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Coping with Division The Endorsement Fight at the AFL-CIO COPE Convention BY ALLAN FRIEDMAN Austin AG. GOODSON is a Jim Mattox man. A candidate’s loyalty to labor is repaid at election time, and from this Texas City union member’s perspective, “You couldn’t ask for a better friend than Jim Mattox.” As a delegate to the Texas AFL-CIO’s January endorsement convention in Austin, Goodson was authorized ‘by his union to cast 5,133 votes in favor of Jim Mattox for governor. So when the time came to prove his loyalty to the attorney general, Goodson and his union lined up with, as Mattox put it in his opening remarks to the convention, “the son of a union member who was clothed, fed, and housed with union pay checks.” It was in those opening remarks that Mattox made clear his belief that he was entitled to organized labor’s exclusive endorsement. It was in those same remarks that Mattox revealed the all-or-nothing, tough-as-nails strategy that would doom the Mattox campaign to yet another setback. “In every hard fight, in every gut fight … I’ve been on your side,” Mattox declared. “There are some in this race that have suggested that labor ought to be neutral. This convention is not about neutrality. The great union movement of this country was not built on neutrality. Nobody will ever accuse Jim Mattox of being neutral.” After hours of floor debate and parliamentary maneuvering by Ann Richards forces, Mattox was denied the endorsement he had worked for months to capture. And it was Goodson, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 347, a Mattox loyalist who stood by his candidate in the end, who would unwittingly signal that defeat. From the start of the two-day convention, it was clear that gubernatorial candidates Richards and Mattox would dominate the agenda. They were the candidates who deployed floor leaders with two-way radios and cellular telephones, and no other statewide candidate could match their organizational strength. When Mattox and Richards addressed the convention, their followers cheered loudly and waved signs in emotional demonstrations of approval. Former Governor Mark White also spoke before the conference but never emerged as a player and didn’t receive an enthusiastic reception. Much was at stake. Labor unions offer ready-made campaign organizations, skilled 12 FEBRUARY 9, 1990 A. G. Goodson makes volunteers, and financial support. Democratic candidates can usually count on the support of labor in the general election. So it is an endorsement in the primary, which provides a candidate an edge in money and manpower, that is most important.’ Mattox’s third-place standing in the polls made a victory at the COPE convention all the more important. Mattox would later downplay the importance of his defeat. But wouldn’t such a loss be a setback to even the most resilient campaign? And this was not the most resilient campaign. The numbers showed the Mattox campaign was fading. The last major poll taken before the convention predicted Mattox would receive just 13 percent of the March primary vote. And Richards made a point of reminding report ers of Mattox’s poor showing. According to the Richards spin, Mattox needed the endorsement, and needed it desperately, to bolster a sagging campaign. “I think the polls have him really concerned, and they should,” Richards said. “When your are at 13 and your opponents are some 20 points ahead … you’re trying to build a base really.” A Richards adviser put it another way, “If he doesn’t get a substantial amount of support from a big group like big labor, he’s in big trouble.” Mattox dismissed the poll results and told reporters that a new poll was due out within days. He declared that his campaign had already turned the corner. But the new poll, released after the convention on January 28 in The Dallas Morning News, told a different ALAN POGUE endorsement motion