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EMILY KAPLAN I’ll Take Gutierrez BY MOLLY IVINS YOU’VE PROBABLY NOTICED the firestorm of excitement building because of the Texas Senate race. On everyone’s lips, isn’t it? Uh, that’s the Senate race May 1, folks. For a successor to Lloyd Bentsen, remember? Control your enthusiasm for a minute here while we look at a particularly thorny problem this election represents, because Texas progressives need to think carefully about it. First, for those who have been paying as much attention as everyone else, here’s the scorecard. The R’s have three major candidates in the race: Representative Jack Fields of Houston, the good-looking one, TV weather-caster mold, smooth, bland, conservative, not the brightest porch light on the block. Representative Joe Barton of Ennis, the mean one, right-wing, Phil Gramm clone. State Treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison, the sort-of moderate one, supports abortion rights with restrictions, otherwise a Bush Republican. Story finally broke in the Houston Post about allegation that she struck John Connally’ s daughter when said daughter was working for Hutchison at the Treasury . \(both Connally and daughter are working for This is an unfortunate development for a couple of reasons. One, it doesn’t have dog to do with how to fix an economy that no longer provides entry-level jobs for young people who need them desperately or even skilled jobs for folks who have been in the middle class. Second, this kind of story is often used to attack female candidates: It’s a real old tactic to make out that a woman candidate is a rhymes-with-witch, which is said about every woman who has ever gotten anywhere. That this particular story is apparently unfortunate: It reinforces the stereotype, it means Hutchison doesn’t react well under stress, and it means people will pay even less attention the real cruelty of many of Joe Barton’s votes. For the D’s we have: Senator Bob Krueger, Ann Richards’ appointment to the seat, standard-brand Texas Tory Democrat, Lloyd Bentsen School, Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and a former Texas Observer editor. speaks fluent Spanish, not a bad guy, although I will never understand why he voted against the general blueprint of Clinton’s economic package. If he had quibbles, he could have argued them later, and what’s the point of having a Democrat in the Senate if he won’t support the President on his basic plan to get us out of this ditch? Other points on which he vacillates and jellies are less important. Richard Fisher, rich Perotista from Dallas, much like his master, some likable populist rhetoric, supports abortion rights, bright, glib, arrogant, better at slogans than solutions. Jose Angel Gutierrez, Dallas lawyer, former head of La Raza Unida, only real progressive in race, stand-up guy on all issues, including gun control, abortion, gays in military and the economy. Has sense of humor, obviously more mature than in his old Chicano-militant phase. \(He was actually quite moderate then, too. It’s just that Anglos used to freak at the thought that Chicanos could actually run a county. Now they do it all the ing the R’s in the ’72 election was a oneway street: CREEP \(Nixon’s Committee to vice versa. And for those of you who are into DaDa Yippie politics, there is a splendid assortment of independents. I commend to your attention Billy Brown from. Santa Rosa, who wears an ice-cream suit with blue and red stars on it and says of gays in the military: “Hell no! I never met a queer yet who couldn’t be fixed by a sock in the jaw.” For which insight we are all grateful. If this were a normal race, the choice would be easy: In a primary, you get to vote your heart, not your head. If the one you like best has no chance of winning, que sera. Gutierrez is the best of the bunch, not just for progressives but also for anyone who would like to see Bill Clinton succeed as President. But in a special election, with a teeny-tiny turnout predictable, a vote for Gutierrez could be one of the handful that puts Hutchison or Fields into the Senate. A special election requires strategic voting. The gutsiest political endorsement I ever saw was Jim Hightower’s of Jesse Jackson in ’88. Hightower said, “If he is standing for what I believe, how can I not stand for him?” On that principle, I plan to vote for Gutierrez; but I cannot, in good conscience, recommend the same course to others. I think you need to listen to at least one debate and then think very carefully and I warn you again, it ain’t easy. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5