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A Bill Hollowell campaign contributions, and entirely opposed to state-subsidized jazz festivals. In naming him to its ten-worst-legislators list in 1983, Texas Monthly called Hollowell “a total stranger to rational argument,” but often his reasoning was less suspect than the premises he started from. For instance, he once argued that funds designated for alcohol treatment should be eliminated from the Department of Corrections budget: “I submit to you that if they’re incarcerated in the penitentiary, their problem with alcohol is going to be solved.” Some years later he proposed a constitutional amendment providing that in the event of nuclear attack, former members would be allowed to fill sudden vacancies in the Legislature. Hollowell, who had never married, stepped down ten years ago to take care of his aging mother. Shortly thereafter, according to sources in Van Zandt County checked his mother into a nursing home, and then checked himself into the nursing home as well, remaining there for some time after she passed away. Meanwhile, the politics of House District 5 altered significantly. The change was unusually swift in Van Zandt County, owing to the fact that Canton, the county seat, is home to a Republican consulting firm called Winning Strategies. This is the same DECEMBER 8, 2000 outfit that came under fire two years ago, after it was revealed by the Observer and other publications that the firm was underwritten both by donations from conservative fiber-funder James Leininger and by tax-supported subsidies from the Canton Economic Development Corporation, a city agency. Winning Strategies subsequently announced it was getting out of politics, but the Republican ascendancy has continued in District 5, as it has in other small-city and rural regions where partyswitching and suburban transplants have eroded the conservative Democratic base. \(In 1998, Republicans took over the Van Zandt county commissioner’s court; this year former Winning Strategies consultant Jeff Fisher organizations have stepped in to promote conservative Republican candidates. This year the Free Enterprise PAC, a Dallas outfit funded by such right-wing luminaries as Leininger and David Duke supporter Jim Lightner, spent liberally in East Texas. Re-enter Hollowell, who left the nursing home, got married, and switched parties, perhaps hoping to benefit from the rising Republican tide. He was feted at the opening of the party headquarters in Canton. “The Republicans here are so well funded that it was a wonderful party, with hot dogs and everything, and they closed the street and had a stage,” recalls Vince Liebowitz, a reporter and editor with two Van Zandt County newspapers. “Bill Hollowell is kind of a sacred person around here, he was in the Legislature for so long, and everybody was calling him the general or the colonel or whatever his rank was.” But there were problems with his campaign from the outset. One was his longstanding opposition to campaign contributions. Hollowell spent his own money on newspaper advertisements that touted his refusal to accept donations. Yet according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, the Free Enterprise PAC spent more than $30,000 on his behalf, paying for phone surveys and bulk mailings. A second problem was the narrow focus of Hollowell’s campaign efforts. His advertisements went after opponent Glaze for taking money from the beer distributors. In other ads he pledged to devote his attention to nursing homes. Presumably, a further stumbling block was that many people in Van Zandt County knew he had lived in a nursing home not too long ago. /n spite of his inconsistent stand on campaign contributions, his antique political views, and questions about his health, there was something poignant about General Hollowell’s crusade, in the pie charts he had printed in the papers showing what percentage of Glaze’s contributions came from outside the district, and in the campaign reports he himself filed showing box after box of “gasoline” expenditures. What was implied was that while Bob Glaze was off taping a commercial financed by deep-pocketed strangers, old Bill Hollowell was gassing up the Crown Victoria and driving over to the cafe to shake some hands. Of course, anyone at all familiar with the Texas Legislature should know that handshakes are not quite enough, even when supplemented by far-right-financed direct mail. In the end, it makes a strange kind of Hollowellian sense that the general’s last stand would be to ask for a recount. When you consider all the fascination inspired by the Florida counts, it’s almost as if we the people had forgotten that vote tallies do actually play a part in the process, along with all the money and posturing. And it’s as if the two presidential candidates, both champion fundraisers and posturers, wanted to ignore that inconvenient notion, in order to bend the result their way. General Hollowell, on the other hand, actually wanted voters to elect him because of what might be called, for lack of a better term, his ideas. It’s a quaint concept, but one that does carry some appeal. PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS. c Join the Texas L Civil Rights Project $25 a year. Volunteers needed. 2212 E. MLK, Austin, TX 78702. for more information. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7 Observer Archive