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JOURNAL “I 11 A Brand Loyalty in McAllen MCALLEN Could this be the year that Othal Brand is retired? A “toss-up” race for mayor of McAllen pits combative incumbent Othal Brand against a “consensus builder,” Dr. Charles Wilson, a city commissioner. “This will be my last term,” Brand has promised voters. He has made such promises before in his 16 years as mayor. Although he has been in politics over 25 years, on the school board and City Commission, this owner of a major international agribusiness Griffin and Brand insists, “I am not a politician!” The other city commissioners Leo Montalvo, Phyllis Griggs and “Chemo” Longoria support Wilson, a physician who is also Hidalgo County’s health director. They describe the main issue as Brand himself, who many contend openly scoffs at compromise. Because Brand has been such a controversial political figure, the election at times looks like an anti-Brand referendum. Bumper stickers proclaim: “NOTHAL!” Brand was, as usual combative and caustic with students in recent remarks at the University of TexasPan American. \(In a campus speech a few years ago he praised Mexican Americans for their “manual dexterity,” an appreciation that defense of his authoritarian style is a “wellrun” McAllen, which he often says is “the envy of every other city.” At 74 years of age, Othal Brand may be the latest Anglo version of old patron Valley politics. He still appeals to wealthy Anglos but also to many upper-middle-class Mexican Americans. Brand also courts “unethically,” Wilson charges “winter visitors,” who spend the winter in the Valley and return to their homes in northern states in the spring. When they vote locally \(perhaps in violation of laws police pay raises or necessary bond elections. Some even see the possible beginning of a new dynasty. Brand’s son, Othal Brand Jr., is a candidate for the school board, making the argument for such issues as public prayer at school and at football games. Brand’s daughter directs a local fundamentalist group that attacks the school board on public prayer and sex-education policies. Also, wealthy businessman Jan Klink, who will likely defeat progressive city commission candidate Ruben Flores, is a Brand ally. The senior Brand’s right-wing Repubis apparent but subdued in the “non-partisan” campaign. In the “good ol’ days” Brand was known for harassing union strikers in the fields. In the past few years, he has irritated environmentalists by closing McAllen’s botanical gardens and shooting at grackles from his car. His ideology might be relevant, but Wilson cites Brand’s “loss of influence” since the political demise of Republican Governor Bill Clements and presidents Reagan and Bush. Still, the comfortable northside voters who will ultimately decide this “non-partisan” race are unlikely to be won over by Wilson’s linking Brand to retired Republican politicians. The poorer Mexican-American south side which lacks adequate parks or libraries . will remain largely unrepresented on the city commission because the “at-large” city election dilutes its vote. Neither Brand, nor Wilson who is counting on south-side votes, supports charter revision to allow election by district. Also, opponents are aware that Brand expects support of his company’s Mexican-American workers. The presence of a third candidate, Ismael Rodriguez Jr., who stated that he entered the race because the city would not hire him, could draw enough MexicanAmerican votes to ensure Wilson’s defeat. Win or lose, Brand’s conservative legacy will survive for years to come. Gary Mounce is on the faculty of the University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg. This is Texas today. A state full of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, oil and as companies, nuclear weapons and power plants, political hucksters, underpaid workers and toxic wastes, to mention a few. ,ts, S? flni BUT DO NOT DESPAIR! aft I TX AS ti II op server TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City State Zip $32 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. 307 West 7th, Austin, TX 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21