The Waters challenge: the last sting of The Killer Bees
BY VALERIE J.MORRIS
Jack Ogg is running scared. He's facing his
strongest opponent since Gertrude Barnstone ran against him for the State Senate
District 15 seat in 1972. Now, Texas
State Representative Ron Waters is taking on Ogg.
The two legislators clashed during the
last session over the presidential primary
bill whose passage was aborted by the
flight of the Killer Bees. Ogg sponsored
the primary bill in the Senate, with the
backing of both Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and
House Speaker Billy Clayton, but incurred
the wrath of the Bees and Waters.
Valerie Morris is a free lance writer.
The bill called for separate, rather than
same-day primaries. Republicans would
vote on April 1 and Democrats on May 3,
a situation that would have invited crossover voting and allowed conservative
Democrats to vote for John Connally in
April and Jack Ogg in May.
Waters co-sponsored the House same-
day (May 3) primary bill. The defeat of
the Ogg measure led Waters to believe a
victory against the four-term senator was
possible. "I knew Ogg was vulnerable. He
made no friends over that bill," says
Waters, pointing out that Ogg "angered
both Republicans and Democrats. Ironically, the attempt to preserve his senate
seat may have finished off his senate
career," says Waters.
The Killer Bee incident received
national attention. Several Texas State
Senators went into hiding to prevent a
quorum—even the Texas Rangers couldn't
find them—and held out until the bill was
effectively killed. The day the senators
returned, they appeared on Walter Cron-
kite's evening news with Waters shown
welcoming them back to their senate
With both Republicans and Democrats
voting on the same day this year, May 3,
the conservative Democratic senator may
find himself deserted by the closet
Republicans in Senate District 15, whose
loyalty to screen idol Ronald Reagan may
be greater than their allegiance to Ogg.
These folks on the district's western
siov which includes River Oaks, Memorial,
The Village and Spring Branch have traditionally been Ogg's base of support. The
incumbent senator himself admits, "It
n;ay be a close race."
Political pollster Richard Murray gives
the liberal Waters a 60-40 edge over his
opponent, noting that Waters' entire
legislative district lies within Senate District 15 and that sizeable portions of both
Bon Reyes' city council district and
Mickey Leland's congressional district
also fall within the district.
Waters calls himself the alternative in
this race, "the people's candidate," and
characterizes Ogg as the choice of "special interests." Ogg says, "we're all 'special
interest' candidates in a sense. Sure, I can
cite Ron's pro-union voting record, for
example, and say Ron is a special interst
legislator, that I'm the person of the
people." But in Ogg's view, this interpretation misses the point. "It's just a matter
of who's calling whose interest a special
The endorsements of each seems to
separate the "people" from the politic
ians. Ogg has amassed over $100,000 for
his campaign, with assistance from the
Houston Homebuilders Association and
numerous political action committees
(PACs), and has received endorsements
from the Harris County Council of Organizations, the Houston Police Officer's
Association, and the Houston Trial Lawyer's Association, all groups that traditionally endorse incumbents.
Waters has a longer list of endorsements but a smaller campaign budget, less
than half Ogg's total. Traditional liberal
organizations have endorsed him—Harris
County Democrats, Harris County Women's Political Caucus, LULAC, PASO,
Texas Teachers Association, ACORN,
Gay Political Caucus, Texas Abortion
Rights Action League, AFL-CIO, Teamsters and other labor unions. Peer support
has come from city council members Ben
Reyes, Eleanor Tinsley, Lance Lalor, and
Ernest McGowen, and Congressman
Waters' campaign "manager, the Rev.
Bill Oliver, managed Leland's last congressional race and insiders see similarities between the Leland and Waters campaigns.
In 1978, Leland was running against
councilman Judson Robinson, Jr., the big
money candidate who did not even make
the run-off. "People forget," says one
political observer, "that Mickey was the
long shot when the race got started, but
he had the popular support. Money
doesn't necessarily buy loyalty or votes."
Both candidates have faithful follow-
ings, but to attract voters to the Democratic primary, they are talking about
issues their particular constituencies want
For Waters, consumer issues and restoring the teeth of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) are high priority. Waters
says, "with help from the business lobby
and a vote from Senator Ogg," Texas
consumers lost their power to collect
Jack Ogg, interviewed in his law office, admits "It 11 be a close race.'