Feminists go to the polls
by Red Zenger
The most significant fact about the
elections coming November 7 is one that
politicians don't talk about much. It is
that two out of three persons eligible to
vote won't bother to do so. (If the
experts are right, it will be the lowest
turnout in a general election since 1942.)
The argument can be made that most
people will stay home from the polls on
November 7 because they are so satisfied
with their government that it doesn't
really matter to them who wins. But most
public opinion polls suggest the opposite:
that citizens are so turned off, they feel
little good will result from any election
There certainly is little to turn on
Houston area progressives and feminists.
There are few liberals and only 12 women
on Harris County ballots, which will
feature 138 races. Five of the women are
Socialist Workers Party candidates.
The ballot is so long and complex
that few intelligent voters will attempt
to make their choices without advice.
Here is a guide to the contested races
in Harris County:
It's crying time again in Texas. It
seems so long since we've had a chance to
vote for a Sissy Farenthold or a Ralph
Yarborough. Most of liberals got bumped
off in the primary this time. And there
weren't even any libs to begin with in
Then there is the withering of La Raza
Unida party. Things just haven't been the
same since 1974 gubernatorial candidate
Ramsey Muniz was convicted of trafficking in marijuana. Some of La Raza's
leaders worry about gathering the two
percent of the vote necessary to keep the
party name on the ballot in Texas.
It's going to happen sooner or later.
It'll be like Mao Tse-tung dying. Texas
will elect a Republican governor. Hank
Grover almost did it against Preston
Smith, much to everyone's surprise.
Now comes Bill Clements, a very conservative, self-made oil-drilling millionaire
30 times over, who vows to protect our
"petroculture." Clements is an entertaining fellow. He once tried to present opponent John Hill with a rubber chicken,
symbolizing the Carter administration.
Hill declined the gift.
His government service is limited to a
stint as deputy defense secretary under
Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
He was frequently at odds with
Congress and constantly in trouble for
conflict of interest but was widely held
to be a gifted manager of the day-to-day
affairs of the sprawling Pentagon.
The Texas Observer called Clements'
campaign "the biggest advertising account
to hit Texas TV since light beer," but
concludes he is "all fizz."
Clements enjoys support of many
Briscoe-type Democrats, even including
And with a close race, La Raza's
Mario Compean might steal the margin
of victory from Hill, giving Clements the
win. Compean has said this is what he
hopes to do.
The problem with state attorney general John Hill of Houston is nobody really knows where he stands (see Breakthrough, April 1978). The Observer has
decided he is a "moderate-conservative
(but) an honest and pragmatic one, not
the reactionary ideologue we've grown
Although, as the Houston Chronicle
points out, he may be a moderate because
of the way his positions average out,
Hill's tenure as the state's top lawyer has
generally been a plus for consumers,
environmentalists and women.
The perenniel plodder Bill Hobby is
virtually assured of another four years
in what is arguably the most powerful
position in the state government, lieutenant governor. He says it will be his last
Gaylord Marshall, the Republican candidate, is just as right-leaning as Clements,
on whose coattails he could conceivably
ride to victory.
Andrea Doorack, a shop steward, is
the Socialist Workers Party candidate.
Here's a good ol' mudslinger for you,
fans: the highlight of the season has been
the famous refusal of three-term conservative Republican John Tower of
Wichita Falls to shake hands with challenger Bob Krueger, a two-term Democratic U.S. representative of New Braun-
Tower turned a cold shoulder in
Houston after the conservative Democrat
sent copies of a syndicated column appearing in the Karnes City Times around
the state. It accused an unnamed senator
of being "low in the ranks of nice
women who avoid getting on senate
elevators alone with him."
Krueger said he didn't know if it was
true but knows it refers to Tower. But as
the Chronicle's Joe Nolan pointed out,
the piece, written by Tennessee American
Party leader Tom Anderson, may have
been alluding to Sen. Howard Baker.
Tower has cancelled a TV appearance
with Krueger and has filed a complaint
with the federal Fair Elections Practices
Commission acorn rvrueger misrepresenting Tower's voting record in campaign
literature. And La Raza's candidate,
Luis A. de Leon, gave FBI agents a sworn
statement that Krueger people tried to
bribe him to withdraw. Krueger denies
Krueger, who is widely believed to
have a detailed "game plan" for how he
will become president, is a champion of
natural gas deregulation. He voted against
aid to New York City and common situs
picketing. He also voted for extension of
the ERA deadline, labor reform and senators for the District of Columbia.
Tower is the ranking minority member
of the Armed Services Committee and a
party power nationally but has written
no major legislation. He admits he sees
his job as throwing up roadblocks to
progressive legislation. He was absent
for the vote on the ERA deadline extension but worked for an ill-fated
amendment to allow states to rescind
Socialist Worker Miguel Pendas is also
on the ballot.
There's not much difference between
Democrat Mark White, Dolph Briscoe's
former secretary of state, and Republican
Jim Baker, Gerald Ford's former
Campaign photos on opposite page (clockwise from upper left): Rosalyn Carter with
Bob Gammage (right) and Bob Krueger (behind Carter); Ron Paul: John Hill; Bill
Clements; Bob Eckhardt with Lillian Carter; Jim Baker (left) with Gerald Ford; John
Tower; (center photo) Bob Krueger. Photos by F. Carter Smith.
campaign manager. They're both from
Houston and they're both conservative.
White says although he has never
publicly endorsed the ERA, privately
he supports it.
This one is really grim. Democrat John
H. Poerner won the endorsement of the
likes of liberal state representatives Lance
Lalor and Ron Waters in the primary
runoff, but only because he faced racist
maverick Jerry Sadler.
Peorner has been going around arguing
with Republican James W. Lacy about
who would better serve the oil industry.
And incumbent Mack Wallace has
done a fine job of serving oil in another
position. Socialist Worker candidate Jana
Pellusch works at the ARCO oil refinery
in Houston. She wants to "expose and
fight unsafe working conditions in the
energy industry" and opposes nuclear
power in Texas.
For eons, Texas voters entrusted the
state treasury to a man with the unlikely
name of Jesse James. But when the aged
James died in office, Gov. Dolph Briscoe
came up with the punch-line to the joke
by appointing as successor a man named
Warren G. Harding.
Democrat Harding, who was Dallas
County treasurer from 1950 to 1977,
faces Socialist Worker Derrick Adams in
his second race for the office (He lost to
James in 1956.).
Harding would probably do little to
upset the status quo. Adams says he
would work for 100% state income tax
on persons earning more than $30,000
annually and for the elimination of
funding for the Texas Rangers, who are
a thorn in the side of his party.
DIST. 7: Bill Archer, the Republican
incumbent, is consistently conservative.
He voted against labor reform, the extension of the ratification deadline for
the ERA, senators for the district of
Columbia, common situs picketing, the
Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill
and loans to New York City last session.
He also voted for natural gas pricing
deregulation, the B-l bomber and to override President Carter's veto of a new
Archer can always be counted on to
speak up for an unregulated free market,
tax relief and trimming the bureaucracy.
And that's just fine with his west Harris
County constituents. The district was
tops in the nation in support of Gerald
Ford in the 1976 presidential election.
All this does not bode well for Democratic challenger Robert L. Hutchings,
who sees the women's and gay rights
movements as the logical extension of
what began at Plymouth Rock. Hutchings
supports the ERA and federally-funded
DIST. 8: Bob Eckhardt is as solidly
liberal as Archer is reactionary. He was
the only Texas representative to vote
the liberal line on each of three bellwether issues last session - natural gas
deregulation (no), aid to New York City
(yes) and banning reparations to Vietnam
But the east Harris County pol has
gotten himself in trouble on an issue of
deep concern to feminists. The bow-tied
lawyer voted against extension of the
The Harris County Women's Political
Caucus, which endorsed him before the
vote came up in Congress, summoned
Eckhardt to a special meeting to explain
himself. The clear implication was that
the endorsement was in jeopardy.
Eckhardt, who is a genuine constitutional scholar, said as much as he favors
the ERA, he simply could not bring
himself to vote for what he sees as a
dangerous precedent of allowing amendment deadlines to be extended. Or, as one
seasoned local political observer explained, "Bob's always been queer
about the constitution."
The caucus censured Eckhardt but
maintained its endorsement.
Eckhardt's opponent is conservative
Republican Nick Gearhart, a "television
personality" turned public relations consultant. He's spending $200,000 on the
challenge, and he says his name recognition is up since the two battled over the
seat two years ago.
The district is solid blue-collar turf
and labor unions are potent here. But
one politician's working class people
is another's silent majority. The area is
anything but a "safe" liberal district
(there ain't no such animal in Texas).
DIST. 9: stretches from here to Beaumont, home of feisty, cigar-chomping
incumbent Jack Brooks, who chairs the
House Government Operations Committee and who voted against extending the
ERA deadline. Conservative Republican
challenger Randy Evans probably will
not dent the popularity of the long-time
DIST. 18: Liberal Democratic state
Rep. Mickey Leland faces token opposition from Socialist Workers Party candidate Deborah Vernier to succeed Barbara
Jordan in the inner-city district. The outspoken Leland angered feminists recently
by saying women present problems to
affirmative action. He explained it by
saying he was merely giving his assessment of attitudes among blacks.
Leland has been endorsed by the
Harris County Women's Political Caucus.
DIST. 22 covering parts of Harris,
Brazoria and Fort Bend counties, pits
two old foes (each of whom has the
seat) against one another. It's pretty
conservative territory, especially to the
south, and first-termer Bob Gammage, a
moderate Democrat, has had to do some
real juggling to protect his right flank
without losing liberal support.
As a result, Gammage has been on
both sides of the fence in Congressional
voting, sometimes on the same issue. He
voted for the ERA deadline extension.
His opponent is arch-conservative
Republican Ron Paul, a Lake Jackson
gynecologist, who held the post briefly
in 1976. He is a well-financed mossback
who believes in little government and
Adam Smith economics.
Gammage believes abortion is "immoral." But Paul fares worse with
feminists. He told Breakthrough women
are just meant to hold some jobs,
"especially topless waitresses and
The Harris County Women's Political
Caucus endorsed Gammage challenger
Gerald Liedtke in the primary. At a
recent meeting to consider endorsing
candidates for the general election,
Gammage failed by only a few votes to
win the necessary two-thirds majority.
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
An obscure race in Congressional
District 22 is between two political
novices. Democrat Elizabeth Armstrong,
a Lake Jackson attorney who was appointed to the board, believes, "Texas
has one of the best systems of public
education in the country."
That notwithstanding, she appears to
have greater experience in public education than her Republican challenger,
Lionel Garcia, a Seabrook veterinarian.
continued on page 8