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SDEC’s San Antonio session Fort Worth’s Deralyn Davis By David Guarino San Antonio The 64-member State Democratic Executive Committee, which governs the Texas party, transacted routine business here Jan. 21. But what could be characterized as “routine” for the SDEC last month was something markedly different from what was standard SDEC behavior before the 1976 state convention, when a moderate-liberal majority took control of the committee. The changes were underscored by the election of a black Carterite as vice-chairwoman and the adoption of resolutions praising the United Farm Workers and condemning the President’s choice for FBI director. At the 1976 meeting, the most divisive question was whether or not a black woman, State Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, should be elected vice-chair. This time, the question was which black woman would get the party’s number two post. When Johnson resigned late last year to accept an appointment as regional director of HEW, a hot race for her replacement quickly took shape between Deralyn Davis of Fort Worth, former North Texas coordinator for the Carter campaign, and Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston. Thompson, with the early support of the Black Caucus and state chairman Calvin Guest, was the initial favorite. However, the caucus’s endorsement of Thompson exacerbated tensions between black Democrats in Dallas-Fort Worth and greater Houston. Metroplex blacks feel that with only one Black Caucus board member and one SDEC committeeman chosen from their ranks, they are underrepresented in the party hierarchy. Houston area blacks, they point out, can claim five SDEC seats and a majority of the caucus although the Metroplex and Houston have similar black voting-age populations of about 30,000 each. After Dr. Jesse Jones \(the sole DallasThompson choice on the grounds that the caucus charter specifically forbids endorsements, Guest backed away from his earlier support and bed-Thompson and Davis were certified as candidates by the SDEC nominations subcommittee. With geographical underrepresentation their rallying cry, Davis’s supporters campaigned heavily and lined up 40 of 64 possible votes before balloting officially began. Facing certain defeat, Thompson withdrew, leaving the way for Davis’s election by acclamation. Another sign of change was the nature of two resolutions passed by the SDEC. One, introduced on behalf of a small delegation of UFW members from San Juan by Corpus Christi labor lawyer and resolutions subcommittee chairman David Perry, was construed by some as recognition of the union as the sole legitimate representative of farm labor in Texas. Perry styled his resolution as a commendation of the UFW’s efforts on behalf of the party, but Harold Hammett of Fort Worth opposed a paragraph that read: “Therefore, Be It Resolved that the State Executive Committee of the Texas Democratic Party recognize the United Farm Workers as the only union committed to organizing farmworkers that is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.” Hammett said the SDEC should not take sides in a labor dispute, adverting directly to the rivalry between the UFW and the breakaway Texas Farm Workers. He moved that the resolution be tabled, but his motion was drubbed and the pro-UFW resolution passed unanimously, as did another introduced by Perry calling for the withdrawal of Federal District Judge William Webster’s nomination as FBI director. Perry cited Webster’s membership in racially restrictive clubs in St. Louis and his allegedly poor performance on civil rights issues as a U.S. attorney and judge. In preparation for the upcoming National Mid-Term Party Conference in Memphis in December, the SDEC adopted a delegate selection plan that will bring the Texas party in line with national party rules. In Texas, party organi2ation is based on the 31 state senate districts; the national party, meanwhile, apportions delegate strength according to the number of a state’s congressional districts. Current rules allot Texas 60 delegatesone man and one woman for each of the state’s 24 congressional districts plus 12 at-large selections. Delegates don’t have to live in the congressional districts they supposedly represent, so the SDEC is free to select people by senatorial districts, complicated though the ensuing arithmetic may be. The committee’s plan awards delegates to the 31 senate districts according to which ones cast the heaviest vote for Jimmy Carter in 1976. Each of the top 17 will get one man and one woman delegate. The next seven will get one apiece, of either sex. The bottom seven will also get one each, but they must make a first and a second choice, one of each sex. The conference nominations committee will choose the bottom seven delegates from among district choices to make the sex ratio come out even. Finally, the nominations committee will choose 12 more delegatesmostly elected officialsto round out the group of 60. Billie Carr of Houston, a Democratic National Committeewoman, voted for the plan as the best the SDEC would approve, but she complained that it would lead to an “elitist” convention because of the large number of elected officials. To get itself in line with national party rules on another score, the SDEC adopted an affirmative action plan designed to attract women and minority group members to the state party before the Memphis conference convenes. In a related move, the SDEC commissioned a demographic study to determine the state’s ethnic composition for drawing future guidelines. At the suggestion of the finance subcommittee, the full committee will press candidates to do more fundraising for the party. Subcommittee members had objected to the lack of support shown by Democratic candidates in the past and suggested that nominees should do more for the party if they expect support. The change in the SDEC’s membership and performance is a reflection of the new breed of party activist who came into politics by way of the Carter campaign. While these newcomers to the SDEC are not uniformly liberal, they do seem to have a populist bent, and they are making their presence felt in the more progressive stands the SDEC has lately taken. Committee member Carrin Patman believes the change is permanent. “Now that these people have tasted politics, they aren’t going to be shut out,” she says. David Guarino is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin and The Daily Texan’s ombudsman. He was the Texan’s state reporter in 1976 and has reported on the SDEC since then. 8 FEBRUARY 17, 1978