The Election Year that Was THE ELECTION YEAR IN TEXAS started with a legal wrangle over legislative redistricting. After the Legislature produced plans for the House and the Senate in May 1991, during the regular session, Gov. Ann Richards let the plans take effect in mid-June without her signature. A veto would have shifted the redistricting duties to the Democratcontrolled Legislative Redistricting Board. But the Senate plan was not submitted to the U.S. Justice Department until Aug. 8 and the House plan was not submitted until Sept. 9; by the time the Justice Department issued its ruling, the redistricting board’s authority had expired. Minorities sued in state district court in Edinburg, claiming the plan did not produce enough minority districts. A new plan was proposed by 19 of the 22 Democratic senators but the settlement with the minority plaintiffs was rejected by the Texas Supreme Court. It was branded a “back-room deal” by Justice Raul Gonzalez, a Democrat who frequently sides with Republicans on the court. That helped set the stage for the federal reordering of the Texas Senate. On Christmas Eve, ‘a panel of three Republican-appointed federal judges ordered interim redistricting plans for the Texas House and Senate for the March 10 primaries. The Senate plan was believed to have given Republicans shots at winning as many as 16 of the 31 seats. Relatively minor changes were ordered in the House plan but, much to the chagrin of Republican leaders, the court panel accepted the congressional redistricting plan that effectively added three new minority-dominated and presumably Democratic districts to the state delegation, where the Democrats already had a 19-8 dominance. The Texas Attorney General’s office chased state Rep. George Pierce, R-San Antonio, for a week in January, attempting to.serve him with a subpoena ordering him to answer questions about his involvement in adjusting some of the Senate district lines at the request of U.S. District Judge James Nowlin, chairman of the federal court panel. Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, who had supported a personal income tax in 1991 and had pushed for the revision of the business franchise tax into something like a corporate income tax, said he would resist new taxes unless the courts ordered additional spending on education. He also told the Texas Chamber of Commerce he wanted to settle the longrunning war between the business community and personal-injury lawyers over products liability laws. He also embraced trucking deregulation, an issue of interest to business. In the HouSe, the departure of Speaker Gib Lewis, D-Fort Worth, under fire for alleged ethics improprieties left an opening for ambitious House members. On Jan. 31, Gov. Richards said she would urge Sen. Lloyd Bentsen to reconsider his decision not to enter the Presidential race. Speculation was ripe that Bentsen and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo would reconsider their decisions in light of a controversy over Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton’s marital difficulties, fueled by a supermarket tabloid’s allegations that he had been unfaithful. One month before the March 10 “Super Tuesday” primary election, Bush appeared to have a lock on the renomination on a ballot that included right-wing TV commentator Patrick Buchanan and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, while Clinton was dominating the Democratic field that also included Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin; former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas and former California Gov. Jerry Brown. Clinton entered the New Hampshire primary fighting controversies, as Gennifer Flowers claimed a 12-year love affair with the Arkansas Governor and he also was denying reports that he had dodged the draft, but press coverage of those controversies also made it harder for his rivals to focus on their issues. In Texas, where Clinton had political ties dating back to the 1972 campaign for George McGovern, he had collected the endorsements of 40 state representatives, nine state senators, five congressmen and majorities of the State Democratic Executive Committee and the Democratic National Committee members from Texas as well as 50 of the county party chairs. He also had Land Commissioner Garry Mauro heading his campaign. Gov . Richards and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen stayed out of the race, while Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, continuing the curse that haunted candidates endorsed by previous Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, embraced Bob Kerrey. Ross Perot sparked the independent campaign for President when he expressed his willingness to run during a Feb. 20 interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” Attention given his strong showing in New Hampshire catapulted Tsongas from virtual unknown status a month before that primary in his neighboring state to a strong second-place showing in polls on the eve of the Texas primary election while the other candidates lagged behind. Clinton. got 66 percent of the Texas popular vote in the March 10 primary. He won 94 delegates from that vote, while Tsongas won 31 and Brown got two. One week after the primary, U.S. Rep. Ron Coleman of El Paso and U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson of Lufkin were disclosed among the 24 worst “abusers” of the House bank. Coleman, who had beaten three challengers in the Democratic primary, wrote 673 bad checks while Wilson had 81 during a 39-month period investigated by the House Ethics Committee. After the primary election, Land Commissioner Garry Mauro was embarrassed by reports that he ran Clinton’s primary campaign from the General Land Office. The Houston Chronicle in April found that Mauro and several of his aides made more than 24 hours of calls from state telephones on behalf of the Clinton campaign. State Treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison was among the Republicans who criticized Mauro before the Houston Post reported that state computers in the State Treasury were used to keep fund-raising records and thank-you letters to Hutchison’s campaign contributors and it was disclosed that she accepted $3,500 from interests with links to the state lottery, in possible violation of the lottery act. A Texas Poll in April found Perot had support of 35 percent of Texans, followed by Bush at 30 percent and Clinton with 20 percent. In a two-way race, Bush was leading Clinton 48 to 32. That Texas Poll also found Richards received a favorable rating from 55 percent of the respondents, up from 49 percent in the fall of 1991, but less than the 61 percent approval rating when she took office in January 1991. In contrast, the Legislature had a 69 percent negative rating, while Congress was 82 percent negative. Richards finally endorsed Clinton on May 1. On May 15, the Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reprimanded U.S. District Judge James Nowlin for making “a serious mistake in judgment” in the process of drafting new Senate district boundaries. The panel found that when the judge asked a San Antonio representative to help draw part of the Senate boundaries, the judge’s conduct was “inconsistent” with the judicial code of conduct that bars “ex parte communication.” The court found there was no evidence of a “corrupt or evil motive,” but it added that Nowlin “should have realized that allowing Rep. Pierce to participate in drawing district lines would give a serious perception of impropriety.” With the remaining 69 delegates chosen at the state convention in Houston in June, Clinton ended up with 157, Tsongas with 35 and Brown with four. Sen. Bentsen also endorsed Clinton and the labor caucus joined Common Cause in calling for major reforms for the Texas House, including term limits for speakers and election of committee chairs by the committee members. When the state’s Republicans convened in Dallas, many moderates and women were put off by the strident tone of the platform, with a strict anti-abortion position and support for the state’s anti-sodomy law that prohibits homosexual acts. It also promoted the teaching of creation science in public schools as well as the singing of patriotic songs on a daily basis. Kathi Mosbacher of Houston, daughter of Bush campaign Chairman Bob Mosbacher, warned that the hard-right language, particularly on abortion, would lead some Republicans to vote for Clinton 12 NOVEMBER 27, 1992
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.