Page 6


Eckhardt SIJJON pi n ed Last Dpy of the Lion At 2 a.m. on the morning after Hurricane. Ronnie, Congressman Bob Eckhardt was sitting with his feet propped up on a desk in a small office that was the most private space’ to be found in his noisy, concrete-floored re-election headquarters. Around him were his wife, Celia, in a brown, robe-like dress; one of his daughters, Sara, in pigtails and blue jeans and a red T-shirt inscribed with the letters “EK” and the silhouette of a heart that was the uniform of the block-walkers and telephone-bank squads; and various staff members wearing wrinkled shirts and wrinkled brows. Crowded in the doorway were an assortment of news people, who parted momentarily to let pass an aide bearing the congressman’s familiar ivory Panama which Eckhardt accepted and placed lightly atop his long, gray mane. As the lights from the television strobes drove every shadow from the small, cluttered room, Eckhardt smiled, lighted a cigar and took a sip of his drink. In the bright light, his red, squarish bow tie took on a roseate glow. A small piece of paper was tacked to the wall facing him. On it were written the words: “THAT’S IT.” That was it. That was .the day the last lion of Texas liberalism in the U.S. Congress felt the Republican landslide rumble beneath him and his perch give way after seven precarious terms in the House of Representatives. At that hour, only a few thousand votes separated Eckhardt and his top Toe, attorney Jack Fields. And there were only seven boxes uncounted out of the 119 in the 8th Congressional District. “When we get it down to six,” Eckhardt had joked earlier, “it’ll be like a revolver with a bullet in every chamber.” The grimness of his humor reflected the mood of defeat that pervaded the gritty, be-postered headquarters. A few women cried, but most everyone was stoical. The least concerned appeared to be the congressman. The most troubled words he spoke all evening, at least in public, were, “It’s pretty rough, pretty rough,” when someone observed that the Reagan landslide was approaching historic proportions, and later: “My opponent had made deep inroads into my traditional areas of support.” The proof was in the precinct returns. The blacks had held. The blue-collar whites had given way. Labor leader Sam Dawson, brought in for the final surge to save the district \(long under attack by the GOP but never the loss at mid-day. “The undecideds were all breaking the wrong way,” said Dawson. “I told our ought to be legislation to limit spending for state offices. Certainly $3 million could cover a governor’s race, for example, and $500,000 could do for statewide contests. Those are generous terms, and don’t let campaign “media experts” tell you differently they’re precisely the people who benefit from political campaign inflation. The other major item on the 1982 agenda is the dispatch of Clements from the governor’s mansion. Some party operatives are practically filing their teeth waiting for another go at Governor Bill. Eureste, a San Antonio city councilman, has publicly stated that “the target is Clements” in ’82. Names being 6 NOVEMBER 28, 1980 offered to dethrone the governor are still premature. They include Hill, though Hill himself seems the most interested in such a prospect; Buddy Temple, the newly elected Railroad Commissioner, who is perceived mostly as having enough money to take on Clements; so far that’s about all. Billy Clayton says he’s not interested. Other names are sure to come forward; hopefully they will be from the progressive left. Will there be a significant left movement outside the Texas Democratic Party as a result of the election? At the moment, few think so. The Anderson groupies will drift to the Republicans where they belong. The Citizens Party never got off the ground, or out of the bean sprouts. The great spasm of progressive strength, the Hightower campaign for the Railroad Commission, was, after all, a Democratic Party drive and Hightower is a Democrat right down to his toenails, on the theory that the point is not to build a new constituency but to do better things with the ones that already exist. The party provides the mechanisms; it is susceptible to grassroots influence, even takeover; but it’s got to do something. If it does not, then the answer to the opening question in this paragraph is likely to be yes by 1983. Davis 441%.*Notterpre,041pOirelokhl ,-: erw