not have the guts to face an American male face to face. . . ” This eleventh-hour message was apparently not received by the voters of Texas, nor was there any public acknowledgment from Libya about Locke’s proposed day of reckoning. BUT MAY 3 in Austin was clearly a night for the reckoning of Kent Hance. In Hance headquarters, two men in their thirties, wearing blue blazers, gray slacks, white shirts, red ties, were finding some consolation in the vote percentages that did not change. “When White can’t get 54 percent,” said one, “every one of those votes is a vote for Clements.” “Rita’s [Clements] packing her bags right now,” nodded the other. By then, Kent Hance’s political career was long gone. And, in retrospect, you could see the end in the beginning, when he signed a pact with the devil \(how could the snake be better personified than by Phil Gramm, a boll weevil, gnawing at the farm belt’s heart. \(Those who object to mixed metaphors and jumbled archetypes should important, his middle-class constituency when he co-sponsored the Hance-Conable tax bill, a cornerstone in Reagan’s program to do away with taxes for corporations and proportionate taxes for the rich. During this year’s campaign, Texas, Coalition for Life President Bill Price, who supported Tom Loeffler, cited the political attraction of Kent Hance. “You look at his eyes and you get snake-charmed,” Price said. The snake charmer has been poisoned by the snake. When Kent Hance visited Joe Holley and me at the Observer in 1983, he seemed a fairly compassionate, warm, relatively thoughtful politician. We disagreed on several issues, but these were more matters of economics than of basic human values. Before his run for John Tower’s senate seat, Kent Hance was trying to convince us that he was a humane politician, whose conservatism reflected his West Texas district, whose civil liberties record was better than could be expected from that district, and whose conservative positions would moderate were he a representative of the entire state. He praised Lloyd Doggett to the skies, working as he was on a divide-andconquer strategy to wrest the Democratic nomination from Bob Krueger. But, above all, Kent Hance was a nice guy. But, as Joseph Heller says, something happened. As the possibility of his Democratic nomination for the senate seat became more apparent, Hance decided that his route to that prize would be along the low road. In 1984, he became best known for his attacks on undocumented workers and homosexuals. The next year, after having vowed not to change parties or wives, Hance announced his switch to the Republican party and later his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor, urged on once again by Phil Gramm. While Gramm, as befits his oiliness, seemed to desert Hance early in the campaign, Hance sank to ever lower depths. His attempt to force Clements into a runoff was marked in the last month by television commercials showing Mexican American schoolchildren while talking about the way illegal aliens were taking our jobs and over-burdening our schools. The Kent Hance who visited the Observer in 1983 was a better man than that. The Faustian tragedy here is not a matter of switching parties. Politicians of any stripe are by nature opportunists. It’s a matter of losing basic human values along the way. ALITTLE BEFORE midnight on May 3, Byron Nelson III bowled through the faithful at Hance headquarters, clearing a path for Hance’s mother, sisters, nieces and nephews, children, wife, and finally Kent Hance. “This isn’t a what-if race,” Hance told his supporters. “We just got beat. I think I could work for another year and spend $5 million more, and it still would not have influenced the outcome enough to change the results.” Then in an apparent effort to stave off the most obvious questions about a candidate who left one party after receiving over 49 percent of its vote to come to a party that gave him 20 percent of its vote Hance added, “We’re happy to be in the party. . . . I do not regret anything we did. . . . I made the right decision.” But Hance had answered ambition’s siren song, whereby, as Circe warned Odysseus, “the sirens will sing his mind away/ on their sweet meadow lolling. There are bones/ of dead men rotting in a pile beside them/ and flayed skins shrivel around the spot.” As with all tragedy, had Hance not answered the siren song, the goal he sought might have been his. Had he not made the decision somewhere in his senatorial campaign that the workers, the poor, and minorities would be his scapegoats, thereby forcing his political fortunes into the Republican camp, Kent Hance would be in a Democratic runoff for the governor’s seat right now. Mark White’s weak showing against relative unknowns proves that. Kent Hance must have known this on election night. You could see it in his face. He knew he had been trapped in the illusory reflections the sirens offer. “Moor and be merry,” they sang to Odysseus. “Sweet coupled airs we sing./No lonely seafarer/holds clear of entering/Our green mirror.” G.R. CONTENTS FEATURES 1 Kent Hance’s Decline and Fall Geoffrey Rips 4 Nuclear Connections Dave Denison 5 The War and the Press Dave Denison 7 Mayor’s Resolution Finds No Refuge Louis Dubose 9 The Lawsuit “Crisis” and the Justice Issue Tani Adams 13 Under New Management Bill Adler 17 Nuclear Payload Betty Brink DEPARTMENTS 6 Dialogue 18 Political Intelligence 21 Social Cause Calendar Books and the Culture: 20 The Strains of a New Epidemic Gary Pomerantz Afterword: 22 Texas in Transition Geoffrey Rips Cover photo by Leila Levinson THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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