Guess who's running for office?
By Donna Adair
The May 6 primary will bring at least 12 women's names to ballots throughout
Houston-Harris County. In keeping with its policy of alerting Breakthrough readers to
women in politics-though not endorsing anyone- Breakthrough invited these 12 candidates to a special interview session Sunday, April 9. This was not a screening session.
The women were asked just to talk about the office, their race. This was an opportunity for them to have their say as women to voters.
The women running for public office in the Democratic primary, in alphabetical
Incumbent Elizabeth Armstrong from Lake Jackson for Member, State Board of
Education, District 22 (unexpired term);
Incumbent Alice A. Bonner for Judge, County Criminal Court No. 6;
Laurice Carswell/or County Treasurer; and
Mary Woodall Creasy for State Representative, District 93. She's unopposed in the
De m ocra tic primary.
Nell H. Hollo way for Judge, 312th Family District Court; and
Incumbent Joe Kegans for Judge, 230th Judicial District Court. She's unopposed in
both the primary and general election.
Anita Rode heaver/or Harris County Clerk and
Ruby Kless Sondock for Judge, 234th Judicial District Court. She's also unopposed
in both the primary and general election.
Incumbent Senfronia Thompson for State Representative, District 89 and
Norma Mims Watson for State Representative, District 88.
Also on the Democratic primary ballot, for political rather than public office, is
Anne Greene. She's running for the party's county chairperson slot.
In the Republican primary Jean H. Chernowsky is the lone female on the ballot.
She's running for County Clerk.
Bonner, Creasy, Holloway, Rodeheaver and Greene were interviewed by
Sondock and Keagan, unopposed, were not interviewed at this time. Armstrong was
out of town. The other candidates did not respond.
large slots to balance the delegations from
"He testified that he didn't think the
'down-trodden minorities' supported the
"I don't think that a man that feels
like that can be neutral and bring the party together," Greene says. "I think this
party is divided;it's split;and I think you
need somebody up there chairing it that's
going to try to get all these different
groups to work together again to elect
Greene has lived in Harris County for
13 years and has been a member of the
Democratic party for 12 years. She's
served on the executive committee for
precinct 200 and prior to that was an alternate to the committee. In Harris County she co-chaired the "Elect Bob Bullock
Controller" campaign in 1974 before
Mayor Fred Hofheinz appointed her the
first female municipal court judge.
Greene left municipal court because
she wanted to practice law, although she
still serves as an associate judge in that
court. She's been in private civil law practice for five years.
The main reason she decided to enter
the race was that the person she wanted
to support decided not to run, and no
one else was running whom she thought
she could support. "No one stood for
what I thought needed to be done with
the party," says Greene.
She's been a member of NOW and the'
Women's Political Caucus. And, although
a municipal court judge at the time,
Greene supported Nikki Van Hightower's
fight against City Council and "made sure
every member of Council saw me.
"I think it's about time the public realized it's the women who are the ones really getting the vote out. I think they need
to get more recognition for that. I'd like
to encourage qualified women to run for
Asked if she's looking at this office as
a stepping stone to another one, Greene
replies, "I'm not seeking another office at
this time. (I'm running because) I've been
one of those people who feels shut out. I
feel in close contact with those people. I
feel it's time somebody got in there and
ran an open party."
"I don't see why being liberal
should keep me from being a neutral chairperson any more than the
ultra-conservative that is now in office and who wants to kick the
blacks and Chicanos out of the
party." —Anne Greene
Anne Greene thinks that the function of
a judge is to be neutral, and she thinks
the function of the Democratic Party
Chairperson is to be neutral-within the
confines of the party.
Greene describes herself as a liberal, or
progressive, Democrat. She says she doesn't see why being liberal should keep her
from being a neutral chairperson any
more than the ultra conservative that is
now in office and who wants to kick the
blacks and Chicanos out of the party.
"That to me is disgraceful if it is accepted by the people in the Democratic
party, when traditionally those are the
people that consistently support the
Greene cites the testimony that the
current chairperson, George Buch, made
to the Winograd Commission, a commission of the National Democratic Party
regarding party rules.
"He didn't think it was fair that women should have 50% of a delegation,
blacks one-third, and Chicanos 17%. He
said he thought it was ridiculous to try to
"He didn't want to use delegate-at-
Although six men are running against her,
Alice Bonner has received all but one
group's endorsement for the position of
Judge, County Criminal Court No. 6. One
of her opponents is a member of the lone
She assumes so many men are running
against her because "I seem most vulnerable. I'm black and female and this is a
county-wide race. I couldn't raise the
kind of money I need. That makes sense.
One of them waited until the very last
minute to file. My money is coming from
the grass roots community."
She feels she's the only one in the race
with the necessary judicial experience.
She's had more experience as a lawyer
than three of her opponents and less than
the other three. But she's been on the
bench in her current position since appointment by the County Commissioners
Court in June 1977. Prior to that she was
a municipal court judge for 3V_ years.
As she puts it, the municipal courts in
Harris County are more than a "kangaroo
court," so that experience should be considered. They're courts of record. She
considers both the municipal court and
the county criminal court to be "peoples
courts" like the justice of the peace
"Many come there without counsel.
They can't afford counsel so there are
many opportunities for the judge to be of
"I don't look at the people in this
criminal court as 'criminals.' The type of
cases that come in are such that it's their
first brush with the law and usually the
In response to critics who say she uses
probation too much, Bonner says probation is a good tool for getting people back
"I assume all these men are running
against me because I seem most
vulnerable—I'm black and female
and this is a county-wide race."
—Alice B. Bonner
on the right track. "You can have a lot of
stipulations in a probation. And you can
She gives the example of a woman
who had about $8,000 to $10,000 in
checks out. She'd been in jail for six
months, was more than six months pregnant, had eight children, no husband, was
on welfare and had no resources.
"I insisted something be done. I placed
her on probation with the condition that
after the baby was born she enroll in a
training program. I felt that someone
smart enough to get by with all those
checks should be smart enough to get a
job and pull herself up, get back into the
mainstream of life." She did.
Nell Holloway is one woman who did
have a female role model—back in the
At age 13 Holloway worked for a
woman lawyer through a Business and
Professional Women's program in her native Ada, Oklahoma. At that time it was
work-for-free for the opportunity to
work alongside a professional woman. After graduation from college at age 18 in
1949 she began working for the same woman. This time for pay and for a judge.
Marriage and family postponed career
goals a few years but Holloway always
promised her daughter that she was going
to law school as soon as her child was
That's what brought her to Texas in
1966. She heard she could go to South
"No woman's ever won in Harris
County yet. No incumbent's been
defeated in 20 years, so 111 have a
first if I do it. A real strong first."
Texas Law School evenings.
So, although she's been a practicing
lawyer only since April 1972, Holloway,
candidate for Family District Court No.
312, has been working in law for almost
In her brief career as a lawyer she's already in the process of making history
with the Sims v. State Department of
Public Welfare case which has prompted a
three-judge federal court to rule that several provisions of the state's child abuse
laws are unconstitutional.
She donated 18 months of her time
and $50,000 to working on this case.
Holloway has been criticized for running against Judge Felix Salazar, the only
minority member now in the family
courts. She responds that she's running
for an office for which there is a vacancy.
"Whenever other women achieve, I say
I'm so glad. I think there's a place for me,
Alice (Bonner), Ruby (Kless Sondock),
anybody else who wants to file. I think
the day has come when the voter and the
public are willing to accept a woman in
the judiciary and we need them wherever."
Concerning "Pro choice," Holloway
has "religious convictions that may be
different, but as to your right to control
your own body function, I would defend it. Whether or not I could exercise
that same right is beside the point."
"I think the governor made a mistake
when he made the last appointments, that
there was not one woman. I was told by a
judge before I filed that where women
need to turn the screws is in the governor's office. I thought, 'No, not necessarily. What's wrong with filing and running?'
"Of course, you understand, no woman's ever filed and won in Harris
County yet. No incumbent's been
defeated in 20 years, either, so I'll have a
first if I do it. A real strong first."