Members of the Harris County Democrats voted on endorsements for the upcoming city elections.
"You dance with them what brung you!"
This is Ross' second run for City
Council. She made an impressive showing
against Frank Mann in an at-large race
two years ago, placing second among the
five candidates. Now she's running for a
seat in a new district, G.
Candidate Ross has been "speaking to
the issues" but the other day when she
addressed the membership of Women in
Action, a coalition of almost 50 community groups, she chose to share one
of her battle cries with them - her "war
of the words."
Ross challenged the very language
people have grown accustomed to hearing
at City Hall over the last 142 years. On
June 26, Ross spoke before the Mayor
and City Council and proposed that all
references in the City Charter (written in
1905) to the offices of council and
council men be changed to councilmem-
ber. She told the City Fathers the language was "outdated" and said it gave the
implication that council positions were
"for men only."
"This is a disservice to the thousands
of women who are taking active roles in
society—not only in the home, but in
schools, churches, social services, the
business community and the election
At the close of her statement she also
proposed to volunteer her services, free
of charge, to come to City Hall with a
ladder and change the lettering over the
council offices from councilmen to
Ross heard nothing from Council
over the summer but recently picked
up a copy of the "Charter Amendment
Adopted at the August 11 Special Election."
It called for "all references in this
charter to councilmen, commissioner
or alderman shall be construed to be
references to council members."
"I felt really good about that change,"
Ross is one of 12 (four are women)
seeking the District G seat, a silk stocking
area that runs west from River Oaks to
Memorial. It is a pretty conservative
district. One of her opponents has been
known to describe herself as "a lady, not
a woman," when she speaks to groups
in the area, particularly when speaking
to men's groups.
Her opponents include a progressive
candidate, Jimmy Dunne, a former county coordinator for Common Cause;
Christin Hartung, a former aide to
County Judge Jon Lindsay; Betty Moore,
owner of a nursery and primary school,
and businessmen Don Hogan and Mike
Kiszkiel. HCD almost endorsed Kisz-
kiel, a Republican, because the screening
committee felt "he was really a Democrat."
Because of her good showing in the
last race, Ross stands a pretty good
chance to make the run-off. (See Questionnaire on District G.)
Harris County Democrats
and St. Rep. Lance Lalor
The Harris County Democrats search
out progressive candidates in their screening and endorsement meetings. Here's
how their slate looks:
District A—no endorsement
District B-Ernest McGowen
District C-Lance Lalor
District D—no endorsement
District E—no endorsement
District F—no endorsement
District G—no endorsement
District H—Anne Wheeler and Dale
District I-Ben Reyes
At-large, position 1-Ginia Wright
At-large, position 2-Eleanor Tinsley
At-large, position 3-Olga Soliz
At-large, position 4-Pat Ginther
At-large, position 5-Judson Robinson
To most progressive candidates, an
HCD endorsement is the brass ring of
politics. The membership rolls of the
liberal organization usually double the
night of endorsements, as candidates
pack the meeting with family and friends
who buy donkey cards and cast their
votes. There are always the floor fights
interrupted by all those heated debates
on Robert's Rules of Order. That's what
usually happens. That's what's expected.
But this year the unexpected took
place. Lance Lalor, the White Knight of
Texas liberals, told the county liberals
initially he didn't want their endorsement. It would hurt him in his district.
Thanks, but no thanks. The group was
outraged by his actions. They gave it to
Lalor, a former aide to Mayor Fred
Hofheinz before serving in the Texas
House, wants back into city politics.
He's running in a field of 13 in the newly
created District C, which includes Mon-
trose-Fourth Ward (how liberal can you
get?-They keep re-electing Ron Waters),
the Rice University and Texas Medical
Center areas, as well as the conservative
enclaves of Meyerland, Post Oak Manor,
and the West bury subdivisions. Breakthrough is in District C.
Lalor's campaign literature which was
passed out at the Harris County Democrats endorsement meeting contained a
prominent quote from The Texas Observer. : "He can be counted upon to
stand tall for the progressive cause."
Lalor's liberal voting record is impeccable.
One member of the screening committee described their mood after learning about Lalor's initial reluctance to
accept HCD's endorsement: "Everybody
was shocked, most said they were offended, but they were really angry. Lance
would have been the unanimous choice."
Instead, the committee took no action
in the race until the membership meeting
when Lalor was endorsed from the floor.
An aide that evening said Lalor had
changed his mind and would accept the
One observer said, "It looked like a
set up job. In other words, if it looked
like the group would be really put out,
then his aide should get up and say
he changed his mind. I feel we forced
the endorsement on him."
Another active HCD member who also
served on the screening committee
said Lalor made a bad political move.
"Refusing the endorsement only succeeded in drawing more attention to it. This
could hurt him with progressive voters,"
who point to Kathy Whitmire as an
example of a political figure who takes
all the endorsements and wins besides.
Lalor also balked at the endorsement
by the Gay Political Caucus this year.
While Lalor is running against some
conservatives and candidates with high
name recognition-Geneva Kirk Brooks,
head of Citizens against Pornography,
Dean Goss of the dinner theatres and
Barry DeBakey, son of the heart surgeon
-his biggest fight will come from liberals
like Morris Graves, once an aide to former
U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan,
who almost won the HCD endorsement,
and moderates like George Greanias,
the Rice University professor, or John
Shanahan, the smoothtalking businessman and Southwest Civic Club president,
who sounds good on women's issues.
"Vera Jackson, an active League of
Women Voters member, really impressed
our members," said Benegene Kring,
chair of the HCWPC, but the Caucus
endorsed Lalor based on his legislative
record. (Please see Questionnaire
responses for District C.)
There is no doubt about it. Liberals
are worried about what Lalor's up to.
"Lance seems to be turning his back
on those who put him in office," Pat
Lane, an active member of HCD says.
"Mickey (Leland) always said, 'You
dance with them what brung you' and
I believe that."
Bob Hauge, a member of HCD's executive committee, calls Lalor "an astute
politician." Astute enough, he says, "to
realize that the endorsement from the
HCD wouldn't help him in his race. If
he felt that way, we shouldn't have
"Secondly, if Lance is right, that
speaks poorly of the HCD and the force
they have to bear on an election in the
southwest part of Houston. That's an
indictment of HCD."
Although Hauge says it is too early •
to judge Lalor because he's been a good
legislator and fought for many causes
in the past, he admits he worries about
politicians who get "weak-kneed" at
election time. "Who's to say they
wouldn't be weak-kneed later on in cases
requiring a strong liberal stand.
"It makes you suspect of a person's
ability to withstand pressure ... if
they're afraid of the liberal tag."
It's The Gammage Syndrome. Former
U.S. Rep. Bob Gammage is a classic
example among Texas liberals of someone who tried to appeal to both conservatives and liberals. He lost his congressional re-election bid to Ron Paul, the arch-
conservative candidate, mainly because he
lost what Hauge calls the liberals' "emotional support," something progressive
candidates acquire because they are
outspoken and because they are seen as
leading the charge.
Gammage fostered and initiated
various conservative issues once he got to
Washington—one of them being a vain
attempt to reinstate the House Un-
American Activities committee. "That
probably lost him as much support as
any one thing he did, " said Hauge, who
also serves on the state's Democratic
"Gammage taught every politician in
this place a good lesson," Hauge said.
"You can't desert your friends if you
hope to survive."