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Houston Breakthrough, May 1980
Pages 4 and 5
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Houston Breakthrough, May 1980 - Pages 4 and 5. May 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. July 28, 2015. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/5534/show/5507.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(May 1980). Houston Breakthrough, May 1980 - Pages 4 and 5. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/5534/show/5507

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, May 1980 - Pages 4 and 5, May 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed July 28, 2015, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/5534/show/5507.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, May 1980
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date May 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 32 page periodical
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
File Name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Pages 4 and 5
File Name femin_201109_560ad.jpg
Transcript LOCAL COLOR DISTRICT 79 Running for the Waters seat BY MORRIS EDELSON Trivia question: Who held the Ron Waters state legislature seat (District 79) before Ron Waters? Answer: No one. It came to pass in 1970 that Uncle Sam counted noses in Harris County and decreed that the area be given single member representation in the state legislature. Solons in Austin stretched out their hands and maps and scissored out districts which would send new lawmakers forth. Clipping through downtown Houston, they created District 79, a monkey-wrench shaped voting area which included a slice of the Heights, a touch of the Spanish northside, a sliver of the old Fifth Ward, downtown and near town, all of the Fourth Ward and Montrose, and even some of the Rice University neighborhood. The district, one of the most diverse in the state, houses the political likes of Lt. Governor Bill Hobby, former mayor Fred Hofheinz, feminist leaders Gertrude Barnstone and Nikki Van Hightower, and more recently, Congressman Mickey Leland. It is the seat of power for the Gay Political Caucus, and in it reside a healthy portion of the membership rolls of both the Harris County Women's Political Caucus and the Harris County Democrats. "There are more people in 79 who know what is going on in politics than anywhere else," says political analyst Dr. Richard Murray. An hour's walk up one of its main arteries, Washington Street, leads past a murky sub-city of police and fire trucks, stolen-property garages, and 24-hour bailbond emporia and pawnshops, past hives of law offices, sky-blue and yellow- trimmed Mexican cottages and solid black Baptist churches, past more muscle merchants than anywhere else in the city. Any night of the week on the street where Debra Dan burg and Peter Armato have their campaign headquarters, you can smell rice being milled, bread being baked, and hear traffic, sirens and jazz. In 1980, with the new census, the single most important issue in the area is survival. The district could be obliterated in Austin, by a new mapping of legislative districts, just as it could be wiped out in Houston by encroaching parking lots, new freeways and urban renewal. Peter Armato at his campaign headquarters. Says Murray: "District 79 could be changed tremendously if it is shifted about a little after the census. To every side of it are more conservative areas. It will probably not be done away with entirely, since population has grown there as elsewhere, but new districts are going to be created in Austin, and the bargaining over their shapes will be crucial. The winner in the election here could shape the district and what happens in it for the next decade. The bargaining that is going to go on after the census is finished will demand a lot of the state representative." The field of candidates trying to become that representative and take the place of Ron Waters, who has been one of the most liberal voices in the legislature for the past eight years, is only slightly smaller than the Houston Marathon. The ghosts of campaigns past still live as Republican challengers Bob Sheikh, the son of a former Saudi Arabian ambassador, and Hap May, an accountant, stress law and order and a firm clutch on the purse strings. Democrats Don McCrorey, Ray Schmid, and Richard L. Petrone/la are getting their feet wet in politics for the first time, stressing the preservation of the physical neighborhood and the quality of fife being challenged by crime, city planlessness, and jumping taxes. The two candidates who have gained virtually all the endorsements are Debra Danburg, for the past five years the legislative assistant to Ron Waters, and Peter Armato, formerly an aide to Mickey Leland. The two agree on many of the issues—the question that must be answered in a choice between them is which has the more relevant experience and the ability for the negotiations that will lie ahead. Most observers predict a close race between Danburg and Armato and expect the real winner to be chosen only after a run-off between them. The Breakthrough story is based on interviews with Danburg and Armato, their supporters and neutral observers. -M.E. "There are five liberals running in this race," says Debra Danburg, candidate for State Representative, District 79, "but I'm the only one of them who knows Austin." Phrases such as "confident of victory," "groomed for the race," "front-runner" echo from every corner of her office in an old furniture warehouse on Washington. Danburg applies the phrases to herself. She has reason for confidence. She grew up not far from where she sits today. Her parents had a popular variety store in the Heights. She was vice- president of the student government at the University of Houston. For the past five years, through three legislatures she served as aide to out-going representative Ron Waters. Waters and Danburg set up the first legislative district office ever in Harris County, a free-form complaint station for residents of Montrose and the Heights. "People came into the office with police complaints, problems in getting welfare, trash pickup, etc., etc., and Debra Danburg in front of her campaign headquarters. etc.," she recalls. "Sometimes the problem was not really in Ron's baliwick, but we never turned anyone away. We didn't do it and we won't do it." Repeatedly, Danburg stresses experience and knowledge of the neighborhood: "I know some people wanted to run against me, but they knew or found out that they could not possibly win as long as I was in the race. For example, the chair of the Gay Political Caucus, Steve Shifflet. He and I would have split the race in the Montrose, and I would have carried the black, Spanish and Heights areas. He wanted to run anyway. He tried to get me to back out of the race, but I think it is only fair to the district to have it represented by someone who has been to the black churches, to the Latin festivals, to the civic clubs, someone from the neighborhood." Danburg came to the Democratic Party from the civil rights and anti-war movements in the 60s and then played an active role in the Harris County Democrats organization. She chaired the HCD Issues Committee, which hammered out positions on ERA, women's rights, nuclear power, lobbying and education. Many of the allies she made then are now listed as members of her steering committee. In the election, she says, she is calling the tune: "People are upset about crime, the quality of life, gay rights and education. I know that, we all know it, but I am the only one who knows what can be done about it. I usually come out at one of these candidates forums and give my spiel, then everyone else says, Me Too! Me Too!" Danburg elaborates on why she cannot be beat in this race. "Just look at these endorsements—Gay Political Caucus, Harris County Council of Organizations and the Harris County Womens' Political Caucus, Kathy Whitmire, ex-mayor Fred Hofheinz, Nikki Van Hightower and Eleanor Tinsley . . ." Why not Ron Waters? Why not the Harris County Democrats, the interviewer ungraciously interjects. She is not rattled at all: "I think my close working relationship with Ron is clear. We decided together that his endorsement of me would HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH not help me in the race. People know he favors me, but his public endorsement would hurt me in the Heights, where there is an anti-liberal, anti-Ron Waters bloc, people who will vote against his name in anything. We've always been cooperative though." The Harris County Democrats endorsed Peter Armato in this race. "It doesn't matter," says Danburg: "I have the endorsements of the leadership, two-thirds of the precinct judges, the people who have done the work in that organization. Besides, there are two things that made the vote a little unfair: it was taken on Passover night, when all of my Jewish supporters were at home, and Peter Armato packed the meeting with his supporters from PASO (Political Assocation of Spanish-speaking Organizations) so that the meeting was totally rigged. "No one from our legislative district could even speak," Danburg grimly recalls. "People I had worked with for the past eight years were standing at the front at that meeting, yelling, and no one would recognize them. It's been done before by PASO, too. Since that meeting almost 50 percent of the HCD has called me and affirmed their support. People like Anne Wharton, Billie Carr, Chris and Katie Dixie are with me." Six blocks up Washington from Danburg, Peter Armato chuckles when the subject of endorsements comes up. He has a list of them as long as Danburg's. He is a few years younger than she, but has led a busy life. While she burned the midnight oil to get her law degree while working full time, Armato was dropping out of Rice University and his studies in computer science for the more immediate problem of dividing up Houston into single member districts, He helped win votes for Mickey Leland and became his aide and liaison to the gay community. His winning the Gay Political Caucus endorsement was almost a foregone conclusion, until it went to Danburg; but his winning the HCD vote was a coup for him. Armato recalls the Gay Political Caucus and Harris County Democrat fights. "You always try to get as many of your supporters into a meeting as possible. Debra's mother and sister and some of her friends joined the Gay Political Caucus the night of their vote—she did it at the GPC, I did it at the HCD. But there is a difference. You couldn't just walk into the HCD meeting, you had to have already been a member, at least for 10 days." He returns to a discussion of the GPC endorsement, which he offers as another example of roughshod Danburg actions: "She wanted to win the GPC vote-that was all—she didn't care about the feelings of people or the organization, she thought the one vote would get her over the hump. Her supporters kept creating a tense atmosphere, challenging the chair, demanding Shifflet step down. She won the battle but may have lost the war." The current chair of the GPC replies that, in her opinion, the divisive mood the night of the GPC fight had been established, not by Danburg supporters, but by Shifflet: "The place was crowded and poorly lit; the chair was making lecturing comments. I think he used the word 'sabotage.' He resigned the following week. They said that Danburg had packed the meeting, but there were about 60 women there, and many men have always supported Debra. Armato's individual supporters include city council members Ben Reyes, Dale Gorczynski, and Ernest McGowan; Rev. R. L. Washington, the chair of the Fourth Ward Neighborhood Association, and Steve Shiflett, the past president of the Gay Political Caucus. Shiflett molded the GPC into an important political force in the district and had contemplated a campaign himself. He says that Danburg's "highhandedness" was an issue in the race and Armato agrees with him. Shifflet says the trouble began with Waters' sudden decision to run for the state senate and not seek re-election. No one was given the chance to prepare a race, and Waters—and Danburg—filed 15 minutes before the deadline. "It was a slap in the face to the Gay Political Caucus that put Waters in office three times," says Shiflett. Danburg maintains that the filing confusion which has embittered the DAYBREAK II o- o: <=>-&<}-&-e ^^^^^^^^-^^ A unique haircutting shop. Beads and braids, perms, color, henna, Jhirmack products. Environment like the tropics-in the oldest building in the Village (1920s) above Peterson's Pharmacy. The most beautiful shop ever to be seen, only because we really care. MAY 1980