The Race Is On Out of My Way! I’m Running For Senate BY DAVE DENISON Atlanta THE MOST interesting sideshow at the Democratic National Convention featured a host of ambitious Texas politicians scrambling for position in a Senate race that began the day after Gov. Michael Dukakis chose Senator Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate. All week, potential candidates were prone to begin conversations with journalists by making the pro forma claim that “we’ve got to elect a Democrat to the White House in November before we worry about the Senate race.” With that out of the way, they let it be known that they are actively planning a race for the Senate. The halfdozen leading contenders were turning up at all major functions and parties where Texas delegates and potential supporters could be found. Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby is probably the natural frontrunner in the race. Hobby held a press conference soon after Bentsen joined the Dukakis ticket to announce that he’d like to replace Bentsen in the Senate. Hobby’s advantages over other Democrats are partly due to the nature of the potential race. If Bentsen wins both his Senate race and the vice presidential race in November \(he is, he keeps his Senate seat until he is inaugurated in January. At that point, Gov. Bill Clements calls a special election, most likely in March, April, or May, and appoints an interim Senator. In the relatively short official time period for the race, the candidate with an already established financial base and a well-known name will have the advantage. Such a candidate is Bill Hobby. Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower is in a good position for a shotgun race, as well. Hightower immediately went into high-level strategy sessions when Bentsen was tapped for the VP race and he hit the ground running. “I am, like every other person of voting age in Texas, considering making the Senate race,” Hightower said at a Capitol press conference July 13. In Atlanta, Hightower sounded definite about making the race. He met with several party bigwigs and funders during the week, including Bondie Gambrell, a California real estate man who gave financial support to Jesse Jackson, Larry Lawrence, a California hotel executive, and Smith Bagley, the R.J. Reynolds tobacco heir who is important in the Democratic National Committee’s Victory Fund. Hightower attended an invitation-only brunch on the day before the convention began that was put on by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee. In a conversation with the Observer, he said he expects to run well against Hobby “if he [Hobby] even stays in.” In Hightower’s equation, Hobby will have to go after conservative and Republican voters. Since there is likely to be at least one strong Republican in the race, as well, it could cut into Hobby’s support. Says Hightower, “I’ll get the progressive vote.” \(The special election will be a Republican-Democratic free-for-all with no party primary. Assuming no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will end But, not so fast. The progressive vote is just as likely to be split up among several contenders. If Hightower, U.S. Rep. Mickey Leland of Houston, and U.S. Rep. John Bryant of Dallas all make the race, as they say they will, the equation could work in favor of the more conservative Democrat, Bill Hobby. Leland, who was the state chair of Jesse Jackson’s campaign, and Hightower, who endorsed Jackson and campaigned for him nationally, would certainly be in competition for the same part of the electorate. Will progressive Democrats effectively kill each other off? Congressman Leland, when the question was put to him by the Observer as he patrolled the Texas delegation at the convention, grew slightly testy. “Let me suggest to you that when our ticket wins,” he said, “I will be a candidate for the United States Senate. Okay? What you don’t understand is, I’ve already decided. Okay?” He continued, “I want you to take a walk through the United States Senate. I want you to know that there is not one black person over there.” As for the prospect of Bryant and Hightower making the race, Leland said, “the more the merrier.” Lt. Gov. Hobby, also approached on the convention floor, reiterated that “I’ll probably run.” Hobby said he disagreed with Leland that more Democrats will make for a merrier race, recalling that when Lyndon Johnson resigned his Senate seat in 1961 to become Vice President, 71 Democrats ran to replace him, and Republican John Tower took the seat. “What you see with `the more the merrier’ that’s the way John Tower got elected,” Hobby said. “I trust that cooler heads will prevail,” Hobby said. And yours will be one of them? “Not one of them,” he responded. “The one.” But the Senate race may be simply too enticing for Democrats to keep cool heads. Officeholders such as Rep. Bryant, Rep. Leland, and Commissioner Hightower can run for the seat without resigning their positions. If they lose but run well they may come out ahead by gaining statewide name recognition. There are many who suspect that Dallas Congressman Bryant is in the race to position himself for the 1990 Attorney General’s race. For Hightower even a second place finish behind Hobby would help him in a 1990 Senate race against Republican Senator Phil Gramm. Houston Congressman Mike Andrews, who has next to no name recognition around the state, could only be surmised to be in the race to position himself for future contests. Andrews was highly visible at the Democratic convention and is in a good position to raise political contributions, due to his seat on the House Ways and Means committee. Former governor Mark White may be looking at the race as a way to rescue himself from private life, where he has encountered rough times as a Houston lawyer. White kept a relatively low profile at the convention, but has said that many of his supporters are urging him to run. In addition, U.S. Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio, who was not at the convention in Atlanta, was reported after a recent Austin appearance to have expressed an interest in running for Senate. Gonzalez ran in 1961, finishing sixth. San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros has been mentioned as a possible contender. While the mayor has remained typically reticent, his wife Mary Alice Cisneros, who was a Dukakis delegate in Atlanta said publicly that she would like to see him run. Though press reports have mentioned the name of state Treasurer Ann Richards, it is unlikely that she would run against Bill Hobby, a personal friend. As was his lot in Atlanta, Attorney General Jim Mattox was the odd man out. And in the case of the Senate race, he said he prefers it that way. He speculated that he might be the last Democrat left standing after a special Senate race. “Because I’m not going to be in it,” he said with happy satisfaction. Mattox has his eyes on a race for the governor’s mansion in 1990. 1=1] THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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