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OBSERVATIONS Athens, Austin, San Antonio AGRICULTURE Cmsr. Jim Hightower, the eloquent populist who will probably be the key figure in the Texas political sweepstakes of 1990, believes that Bill Clements hit his peak in popularity this year shortly after Governor Mark White endorsed higher sales taxes. Hightower and the other statewide Democratic officeholders who face GOP opposition have every reason to hope so. They are watching the polls nervously. Unless the White campaign catches on, the whole Democratic slate could find itself in trouble by November. Two sets of factors suggest that Clements now has nowhere to go but down. First, he has overplayed his imitation of Reagan in a situation where “no new taxes” makes no sense. The real meaning of such a pledge is doubled local property taxes to support education. Clements has finally craw-fished away from his “no new taxes” pledge. On Aug. 19 he was asked: “If you are elected governor, will you veto a tax increase?” He replied: “I’d have to you know consider what was involved in it and what kind of situation existed at that time and all those other wonderful caveats.” Clearly he had awakened to the fact that Reaganism can be stretched only so far. Meanwhile he is catching hell from many directions for refusing to reveal his “secret plan” to solve the state’s budget crisis. Even the Dallas Morning ;News editorialized the morning after his Aug. 19 press conference: “Would Clements have keep silent at the Alamo if he had known how to defeat Santa Anna, just because William Travis was in command? . . . By suggesting he has answers and then withholding them, Clements is opening himself to the charge of being little more than a ‘clever politician’ himself with nothing of substance to add to the current dialogue over the future of Texas. . . . He must step forward with specific ideas for an overall budget solution and must do so while it still matters. So how about it, Bill? What’s the plan?” This first set of factors was worked to a fare-thee-well during a fish-fry and Democratic campaign rally honoring former U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough in Athens Aug. 16. Sen. Chet Edwards of Duncanville declared: “I’ve been looking all over Austin for two weeks for Bill Clements’s secret plan. I can find no sign of it. We’ve got to find this secret plan! Has anybody seen the Bill Clements secret plan yet?” He and Sen. Oscar Mauzy, Dallas \(who was seated at the head table among other body who found the plan, and it might have to go to $2,000, Edwards said. The Democrats are also selling buttons asking, “Where’s the secret plan, Bill?” and giving the proceeds to State Treasurer Ann Richards as “Bill Clements’s only contribution to the state budget crisis.” Edwards said Geroge Bush had correctly identified Reaganomics as “voodoo economics,” and now Clements had become “Son of Voodoo, giving us Voodoo Economics II.” The second group of factors are the mistakes Clements made as governor. These have been largely forgotten, but, as Hightower said on the flight back to Austin from Athens in a private plane, “there’s no secret about them he was governor four years.” As the campaign heats up, they’ll be recalled. During the Athens rally, Sen. Edwards said: “I never thought that leadership means to have an oil well that you built break down and spill millions of gallons of oil on the beaches of South Texas and then go out and sink that oil well before the courts and the district attorneys could find out just whether he was responsible for the oil spill that he had created.” “You know, ol’ Bill Clements,” said Atty. Gen. Jim Mattox during the same rally. “Sometimes he thinks he’s this one-eyed jack,” but the people remember the other side of the card, “the ugliness that was exhibited there. . . . Remember how he said about how he was gonna get rid of the oil spill down there? He was gonna wait for the next hurricane to come along. You remember? And when they asked him what he thought about the poor folks when they had one of those bills that was takin’ redfish down on the Gulf Coast, they asked him ‘What about the poor folks that can’t afford to go to Louisiana to buy those redfish any more?’ Remember what he said? ‘Let ’em eat catfish.% . . The people of Texas realize that he represents the ugliness within most of us. He represents the greed that exists in our society. He represents the Republican party that has never done anything for folks.” As I never tire pointing out, the chief reason for re-electing White is to keep Clements out of the statehouse in 1988, when Texas will be deciding whether to vote for eight more years of Reaganism. If Texas goes for Reagan’s successor, so may the nation. Clements, back in the mansion, would use all his power to keep Texas in line for the Republicans. With the nuclear arms race about to take off into space, eight more years of Reaganism might end life on earth. But in politics a consideration like that matters less than all the state’s top Democratic officeholders knowing they have to help White pull through” or they’re in jeopardy themselves. You could hear this realization at work during the speeches in Athens. If White is re-elected for four more years as governor he can be expected to seek the nomination against Phil Gramm for the U.S. Senate in 1990. Hightower, Mattox, and Garry Mauro, the Land Commissioner, are all reportedly saying that they are going to run for governor in 1990, although some would not be surprised if Hightower ran for the Senate nomination, instead. And what, in 1990, will Mayor Henry Cisneros of San Antonio run for? Some suggest a statewide office short of governor or U.S. senator, but a’ San Antonian who talks often with Cisneros does not believe he would be interested in anything less than one of the two top jobs. For now, though, the state’s most prominent Democratic officeholders are running to stand still. Clements and Catfish By Ronnie Dugger THE TEXAS OBSERVER