no new taxes, no new issues
Election time is compromise time
By Red Zenger
He's no Sissy Farenthold. But then he's
no Dolph Briscoe, either. John Hill may
not be the progressive's dream, but at
least he has made the 1978 governor's
contest a real horse race.
To be sure, election time is compromise time once again for liberals. But Hill
has made one choice clear. The choice is
between an activist and a caretaker governor.
To refresh your memory, Hill is running against gentleman rancher Dolph
Briscoe, the biggest landowner in the
state, and his wife Janey. They have
served together as governor six years, and
if the Briscoe team completes another
four-year term, Texas will have had Gov.
Do Nothing in office longer than any other in the state's history.
Hill has a fair shot at winning, but
there are still an awful lot of Texans who
view the best governor as the one they
hear from least. Dolph certainly fills the
According to an Associated Press survey, Briscoe missed 68 full working days
in 1977. The year before, the AP noted
he had the dubious honor of having the
fewest press conferences of all the nation's governors.
Besides making his ubiquitous promise
of no new taxes and appointing dead
people to state commissions, the only official duty the conservative seems to have
taken upon himself is to make sure an
outrageous portion of the state's treasury
continues to go for highways.
"The governor's office is not the least
bit interested in what the Legislature is
doing," says Rep. Bill Sullivant, a third-
term Democrat from Gainesville.
"Dealing with Briscoe's office was like
trying to deal with Howard Hughes," says
Rep. John Hostenbach, the Odessa Democrat.
Another peeved legislator, Wayne
Peveto, Democrat of Orange, sums up
Briscoe's tenure thusly: "The governor
delivers his opening message in January,
and we don't see him again until the last
night of the session, in May, when he
comes around and tells us what a great
job we've all done."
As an advocate in Washington, Briscoe
has failed miserably, having virtually no
impact on national energy and agriculture
The state coffers continue to bulge
with a budget surplus-at least $700 million will be lying around next year.
And from education to tax reform, the
pressing issues of 1978 are the same as
the pressing issues of 1972, when Briscoe
was first elected.
"Gov. Briscoe is the first candidate I
can recall who advertises his failures in
campaigning for re-election." Hill has
Bob Eckhardt Has Received
Texas' Top Ratings From:
■» Texas Monthly (with Mahon)
- AFL-CIO, For Job Protection
• NAACP, For Racial Justice (with Jordan)
Senior Citizens' Council
Paid for by
Bob Eckhardt Campaign Fund.
J. Edwin Smith. Treasurer
JANEY BRISCOE and GOV. DOLPH BRISCOE are greeted by Dr. John
Coleman (to left of couple) at the opening of the Briscoe Campaign headquarters in Houston's Third Ward area. The building is owned by Dr.
Coleman, The Texas A&M regent appointeed by Briscoe last year.
But can progressives enthusiastically
The trouble with John Hill is that he
has more in common with Dolph Briscoe
than his liberal supporters would care to
When The Houston Chronicle asked
their three top priorities, Hill and Briscoe
gave almost identical lists, naming education, tax relief and crime. And Hill also
vows no new taxes.
Like Briscoe, Hill, 54, of Houston is a
multi-millionaire Establishment Texan.
On some issues he is actually more conservative than the incumbent. For example, Hill believes taxing intangible property, like stocks and bonds, is infeasible.
Briscoe is willing to give it a try.
Hill won't take an obvious back seat to
Briscoe on highway spending. The challenger told the Chronicle, ''Allocation of
highway funds must be based* on the
needs of the citizens, meaning the needs
of citizens to travel between cities as well
as within them."
Both candidates are graduates of "The
University" and think it's just fine the
state constitution makes special funding
provisions for the University of Texas and
Texas A&M University.
And John Hill is quick to explain to
business that he is not a liberal.
Still, Hill has compiled a reasonably
good record as attorney general since
1973 (he also served as secretary of state
from 1966 to 1968).
He hasn't shied from taking on Southwestern Bell over telephone rates. (He
won.) Twice he was named the best statewide official by the Texas Consumer Association.
He has been tough on pollution violators, winning a $150,000 judgment
against Brown & Root for destroying oyster beds in Brazoria County.
Hill has also brought the AG's office
to "the people," opening five regional offices for his 165 assistants, who, by the
way, include 43 women.
But Hill has made mistakes. Perhaps
not to rile the state's black establishment,
he had his lawyers support the autocratic
Texas Southern University administration
when it tried to fire faculty troublemakers with tenure. (He lost.)
And in Washington, his efforts have
often been to protect the state from reform. He argued before the Supreme
Court on behalf of Texas' death penalty.
And at the Railroad Commission's re-'
quest, he filed suit to block enforcement
of tough, new federal strip mining regulations here.
So progressives, as Texas liberals are
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