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Ann Richards CARMEN GARCIA Angry White Men & Polls BY JAMES CULLEN DURING THE PAST four years the state’s economy has improved, there are more jobs than ever before, the crime rate has dropped, student test scores are rising, Texas still does not have an income tax and the state has a $2.2 billion surplus. So why is Governor Ann Richards, who remains personally popular, struggling to win re-election? The Governor has kept us out of war; in fact, she has maintained good relations with federal officials in Washington, D.C., as well as Mexico City; she helped set up the first meeting between President Carlos Salinas and Bill Clinton in Austin shortly after Clinton’s election, and Richards recently met privately in Matamoros with Mexican President-elect Ernesto Zedillo, who pointedly noted that Texas’ attitude toward immigration was more humane than some other border states. Also, her 2,300 appointments to state boards and commissions go a long way toward reflecting the state’s diverse population, with 45 percent of them female, 19 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black and 2 percent “other.” A few appointees are openly gay. But for every female or minority appointee, there is a white man who did not get that post. There are a lot of white men out there who don’t careor are angeredthat Ann Richards has close ties with Mexico or the White House and a preponderance of those angry white men seem to support George W. Bush. A Texas Poll found the governor’s race in a dead heat the second week of October as 50 percent of the likely female voters surveyed said they would vote for Richards but 53 percent of likely male voters said they support George W., also affectionately known as “Shrub.” The recent Texas Poll showed Bush with 45 percent support and Richards with 44 percent \(which, given the statistical marcent for the Libertarian candidate and 10 percent undecided. Men accounted for 52 percent of the “likely voters” in the sample. That would reverse the past decade’s trend of women outvoting men. In the past two general elections, 52 percent of the voters were women. Sixteen percent of those surveyed in the recent Texas Poll said they sat out the 1990 election but planned to vote this time, and those respondents. tended to be men, younger than 40 and Republican or independent. Bush has pulled even with Richards for a variety of reasons, having a former president for a father not being the least. But he also has effectively framed the debate while limiting his exposure to press scrutiny. He has adopted the national Republican line in hammering at crime and welfare, even when the facts show that the crime rate is dropping virtually across the board in Texas and the state’s basic welfare payments already amount to a miniscule amount of the state budget. Still he has managed to put Richards on the defensive and left her unable to cash in on the relatively booming Texas economy. In the Texas Poll, 43 percent of those polled agreed that Bush has set the agenda. The poll found that 22 percent of likely voters named education as the most important issue, while 21 percent named crime. Two-thirds of the Texans polled said the country’s political system needs a drastic overhaul, and that cannot be good news for any incumbent. Richards is counting on substantial support from minorities as well as women to carry her to a second term. While the poll found her getting only 35 percent of white voters, she netted 82 percent support from blacks and 60 percent of Hispanics, although those groups are traditionally less likely to vote. And three out of four undecided in the poll were white. Mindful that Democrats traditionally do best in elections where turnout is 50 percent or more, aggressive early-voting campaigns were going on in Bexar, Cameron, El Paso, Jefferson, Nueces and Travis counties while early voting was lagging in Dallas, Harris, Collin and Denton counties. Things like flooding in Southeast Texas that short-circuit early-voting efforts could sway an election. [Early voting, conducted by county clerks, continues through November 4.] Southwest Voter Research Institute reports that the number of Hispanics registered to vote in Texas has nearly doubled from 1978, when 663,484 were registered and 180,468 or 27 percentvoted, to 1990, when 1,097,533 were registered and 329,260 or 30 percentvoted. This year, voter registration statewide hit a record 8.6 million. Ed Sills, spokesman for the Texas AFL-CIO, acknowledged that the voter-anger phenomenon has to be dealt with, but he played down its importance. “It seems to me Richards would be behind even further if that was really dominating things.” He noted that the second tier of statewide Democratic candidates, such as Lieut. Gov . Bob Bullock, Attorney General Dan Morales and Comptroller John Sharp, are doing well, giving him hope that Texas Democrats will hold the line better than other southern states. Dee Simpson, an organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, acknowledged that cultural battles have been raging ever since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Democratic Party is still feeling the shakeout from that legislation. When a leader of the Take Back 10 OCTOBER 28, 1994