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E T E TEXAS S . . er FEBRUARY 23, 1990 VOLUME 82, No. 4 FEATURES Endorsements 3 The Competent Candidate 10 Interview with Nikki Van Hightower Campaign Money 14 A list of contributors DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Political Intelligence 19 Social Cause Calendar 21 Books and the Culture 20 An Excess of Love By Steven Kellman Afterword 22 011ie’s Latest Folly By Allan Freedman There is no Jess Unruh of Texas Democratic politics. No political Caesar so powerful that he can divide Gaul into three parts, as some thought might happen three years ago when Bill Hobby, Ann Richards, and Henry Cisneros stood contemplating the state’s political landscape. So it is inevitable that it comes to this. A choice between two candidates, either of whom Ag Commissioner Jim Hightower predicted would provide voters the opportunity to vote for “the most progressive governor since Jimmy Allred.” \(This preceded Mark White’s entering the race, altering the electoral equation, and offering the voters a third way: an opportunity to vote for the most progressive goverOf these two heirs to the tradition of Allred we expected a bitter but at least an enlight. ened campaign. We were only half right. What we have, it seems, is one campaign that says all the wrong things and another that says nothing. Jim Mattox is the candidate with the longest and most progressive record. A former member of the Dirty Thirty in the Texas House and founder of the now-defunct House Study Group, an organization of liberal and moderate legislators who analyzed harmful bills and mapped out strategies to defeat them, Mattox has always been one of us. He worked to create the Public Utilities Commission and remains one of a few elected officials who will, when pressed, advocate electing rather than appointing commissioners a concept that is anathema to the utilities. In Congress, Mattox voted in opposition to the Ronald Reagan legislative agenda. Ratings from COPE and ADA the latter rated him at the top of the Texas delegation corroborate his progressive voting record. As attorney general, Jim Mattox took on the bullies and the bastards, earning a national reputation for anti-trust and environmental litigation and paying the price when Mobil and Fuibright & Jaworksi came after him. Yet the Mattox campaign tells us nothing about this record. It offers, rather, the promise of more state executions, increased prison construction, and continued regressive taxation. It is, essentially, a Kent Hance campaign with a body count. Ann Richards’s resume, as Jim Mattox argues, seems a bit short. Richards managed the state house campaigns of former State Rep. Sarah Weddington and Rep. Wilhelmina Delco, both of Travis County. Then, in 1976, she challenged incumbent Jimmy Vouhouris and won a seat on the Travis County Commission, a position she held until 1982 when she learned that State Treasurer Warren G. Harding was about to be indicted for official misconduct. In an astute political move, Richards resigned her county commissioners position to run against Harding. She won 47 percent of the vote in a three-candidate primary, prevailed in the runoff, then easily defeated a Republican opponent in November. What kind of record can one compile as a county commissioner and a state treasurer? Richard Moya, who served with Richards on the Commissioners Court, credits her with introducing to the Travis County commissioners the idea of a social-services agenda. “She was extremely sensitive to trying to help those folks who hadn’t been able to get help in the past,” Moya told Dallas Morning News reporter Sheila Taylor in 1982, after Richards was elected treasurer. “She bought sensitivity to the court that was missing and a dimension we hadn’t had. . . . She knew what county government was all about and she put in the time. Before she came we couldn’t be called sensitive to the problems of the people. We were all busy with roads and bridges. She helped start an innovative program of providing human services and now we fund 39 agencies that provide human services.” Richards is also credited with introducing computers and electronic deposits to the creaky department of the treasury, and with putting in place programs that made possible the advancement of women and minorities beyond the clerical positions traditionally reserved for them. There is no question that in a side-by-side of the Mattox and Richards histories, Ann Richards doesn’t measure up to Jim Mattox. Yet candidates for public office must be judged by what they offer as well as what they have achieved. What is it, then, that Jim Mattox and Ann Richards offer? The Mattox media campaign, the only component of the campaign that the average voter sees, has embraced two themes: state executions and a lottery. Executions and longer jail sentences, the attorney general suggests, will deter crime. The lottery will raise money for public education, eliminating the need for a state income tax. It is hard to conceive two issues more repugnant to progressive Democrats. In the state that leads the nation in executions, where 32 men have been executed since the Fruman and Jurek decisions were handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, and where two innocent men on death row came dangerously close to execution during the past two years, to run statewide television spots that whip up public support for capital punishment is immoral. And, if we were to enter the execution debate, we would note that those executions were something of a windfall for Mattox. He was attorney general in those years after the Legislature finetuned the statutes in response to the Jurek decision and the doors to the death chamber at Huntsville were re-opened. Had Mattox served one term earlier, he would have been denied those 32 opportunities by the U.S. Supreme Court. That the death penalty is racist in its application is not conjecture. The Supreme Court admitted as much in the McClesky decision handed down in 1987. Since executions resumed in 1977, of 118 persons executed of white victims. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals operates independently of the Governor’s office, but it does not operate in a vacuum. To create a climate favorable to state-sanctioned execution applies a subtle pressure the court cannot ignore. To offer a lottery as a solution to the crisis in funding of public education and as a EDITORIAL Towards an Endorsement THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3