Richard Murray On Politics And Gambling
The term "politician" is often
given to those officials tolerated
by the public, while the title of
statesman is reserved for admired public servants. Nevertheless, politicians and statesmen sometimes seek advice
from political analysts such as
Richard Wayne Murray, UH
professor of political science.
The Who's Who of American Men and Women of Social
and Behavioral Sciences barely
gives readers a clue about the
expertise of Murray. It simply
reads "Research: Party Politics
in the U.S.".
But for a political science
teacher, Murray wears a variety
of hats: analyst, prognosticator,
lecturer, writer, adviser, speaker
and poker player.
Poker player? "Yes, and a serious one," Murray said. "Serious enough to lose $600 in one
Murray is the same relaxed,
unassuming fellow whether he's
lecturing a freshman government class, speaking to a women's political club or chatting in
But Murray is also recognized as a leading authority of
Texans complained of fuel prices approaching $1.30 per gallon, but as the
value of a barrel of oil declined from 1985 to '86 they were unemployed.
city and state politics in Texas.
A regular guest of KPRC's
Channel 2 during election returns, Murray predicts election
results like a professional billard
player setting up his shots in a
tournament — one at a time
and with deliberate skill. He
cites facts on political candidates like some television
broadcasters zip through sports
Murray predicted last year
that the Select Committee on
Higher Educations' recommendation to establish a multi-
tiered system for state universities wouldn't survive in the
Texas Legislature. Several
months before university officials drew their swords for battle, he predicted, "Universities
see this as a holy war and will
die in the trenches before they
allow it to become law."
Murray also labeled Committee Chairman Templeton's
short-lived idea to move Texas
Southern University to the UH-
Downtown campus as "a plan
from Mars." Thirty days later,
the Houston community loudly
echoed Murray's response.
Political reporters are familiar
with Murray's colorful descriptions of politicians' rhetorical
skills. He shows no apparent allegiance to one party and any
candidate is fair game for potshots. Regarding last year's
governor's race, "White's slick
media image didn't compensate
for his fatal mistake of passing
major educational reform and
leaving Texas teachers in the
dark. Clements, however, isn't
very effective with the media.
It's like having your drunken
brother-in-law over at the
house for dinner when the
preacher stops in for a visit.
You hope he doesn't embarrass
Murray is also quite fond of
commenting on the local media's attempt to interpret political events. "Very few television
stations have reporters that are
politically knowlegeable," he
said. "Houston stations are
afraid to analyze political
events. In their zealous attempt
to give a balanced view, they
usually say nothing!"
As project director for the
annual Houston Metropolitan
Area Survey, Murray provides
public policy makers with snapshots of the city's lifestyle, including job opportunities, government services, public transportation and crime problems,
based on local residents' attitudes.
"A survey, in some sense, is a
snapshot," he said. "Attitudes
are always changing. If you
have a series of snapshots, you
can see the change of residents'
attitudes over time."
Survey respondents are also
quizzed on solving the state's
current financial crisis. They
rate the acceptability of cutting
state programs, raising taxes,
establishing a state lottery or legalizing pari-mutual betting.
Murray said the percentage
of supporters from previous
surveys indicate that Texans will
legalize race betting on horses
and dogs this November.
"Houston will be important
because the mayoral election
will be on the same day and
there will be heavy voting," he
said. "Proponents ought to carry the day."
Time will tell if Murray hits
the bull's eye again, but he
knows that "any poker player
would rather be lucky than
good, any day."
— James Millsap