Molly Ivins October 10
AUSTIN — Have you heard the one about how it all comes down to Texas? In this chilling horror scenario, it's Nov. 6 and the R's and the D's have come out in a near-tie for control of the House of Representatives. Just two or three votes' difference will determine which party runs the House, whether Dick Gephardt or Newt Gingrich is elected speaker and whether the re-elected President Clinton gets a chance to go back and "fix" the welfare bill, as promised, or we actually do wind up booting little kiddies and crippled seniors out into the street. So? It may not be over 'til it's over, but the fat lady sings Nov. 5, right?
Not in Texas.
Because of a triumph of legal reasoning by three Republican judges in Houston, Texas has 13 congressional districts that could still be in play after Election Day — and some of them very likely will be. Since the three-judge panel threw out last spring's primaries in these 13 districts over a redistricting beef, what we conduct on Nov. 5 is merely an open primary, all comers and parties welcome.
In several now-crowded races, no one is likely to get 50-percent-plus-1. The run-offs are scheduled for Dec. 10, which gives the D's the willies because it's a set-up for the Christian Coalition. The average voter figures he did his duty in November. Who holds elections in December? Who thinks about voting during the Christmas shopping bustle? Passionate ideologues, that's who.
That's how we got Rep. Steve Stockman, our proudest contribution to the national Knot-Head Quotient, in the first place. Normal voters stayed home, the Christian right and its disciplined troops turned out in force, and whammo, we sent a hopeless dingbat off to Congress. I'm not saying that all candidates supported by the Christian right are hopeless dingbats: Stockman is special.
For those of you who may have forgotten, Stockman is the glorious gun nut, militia supporter and Polluters' Best Friend who is facing a complaint to the Federal Election Commission from the 1994 campaign and will almost surely draw another this time. In '94, he took $80,000 from the Suarez Corp. of Ohio, which was out to get incumbent Jack Brooks.
Stockman, according to The Beaumont Enterprise and the Houston Chronicle, lied on his resume in '92 about being an accountant, lied about having worked for IBM, lied about being a graduate of the University of Houston-Clear Lake (he did later graduate) and lied about being a computer consultant at the school.
My favorite recent example of the quality of people with whom Stockman hangs out is a letter that his chief of staff sent Mimi Swartz of Texas Monthly after Swartz wrote a profile of Stockman dubbing him "Congressman Clueless." Stockman's jefe suggested that Swartz had gotten her job for reasons other than talent.
More dangerous is Stockman's association with Larry Pratt, a former director of Gun Owners of America, who has spoken at meetings of the Aryan Nation. According to the magazine Roll Call, Stockman made Pratt "almost a shadow congressman."
Our other peppy possibilities for a Texas-determined House of Reps include the 25th District in Houston, where incumbent Ken Bentsen is running against 10 challengers, including several loons, one standard-brand Republican and Dolly Madison McKenna, a pro-choice Republican.
Dallas' 5th District, East Texas' 2nd District and the amazing 14th District, which runs all over everywhere, are also in play. In the amazing 14th, Democrat Lefty Morris (his slogan is "Lefty is Right!") faces the Republican/Libertarian Ron Paul, who is himself so far right that he's sometimes left, as happens with your Libertarians. I think my favorite issue here is Paul's 1993 newsletter advising "Frightened Americans" on how to get their money out of the country. He advised that Peruvian citizenship could be purchased for a mere 25 grand. That we should all become Peruvians is one of the more innovative suggestions of this festive campaign season. But what will the Peruvians think of it?
Over in the 5th District, Democrat John Pouland faces Pete Sessions, the son of the former FBI director who has built name recognition by running against the retiring incumbent, John Bryant. Sessions is a serious right-winger associated with the National Center for Policy Analysis, the right-wing think tank that puts out such screwy studies that it is in itself practically a case study in how statistics lie.
The bad news for the D's, as Bob Dole's campaign sinks slowly in the West and Clinton threatens to carry Texas, is that the R's are now giving up on Dole and putting their money into congressional and legislative races. And if there's one thing the R's always have, it's money.
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
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