White’s tax increase has yet td disavow the National Democratic platform. That’s the platform that calls for gay rights and the E.R. A. “Jim Chapman remains silent on school prayer and a pro-life amendment. Jim Chapman’s silence on these issues proves one point: he can’t stand up to the liberal national Democrats.” Falwell either wasn’t listening, didn’t care, or knowingly misrepresented the facts. Anyone who ever attended any of the candidate’s forums would have heard Chapman, who repeatedly called himself a conservative particularly in the early days of the campaign, state he was against affirmative action for gays, he was against abortion \(except in the case of incest, rape, and danger to the schools. A slick anti-abortion handbill, featuring photographs of Edd and Shirley Hargett and of a winsome small child \(“This Little Gal Wants YOU to Vote automobiles parked at the Highland Park Baptist Church in Texarkana and, one might well presume, at other churches over the district, during services on the Sunday before election. Mailboxes were filled by both sides. Senator Lloyd Bentsen sent a letter urging voters to “finish the job” and pushing Chapman’s candidacy for its support of “old-fashioned family values,” “a strong defense,” defending “the sacred contract of social security,” and protecting American jobs. The biggest Republican gun came in a mailing during the last week before election, from Ronald Reagan “we need Edd Hargett in Congress.” He continued, “If Edd Hargett wins, it will be strong evidence that the principles of this Administration have the support of the American people regardless of party label.” \(Seemingly an appeal postscript clincher: “I was proud to nominate Sam B. Hall, Jr., to be a Federal judge, but sorry to lose the advice and support of this able conservative Congressman. The election of Edd Hargett would mean East Texas continues its tradition of independent conservative representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.” Like Wright Patman, one presumes. By the time voters received Reagan’s letter, the television channels had been saturated with his spot commercials pleading with East Texans to vote for “my friend Edd Hargett.” Over and over and over. Though Reagan had not appeared in person, he had risked his prestige almost as much with the 6 AUGUST 30, 1985 commercials. In reviewing campaign ads and “literature” on both sides, it becomes clear that negative charges were a particularly strong thrust of the Hargett campaign. What made the rampant negativism even more apparent was that, as the Republicans piled accusation upon innuendo, Chapman studiously grew more and more “clean.” Hargett’s campaign became so negative that in the final week the Texarkana Gazette specifically chided him for it. The newspaper never endorsed anyone in the election and, in fact, appeared to take an even-handed approach to the race. But three times it came down editorially on Hargett, for discussing football instead of issues, for denying a statement he had made on jobs and trade policies, and for heading up such a negative campaign. Chapman ads countered claims that he was tied to the “Northern Liberals” by suggesting the Republicans were trying to buy the election. A large ad during election week headlined, WHO IS THE REAL INDEPENDENT?, focused upon Hargett’s spending four times what Chapman had and that more than 40 percent of Hargett’s money came from conservative political action committees, with only 12 percent identified as coming from within the district. On the other hand, the ad noted that 42 percent of Chapman’s money came from within the district, not including his own $135,000 personal contribution, with only $10,450 coming from political action committees. In an editorial the same day, the Gazette noted that of Hargett’s $825,000 war chest, he had received approximately as much money from outside the district $229,603 as the entire Chapman campaign had raised $236,819. The Gazette editorialized: “The lopsided total donations $822,589 for Hargett and $333,042 for Chapman, including the First Committee seem to lend some credibility to the charge that the election is being bought. .. . Can a Congressman really represent East Texas when he owes his political soul to a PAC, a party organization or a group of weakthy donors?” CHAPMAN WON the runoff over Hargett, 52,665 to 50,741 a margin of 1,924 votes out of 103,406 votes cast, almost one-third of those registered. Chapman’s margin was 50.9 percent to Hargett’s 49.1 percent. The turnout was 30 percent of the registered voters, 10 percent more than for the first election, with a significant increase in black and older voters. One of the major factors in Chapman’s victory was a significant improvement in his showing in Bowie County \(the most populous county, and performance in June. An intensive organizational effort led to a jump in Chapman’s vote totals from 20 percent in June to 44 percent in August in the city of Texarkana. He more than doubled his percentage of the absentee votes, resulting in the Democrat defeating the Republican at the absentee box by a margin of 3 to 2. In the end, Hargett, with a milliondollar effort behind him \(he spent none of his own money, according to his recognition than his football playing had accomplished. Gramm experienced a deep disappointment, if not frustration. President Reagan, after appearing in TV ads over and over, failed to push Hargett over the goal line and probably suffered some tarnishing of his reputation as a winner. The Texarkana Gazette, often criticized over the years as either establishmentarian or as bland, came out of it as a vigorous, impartial recorder and referee. And Chapman, so frequently accused of “dirty” politics, came off a gentleman, if one will pardon the expression and the winner. It is too soon to report whether the flood tide of Reaganism has crested and is receding, based on the First District, but one thing is certain a carefully engineered test case has backfired, despite everything that could be done. And the reason it did is that the Democrats by and large got together and got their votes out. In a post-election interview, Chapman said he would probably take his own path in Congress, different from either Sam Hall or Wright Patman, but from what he said and did in the special election, it is probable that his record will wind up closer to Wright Patman’s than to Sam Hall’s. Gramm, the main loser, was quoted shortly before the election as saying, “Win or lose this race, this is only my first involvement. We’re going to keep on building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.” A memorable statement and something to think about by those putative Democrats who edged into Hargett’s camp. Stay in line, boys, or here come the dogs! After a campaign like this one, many voters may start thinking, not of realignment, but of reassessment. The First District, of course, is a continuing story. Chapman, now the incumbent, will be up for reelection in 1986, and that campaign is not far off. Stay tuned.
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