WHAT A SWEET moment it was in this election season when, amidst general lamentations over the sorry moral tenor of the Presidential campaign, the voice of Richard Milhous Nixon sang forth. The former President, who, as we recall, did not make his reputation through the gentle and high-minded practice of politics, issued a public complaint that the campaign between Michael Dukakis and George Bush had deteriorated to an intolerable level. George Bush must have popped a few buttons thinking about that. Here he had gone around the country waving his arms and pounding lecterns in 1973 exclaiming that he “knew” his President wasn’t guilty of any of the charges the liberal Eastern media were accusing him of. And then it turned out that Nixon had been wading kneedeep in his own muck all along. For all his devotion in Nixon’s time of need, what does Bush get now? A sermon from the former President on running a clean and uplifting campaign. It is in times such as these when we realize that American politics is threatening to destroy political satire forever. In this state, some of the prime culprits in the conspiracy against satire come from West Texas. Who could invent a politician as derisible as Bill Sarpalius of Amarillo, who is now running for Congress? While in the state Senate, Sarpalius qualified for the Legislative Bonehead Hall of Fame. Then, in a strange and as yet not fully explained West Texas event, Sarpalius got decked in a Amarillo nightclub and turned up with a broken jaw. Out of the hospital with his jaw wired shut, he announced for Congress. We would like to make a joke and say that the race between Sarpalius and his Republican opponent Larry Milner has turned into a pissing match, but it’s not a joke it’s true. Responding to a group called Drug-Free North Texas, the candidates have stepped forward to prove themselves pure with public urinalysis tests. In fact, Milner gave his urine sample on TV! According to Wichita Falls lawyer Bob Hampton, the television cameras of the local TV station showed Milner disappearing into a room and then emerging with the waste sample in a jar. “He was there grinnin’ in his hospital robe,” says Hampton. To the best we have been able to tell, Sarpalius has not yet taken his urinalysis test in public, though he did agree to the test. We are reminded by these campaign events of North. Carolina Senator Terry Sanford’s line that he would be willing to take a drug test as soon as his opponent agreed to take an IQ test. But in this West Texas race, neither candidate would be well advised to make such an offer. THERE ARE SEVERAL races around the state that we did not address in our endorsement issue last time \(TO, due to a lack of time and space. Here is a brief run-down of those races. The most serious Congressional contest is taking place in the 14th District, which includes the area Southwest of Houston. This race gives the Democrats their best chance to knock off one of the Republicans swept in by the Reagan tide in 1984: Rep. Mac Sweeney of Wharton. Greg Laughlin, a West Columbia lawyer who nearly beat Sweeney in 1986, is running again this time with better financial backing. Laughlin is a conservative Democrat in the Lloyd Bentsen school of politics. He is a former U.S. Army captain who served in Turkey at a U.S. listening post. Laughlin is criticizing Sweeney for spending $130,000 more than the average Texas Congressman to support his Congressional staff and office. Sweeney responds that his district is bigger than average and that if he didn’t spend the money it would go back to a Jim Wright “slush fund,” anyway. Sweeney and Laughlin have also been embroiled in a controversy over what to do about a proposed Wharton County waste dump. Laughlin claims Sweeney is ineffective in fighting against it; Sweeney, who is on the outs with local officials, says he wants to fight it on the federal instead of the state level. An interesting factor of Sweeney’s race for reelection is his attempt to cast himself as a populist hero and to play down his Republican affiliation. Rather than campaigning on Reagan Republican themes, Sweeney is selling himself as an environmentally conscious Congressman who stands up for the little people in the district. “It’s a tough and lonely job fighting against the powerful,” says one of his campaign ads. Of course, it’s all packaging. Sweeney has voted down the line for every anti-poor, anti-middle class, anti-environment item on the Reagan agenda. Americans for Democratic Action rates his Congressional voting record at zero. Certainly Laughlin could be expected to stand up against the powerful at least once in a while. East Texas Congressman Jim Chapman faces a challenge from Republican Horace McQueen, a farm reporter from Troup. A NOTE TO OUR READERS We bring you this special edition of the Observer a week early so that Ronnie Dugger’s important investigative work will reach our readers in advance of the election. We resume our regular production schedule with our next issue, dated November 25, which will be printed three weeks from the printing date of the current issue. \(11 McQueen’s television ads tie Chapman with “liberals” such as Michael Dukakis and Jim Wright while associating McQueen with George Bush and Phil Gramm. According to Bowie County Democratic chairman William Feazell, McQueen actually lives a half mile outside of the east Texas Congressional district. Feazell claims that “everybody’s sold on Chapman,” and even went so far as to compare Chapman with the legendary Wright Patman, who used to represent East Texans in Congress. Chapman has been more conservative than Patman, Feazell admitted, “but he’s coming off that.” At this point it looks as if McQueen’s only hope is a Bush landslide. East Texans still vote for very few Republicans below the top of the ticket. San Antonio voters have the opportunity to vote for Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez again for reelection and they should. Who else but Henry B. will stand up in Congress and tell it like it is with regard to the federal government’s bailout of big banks, or the Reagan administration’s shameful war on Nicaragua? Certainly not Gonzalez’s Republican opponent, Lee Trevino. In the state Railroad Commission races, we recommend Clint Hackney over Republican Kent Hance. Hackney was chairman of the House energy committee, he was a solid legislator, and would be a strong voice on the commission for consumers and working people. Furthermore, any chance to set back the political career of Kent Hance \(who was to the polls. We have no preference in the other Railroad Commission race, which pits incumbent Jim Nugent against Republican Ed Emmett. We do not believe that any of the three proposed constitutional amendments are particularly worth voting for, least of all Amendment number one. This is a highway lobby scheme to require federal highway money to be constitutionally dedicated to the Highway Department. It would give the department more “untouchable” money in case of budget austerity. Historically, that lobby has been perfectly able to take care of itself without the help of new constitutional amendments. D.D. EDITORIAL Campaign Poop THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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