attorney general's race
Courting the women's vote
By Judith McClary
The candidates in the attorney general's
race, more than any other primary contenders, are speaking directly to women.
Price Daniel Jr. and Mark White Jr.,
the two Democratic frontrunners, are
courting the women's vote.
Calling your opponent a "weak sister,"
however, is not going to win votes from
the sisterhood. Mark White slipped this
gaffe into an interview reported in the
April 16, 1978, Houston Post: "All he
[Price] has got so far is his daddy's name
and Billie Carr [a liberal Democratic leader] . He's a weak sister."
Perhaps he should stick to lines like the
one in his Breakthrough interview, "When
tense times came, he [Price] hid like a little rat," which might keep his offensive-
ness to four-legged mousy types.
Despite the occasional slips, both men
have influential women supporters. Dr.
Hortense Dixon, former executive assistant to Fred Hofheinz, supports Mark
Price Daniel, Jr. has the backing of a
75-member group, Women Across Texas
(WAT), which includes such political pros
as Ann Richards and Helen Copitka.
On April 4, WAT representatives and
other Daniel supporters forming the ad-
hoc Women's Political Action Coalition
(WPAC) met with the candidate to begin
the dialogue about women's issues. The
agenda was a six point summary of the
most vital of these issues.
Attorney Judith Guthrie questioned
Daniel about possible conflicts of interest
between his support of women's issues
and his representation of state agencies
being sued by women. Representing
state agencies has been stated by Daniel
to be one of the most important functions of the attorney general's office.
A primary concern of the group was
that the attorney general uses his influence
to keep state agencies out of the courts
and complying with the laws, preparing
affirmative action programs, following
hiring policies consistent with EEOC
"We're being screwed on both ends."
said Helen Copitka. "We can't get in the
door, and then our taxes are paying to
keep the door closed."
"I want your views," Daniel said. "I
want you to help me be a good attorney
general. I need you to help me get elect
ed. I need your advice, your consent, and
your encouragement—and 111 probably
need your prodding from time to time."
The group recommended training
programs, instituted through the Law
Enforcement Assistance Administration,
that would deal with civil rights, rape,
family crisis intervention, battered women, and child abuse. "We would like to
see you use your position as attorney general to institute programs that would address these issues, establish guidelines for
agencies so they are not hauled into
court," Copitka said.
On the issue of jobs, Daniel said, "As
attorney general, we open doors for women." He said that he advocates the setting up of a Human Relations Commission. Nikki Van Hightower responded, "It
has to be something with teeth in it or it
just becomes another stumbling block."
Both Daniel and the coalition agreed
that teeth are also needed for an effective
Open Meetings Act, a piece of legislation
passed during Daniel's reform-era term
as House speaker. "You should be aware
of my strong stance on openness," said
Daniel. "I think the statute is well drawn,
but it has problems of enforcement. It
needs amendment, penalty provisions."
WPAC spokesperson Copitka said after
the meeting, "We support Daniel for several reasons. Mainly, our endorsement is
based on his past record."
While serving in the Texas House,
Daniel voted for the passage of the state
and federal ERA; he opposed recission efforts; he appointed women and minority
House members to serve on committees;
he established the House EEOC office
and appointed a woman as the first EEOC
officer (this office was abolished when his
successor Billy Clayton took office); he
employed women in key legislative committee staff positions and on his campaign staff.
"I've always worked for women's
rights," Daniel said in a recent interview
with Breakthrough. "Women know my
continuing commitment and what we've
done. I believe in equal opportunity and
will go on fighting for it. Before (his term
as House speaker), if you were a woman
or a black, a Mexican American, a Republican, you could just forget it as far as getting an important committee or staff assignment."
"Fortunately for me-1 mean the
state," said Daniel in our recent interview, "the citizenry became aware of the
Dirty 30 (at the time of the Sharpstown
scandal, Texas' Watergate) and I ran and
won the speakership on a platform for
permanent reform-to open the system
up. This happened with the ethics and financial disclosure act; the campaign finance disclosure act; the open meetings
act; the open records act; and the lobby
registration and control act. Also, I ran
the House as a deliberative body. I ran for
only one term and retired voluntarily."
The Texas Women's Political Caucus
(TWPC) has endorsed Daniel. Harris
County WPC Chair, Joyce Cragg says,
"Price has always kept his word. He's
very concerned with and sympathetic to
women's issues and will do something
about them. I believe in the man."
Mark White launched a mail campaign
to 10,000 women across Texas to solicit
the women's vote. In this letter, signed by
six women lawyers, educators and professionals, he asserts that he had an outstanding record of equal employment
practices as secretary of state, especially
in placing women in supervisory roles.
Then he lists 13 women who worked in
his office, primarily as a result of his extensive recruiting and upward mobility
Terry Goodman, director of the Enforcement Division in the Secretary of
State's office since April, 1973, and the
first woman to hold that job, says, "I
took this position because it gave me a
chance for more responsibility, higher
salary and better title. I'd been working
in another government office for eight
years. White's payroll is a matter of pub-
he record. He gave women an opportunity to have positions of authority and responsibility. As an office holder, he had
an outstanding record for wo men-and
I'm an example. He treated me always
just like other division directors. I was in
the job because I was an attorney. I never
felt like a token." She added that she's
been interested in the women's movement for a long time.
"No other candidate for attorney
general can point to this kind of equal
employment record," White's letter continues. In person, the candidate is more
specific, saying, "I've practiced equal opportunity, while Price has only given it lip
service. I have a record; he doesn't. He
never hired a woman above clerk-typist
for his personal House staff.
"Daniel says he'll have an 'open-door'
policy for women. Well, I'm going to go
out knocking on doors for them," White
"I'll have an open
door policy for
—Price Daniel, Jr.
The other important point White
makes to his women constituency is his
reputation for integrity, honesty and fair
dealing. The letter reads, "We know that
if Mark White pledges to advance the role
of women in Texas, he will keep his word
as attorney general, just as he did while
serving as secretary of state."
As Texas' chief elections officer, former
Secretary of State White says he promoted
numerous revisions of election laws and
established what he calls a "reasonable
and enforceable" campaign finance and
financial disclosure system.
He says he was responsible for creating
the Texas Register, a publication to inform citizens of new and proposed state
agency regulations, including the telephone number and address of the official
to whom protests and complaints should
be addressed. This procedure has been
adopted by the Federal Register.
White claims that his office returned
some $4 million of its approximately $20
million budget back to the general revenue fund, even though a new division was
created. His supporters point out that this
efficiency saved money which could then
be used for child care and other concerns
vital to women.
In his Breakthrough interview, White
said, "I took the (secretary of state) job
because I thought it was a chance to help
cure some of the things I'd always complained about, like government wastefulness and inefficiency. I've never felt like a
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