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Frank Briscoe Noble Ginther. Jim.McConn Houston chooses a new mayor thrills in 12-way race the past, depending on your point of view. His improbable rise \(“It’s a miracle that’s going on down here,” one of Ginther’s flacks told the Observer. “If you want to see someone walk on water, prise in an unpredictable election year. At the outset, observers expected a rerun of the memorable 1975 contest between liberal incumbent Fred Hofheinz and conservative former Harris County district attorney Frank Briscoe, a distant cousin of Dolph. \(Candidates do not run by political party in municipal elections handily two years ago, and with the continued support of both the business establishment and minority voters, the young mayor could reasonably have been expected to defeat Briscoe again. In June, however, Hofheinz announced he would not seek a third term. A few days later, rumor-based stories began appearing in the city’s newspapers about a Harris County grand jury investigation of a “high city official”Hofheinzfor allegedly covering up his arrest in a dope raid earlier this year. In the ensuing confusion, Briscoe vaulted to an early lead in the mayoral race. As the summer progressed, however, it began to -appear that the rumor was a gun that could kick as well as shoot. After seven weeks of digging, the grand jury could report no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Hofheinz or any other city official. Meanwhile, reporters tracing the source of the rumor uncovered tracks that led toward the Briscoe camp, although no one could nail down the story’s origins. The suspicion that Briscoe or his supporters had used the grand jury to smear Hofheinz surfaced at a mid-August news conference, when Briscoe appeared at City Hall to pay his filing fee. Beleaguered by reporters’ questions about his possible role in starting the dope raid rumor, Briscoe became flustered, turned his back, and walked away. What had been planned as a minor media event promoting the Briscoe campaign became instead a media debacle. The candidate came away with a reputation for a “hot mouth” and a short temper with reporters. Since then, Briscoe has made virtually no campaign appearances; surrogates have turned up at routine events. Meanwhile, Briscoe’s television commercials have tried to portray him as folksy. \(The ads are a far cry from his 1975 commercials, which featured cartoon hippies being thrown behind bars and the theme music from “True Grit.” Perhaps unfortunately for Briscoe, the hippie spots were run during Saturday night broadcasts of “Monty Python’s Flying Briscoe suffered another setback in September with the entry in the race of local television-personality-turnedpolitician Dick Gottlieb. Gottlieb, who served one term on the city council in the early ’70s, came within a hair of defeating Hofheinz for mayor in 1973. Two years later, he finished a distant third to Hofheinz and Briscoe. This year, he seems a safe bet for fourth place, but is likely to draw more votes from Briscoe than from any of the other candidates. Briscoe has probably held on to his lead among the city’s conservative voters. But the conservatives, though THE TEXAS OBSERVER