmental coalition headed by John Henry Faulk, though the big part of the vote undoubtedly comes from fiscal conservatives who smelled a boondoggle. One small problem for the water advocates on this vote was that they couldn’t say specifically how the money would be spent, just that it was needed for water plans that would be developed later. The vote was a defeat for Governor Briscoe and House Speaker Clayton, both of whom had campaigned for the bonds. Briscoe termed the loss his only regret of the ’76 election and vowed to come back later with same deal in another package. Texas Water Development Board chairman Robert Gillmore echoed that intention, saying that a plan to import water from out of state was going to be necessary, even though water officials had assured voters during the campaign that the $400 million bond proposal had nothing to do with import schemes. Gillmore told The Dallas Times Herald that they were discussing the possibility of moving water to Texas from Alaska and Canada. On the “yea” side of water, voters approved a second water proposition authorizing $100 million in bonds to help local governments improve or rebuild sewage treatment facilities. LOCAL RUNS. Bill Burnette, an Austin real-estate appraiser, used the “Independent Republican” ploy in beating Democrat Ed Wendler for the position of Travis County tax assessor-collector. Wendler proposed that low industrial and high residential tax assessments should be equalized. Burnette said this would raise everyone’s taxes and managed to frighten some relatively affluent Democrats away from Wendler. Then he dredged up some legal problems of Wendler’s involving delinquent taxes, and that was enough to do it. Dallas County has a new sheriff, 32year-old Republican Carl Thomas. Prior to his election, he was an unknown sheriff’s department officer who came from nowhere at the last minute to file against his former boss, Demo Clarence Jones. The Dallas Morning News reported that probably 80 percent of the people in the sheriffs department had no idea who Thomas was, though many of Jones’ former cronies were last seen slapping their old pal Thomas on the back in hearty fellowship. It is the first time ever that a Republican has won control of the sheriffs department, and the same Republican officials who had taken Thomas on their ticket as a last resort \(no one else their rising star. La Raza Unida party slipped a peg in its home base of Zavala County, losing four of five contested races to the Democratic party. There is division within the party between its founder Jose Angel Gutierrez and former allies who say he has taken too much personal political power. That split is being rubbed raw by Texas Atty. Gen. John Hill, who has ensconced a large investigative team in Crystal City looking for corruption by current and past La Raza Unida public officials, and by Governor Briscoe, who has demagogued nonstop in an effort to deny Zavala farm workers a federal grant that would allow them to run a cooperative farm. No La Raza candidate won outside of Zavala County. Fred Garza, contesting for railroad commission, was the only statewide La Raza campaigner, polling just over 60,000 votes. Zavala County newspaper editor M. Dale Barker told The Dallas Times Herald that “this election marks the end of Gutierrez and Raza Unida as a political power here.” That’s a lot of wishful thinking, but it is clear that 1976 was not a banner year for the Mexican-American poor people’s party, and they have a great deal of patching up to do if they are to mount major statewide campaigns in 1978 as promised. There’s convincing new evidence on the question of whether crime pays in Texas. In Houston, State Dist. Judge Garth Bates, with four years of service on the bench, spent much of his general election campaign in courtas a defendant charged with taking a $59,000 bribe from a pawnbroker. He had no ballot opposition in the general election, though Houston attorney Wes Hocker waged a last-minute write-in campaign. Judge Bates won four-to-one, and he sub November 26, 1976 5
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.