A freshman’s view of the 68th Mr. Carriker Comes to Austin By Joe Holley Steve Carriker, 32, is the newly elected state representative from the 78th District. The 12-county district \(Cottle, Fisher, Garza, Jones, Kent, King, Knox, Lynn, Nolan, Scurry, Stonewall, and the most rural in the state, and Carriker -himself lives with his wife Kathy and two children on a 1500-acre farm outside Roby, a small town northwest of Abilene. A University of Texas graduate with a degree in government, Carriker is the son of the late Max Carriker, a three-term state representative from 1958 to 1963. Steve Carriker is a knowledgeable, articulate House freshman, and the Observer was interested in what he had to say about how he got to the House and what he expects now that he’s there. We’ll be checking with him periodically throughout the session. J. H. Roby THIS TIME last year Steve Carriker was a West Texas cotton farmer looking ahead to spring planting instead of spring primaries. Active in local Democratic Party politics and in the Texas Farmers Union, he had given some thought to running for a House seat, but with veteran legislator Bill Heatly apparently planning to run again, 1982 didn’t seem to be Carriker’s year. Then the redistricting process started lawmakers and would-be lawmakers hopping. Abilene’s Walter Grubbs, a two-term House veteran, was paired with Abilene’s Gary Thompson, another House veteran, in the same 79th District. Grubbs rented a house trailer and moved to Merkel, in what had been Heatly’s 61st District. Most of the people in the newly drawn 78th District had been represented by Grubbs in the last two legislative sessions. “A man’s got to be crazy to run against an incumbent for the legislature,” Carriker says. “He’s really got to be crazy to run against two incumbents. And I certainly didn’t have any intention of running against Heatly because he could look for support to the same people I would look to for support.” A few days before the filing deadline, Heatly decided not to run and let it be known he would support Carriker if Carriker decided to jump into the race. Realizing that Heatly’s support could neutralize an incumbent’s advantage, the young farmer spent a weekend agonizing over his decision. “Money was not that big a worry for me,” he says, “because I figured, as relatively inexpensive as campaigns are “[The recession in his area] has pretty much bottomed out as Reagan promised; it’s now a depression.” in a district like this [with no large towns], that I could come up with enough money to make a relatively decent campaign. I figured you know, five, six, seven thousand dollars.” Laughing, he says, “I was a little surprised at how much money you can spend.” \(Expenses for both primary and general elections came to a total of He also had to decide whether he could turn loose of his farming operation for five months and whether he could be away from an elderly grandmother who lives alone nearby. Also his wife Kathy was pregnant with the couple’s second child. And he wanted to be sure he had a chance of winning. After announcing his candidacy and plunging into a campaign, he was absolutely convinced he had made the wrong decision. “I guess the worst person to tell you how a campaign’s going is the candidate himself,” he says. “He has the poorest perception of how the vote’s going to go. Every time you walk up to somebody on the street and shake their hand and they say ho-hum and walk off, you say, ‘My God, I’ve lost.’ Anytime somebody says something negative to you, it just crushes you. You see all the negatives, you see none of the positive, and you just really don’t see how you can possibly win. I guess after I’d been in it a week or maybe two weeks, I would have paid any amount of money to be able to get out of it. What I was doing in my campaign for the last five weeks was desperately attempting to get enough votes to save face.” Campaign issues included Grubbs’ support for the bill raising the interest ceiling and his opposition to teacher pay raises and gasohol legislation. Grubbs called Carriker a liberal whose supporters wanted to give teachers, other public employees, and migrant laborers the right to strike. He said Carriker would be “somewhat obligated” to those supporters. He also called Carriker a “puppet of Bill Heatly. ” Carriker says that had he ventured a guess the night before the primary, it would have been 57% to 43 %, Grubbs’ favor. “I thought we were running well, we had saved face, we had made a reasonable presentation, but we couldn’t buck the powers of incumbency.” He was right on the percentages, wrong on the outcome. He won with 57% of the vote. Six months later his Republican opponent in the general election, a former Abilene Philharmonic musician who called himself an “epistologist,” was little more than Pho to by Le la n d Bea tty THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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