“He’s squealing like a pig under a gate,” said Clements of Goldberg, adding, “As usual, he is babbling utter nonsense. I have taken no stand in the speaker’s race. To my knowledge, there are no Republicans running. I can only conclude that Mr. Goldberg is backing another loser . . . and he is unhappy about his position.” Goldberg wasn’t exactly intimidated. On the following day, May 22, he released another statement: “In response to Governor Clements’ claim he is staying out of the speaker’s race, state Democratic Party chairman, Billy B. Goldberg stated today, ‘Again, Bill Clements has been caught “red handed.” When Reps. Bill Caraway and Bill Blythe each called me in Austin yesterday complaining about the governor, I had no problem believing them. Clements has a history of involving himself unnecessarily and giving his uninformed opinion on everything.’ `Now that he has been exposed, he can go back to working on our foreign relations towards China and our foreign trade with the Soviet Union or whatever it is he does. . . ” Even with the two attacks from Goldberg, the Democrats weren’t through with the governor. Yet a third statement from the riled-up party leadership was to come, this time from Calvin Guest, Goldberg’s predecessor as party chairman. Guest not only excoriated Clements’ interference, he called for “all good Democrats” to rally behind Bryant. He said the “alliance” of Lewis with a GOP governor and 20 GOP legislators “in this crucial redistricting session of the Legislature is too dangerous to risk.” There was a special element in Guest’s statement it had been ghost-written by someone in the House. An original draft had been seen in Bryant’s office well in advance of its public release. The Democratic leadership had been working closely with Bryant aides to flush out the evidence of Clements’ alignment with Lewis. And whether or not the statements were orchestrated by Bryant’s camp, his office was, at the very best, an ancillary conduit for Guest’s remarks. * * Both Lewis and Bryant solemnly claim to have received some 80 pledges each. Sure. If the House has added 10 extra members. The candidates issue regular statements that say they will announce, soon, the names of enough supporters firmly committed to them to make a clear majority. The key word in the statements is “soon.” That’s the way the race is run. If one candidate can bluff his way to making the rest of the House believe he’s got victory in the bag, panic spreads through the ranks of those committed to the losing side. The idea is to start a landslide defection toward Them Speaker-Seekers How ’bout them speaker-seekers, ain’t they a treat? Seekin’ them votes, lyin’ through they teeth Callin’ up they friends, spendin’ all they money Meetin’ in secret, talkin’ real funny Them silver-tongued speaker-seekers in they planes, Flyin’ cross Texas, sprainin’ they brains Wanna be a speaker-seeker? Boy don’t deny it, Find yourself a speaker seat, haul off and buy it. Anon. the supposed winner. No one wants to be left without an invitation to the victory party, where the spoils will be shared. That, at least in theory, is the way it works. Of course it’s all merely blue smoke and mirrors until the vote actually goes to the floor of the House in January. An aide in one of the frontrunner’s camps, when asked how many solid, confirmed pledges of support his man had, responded that there were well over the necessary 76 votes. He was asked again, this time for the uninflated figure. “On the record or off the record?” he replied. Okay, off the record. He said he had 70 votes. Had the conversation continued, and had the aide been honest, the figure might have spiralled downward to somewhere around 50 or 45 or maybe lower. Many members of the House remain uncommitted or unfirm in their support of a speaker candidate. Although Bryant and Lewis are the clear favorites, it is too early to declare either of them the winner, and perhaps too early even to count Clayton out. Clayton is probably a shoe-in for re-election if he is cleared of Brilab allegations and runs. The next speaker will be critical to the redistricting process in Texas in 1981. Although federal voting guidelines and federal courts will heavily influence the drawing of new districts, it is quite certain that the speaker, whether liberal or conservative, will be able to significantly shape the political geography of the House for the next ten years. That, in turn, will define the legislation Texans must live with. The redistricting committee and, given the economics of these times, the appropriations committee will be the plum appointments in the new Legislature. If Clements has his way and Lewis, beholden to a GOP bloc, becomes the new speaker, Texas can expect a decided Republican slant in economics and legislative districts. Bryant, on the other hand, would shape the House and its business along more liberal/moderate lines. Clayton would, well, keep things Claytonized. The Bryant team has been flying around the state meeting privately with uncommitted colleagues, enlisting support in this labyrinthal war. Lewis is doing likewise. Both candidates speak of their leadership qualities in public. Who knows what is said in their private conversations in airplanes, over lunch, and behind closed doors? That’s when they do their real campaigning. You can be sure there is, in these cozy chats, a lot less talk about leadership and a lot more talk about the next session and the roles each legislator might play in it. Despite the legislative bribery law that prohibits any candidate for speaker from making promises of favors in return for a colleague’s vote, there is, as one candidate says, “a big gray area.” Does one violate the law when, say, agreement is expressed over the need to pass a certain piece of legislation to be introduced by a member of the House in the next session? Is it a violation for a candidate to muse openly in the presence of another member about how he or she would be just the right person for this or that committee? Or this or that chairmanship? In any final analysis of the process a single question remains: What, really, do the candidates have to offer but a favor an appointment . . . or help from the speaker’s chair in riding a bill through the Legislature . . . ? The speaker’s race is run far less on issues than on influence. It is not a race in pursuit of high-minded ideals for the benefit and betterment of all Texans. It is a race among 150 legislators in pursuit of power; some run to get it while others sit at the finish and wait for it to be handed out. The measure of a candidate is how well he can bluff, cajole, trade, wheel and deal without getting caught. And in how far he is willing to prostitute whatever ideals he may have in pursuit of the votes necessary to win the speaker’s crown. The only real winners are in the Capitol. Most Texans lose. 0 6 JUNE 6, 1980
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