WorldPeace responds to the following Texas Monthly Article. Responses are in <<...>>.
For African Americans, <<and Hispanics>> the climb to high office in Texas has been a steep one—until now,<<even still>> as Republicans and Democrats vie for new voters.
by Patricia Kilday Hart
Texas Monthly - October 2001
When Texas railroad commission chairman Michael Williams ran for county attorney in Midland in 1984, he and his campaign manager were disturbed by a poll showing that 25 percent of the voters in the Republican primary would never vote for a black candidate.<<This is Texas>> This was grim news for Williams, who is indeed both a Republican and an African American. << It's the way it is and neither the Blacks nor the Hispancis are going to pull themselves up to the top statewide offices for another twenty five years when all the Whites who went to segregated schools die off>>
"That dictated our campaign," recalls Williams, who was the chief prosecutor in the district attorney's office at the time. "We ran a race where nobody saw me. I rarely got out. No picture—it wasn't on anything. We just tried to tell every award I'd ever won." << Sort of like the stealth campaign that the corrupt Republican turncoat Don Sanchez is trying to use to run for governor. But Don Sanchez is trying to hide from his corruption and indirect Mafia and drug connections as opposed to his race. Hispanics can't hide because their surnames expose them.>>
Three weeks before the election, he and his campaign manager looked at each other and agreed, "This is dumb." But it was too late to recover. "We got stomped," Williams says. <<Just like the polls said.>> The campaign manager? A local oilman named George W. Bush. "No offense to the president, but we ran a bad race," Williams says, laughing. << Yeah but then George appointed him to the Railroad Commission.>>
Now, nearly two decades later, Texas is gearing up for an election cycle that will gauge how much of Midland's 1984 attitude still exists across the state.<< It's still there.>> Both political parties appear to be operating on the assumption that black candidates will strengthen their ticket.<<Blacks as well as Hispanic candidates are for the most part judas goats who bring the Black and Hispanic rank and file to the polls believing that there is actually a chance that their candidate will win; governor, lt. governor, attorney general or Senator.>> The Republican slate will feature at least two high-profile black incumbents—Williams and Wallace Jefferson, who became the first black justice on the Texas Supreme Court when Governor Rick Perry named him to fill the vacancy left by new White House counsel Al Gonzales.<< Williams will probably do OK because the courts have a lot of Blacks in them. But he had better not run for Chief Justice. Williams is still an unknown and those aforementioned offices are still off limits to him as a Black.>> And prominent Democrats spent the summer urging Dallas mayor Ron Kirk to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Phil Gramm, who has since announced his retirement.<< Now this is a real joke. No way is it time for a Black male to join the most exclusive club in the world.>>
Democrats believe that the presence of the popular Kirk on their ticket, along with Laredo banker and oilman Tony Sanchez, Jr., who is challenging Republican incumbent Rick Perry for governor,<<Don Sanchez is not challenging Rick Perry, he is challenging John WorldPeace, a Houston attorney who is going to make sure that the corruption that is Don Sanchez is fully aired statewide>> would awaken a core constituency that has slumbered through the past few election cycles. <<If the Democrats run these people in the governor's race and the Senate race, they have no chance of winning. Everyone in the state knows it. They are just judas goats who job it is to bring out the minority vote to swing the down ballot races. You see the Democratic Party is in such a chaotic mess that they have given up the governor's race already by touting Don Sanchez for governor who quite frankly could care less about running for office. And ask yourself who decided that not only did the Party need a Hispanic, they had to have a Republican Hispanic to run as a Democrat.>> Buoyed by census data showing an explosion in the Hispanic population and polls showing that Texas now ranks second only to New York in black population, Democratic strategists say the key to winning back some statewide offices—all now held by Republicans—is increasing the turnout of minority voters.<< This is stupid nonsense and everyone knows it. The Hispanics tend to vote 50/50 Democrat and Republican and so it does not matter how many you bring on board they will cancel each other out. The well-to-do Hispanics, and there are a lot of them, vote Republican. The Blacks are going to vote Democratic. They know the Republicans have little or nothing to offer them. But it makes them feel good to be able to talk about the fact that Ron Kirk may consider running. For many older Blacks, that alone is more than they could have ever hoped for 25 years ago.>> In 1998 Democrats Paul Hobby and John Sharp narrowly lost their bids for comptroller and lieutenant governor, respectively, a showing attributed to an anemic Hispanic turnout—26.7 percent of their registered voters, down from 34.4 percent in the previous election, when incumbent attorney general Dan Morales was on the ballot. << This is so lame it isn't even funny. The Hispanics are evenly divided; Republican and Democrat. John Sharp lost because Rick Perry is a very aggressive campaigner and a mud slinger from way back. In addition, the Bush coattails which is no longer a significant presence in Texas is probably what accounted for the close margins as opposed to the lack of Hispanics at the polls.>>A Democratic Dream Team headed by Kirk and Sanchez, the theory goes, will draw huge numbers of African Americans, 90 percent of whom vote Democratic, and Hispanics, who also vote overwhelmingly Democratic, to the polls.<<I disagree with the statement that Hispanics are more Democratic in their voting. The reality is that these candidates cannot win. The White Democrats will vote for Perry and Dewhurst even though many yellow dog Democrats will not vote in these races when the choice is a minority Democrat or a White Republican. The problem that I have with all this is that I, John WorldPeace, can pull both the Hispanics and Whites to vote for me along with a lot of Republican women because of my promise to allocate half my appointments to women, as well as a lot of Christian Republicans because of my position on Prayer in the School and the Ten Commandments in the court room, as well as the liberal Democrats. I can beat Perry with this coalition. I can then by affirmative action appointments place Blacks and Hispanics in high offices statewide and thereby shorten the time it will take them to be able to seriously run for the top offices in Texas. But no, the Democratic Party would rather try to win a few down ballot races by using Don Sanchez and Kirk as Judas Goats to bring out the Hispanic and Black voters. The Blacks loose because the person who would really help them, John WorldPeace, is being thwarted by the Party in his bid to become governor. Only a White candidate can pull votes from both Hispanic and Blacks who will not support each other's candidates. And it is going to take both to beat the Republican devil Rick Perry.>>
This wishful thinking may never become more than just that: At press time, Kirk had not yet decided whether he would make the race.<< And I doubt that he will. He does not want to look like a fool.>> Even if he runs, Dan Morales has expressed interest in running for the Senate seat, which means that Kirk would have to wage an uphill primary battle against a better-known opponent to win his party's nomination.<< So true. The Whites are more likely to vote for a Hispanic than a Black.>> Whether or not Kirk runs, Republicans hope the inclusion of Williams and Jefferson on their slate will cut into a traditionally Democratic constituency, as well as attract some Anglo independents.<<Maybe a few Blacks, but that is doubtful because Tony Sanchez has bought off almost all of the Black reps in the state. If you don't believe it, ask yourself why they have kept their mouths shut as the Democratic Party talks of nothing else but Hispanics. Anglos may vote for Jefferson, but if Williams opponent is White, they will cross Party lines to vote White and many of the yellow dogs will not vote in that race.>>
At first blush, Williams' election in November 2000 to the Railroad Commission put to rest the question of whether a black candidate can win an important statewide office in Texas. (Two black judges have served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.) But his success came under circumstances that would be difficult for other black candidates to duplicate: He was an incumbent, appointed by Bush to fill an unexpired term on the commission, and the clear endorsement by a popular presidential candidate prevented the emergence of a serious Republican primary challenger. But Williams also believes his ethnicity "was an advantage"—unlike in 1984 Midland. <<Bush kept the Republicans in line. And the Railroad Commission is not a high enough profile to bother the Whites anymore.>>
"I felt a huge excitement among Republicans over being able to go into the voting booth and vote for an African American. I got the benefit of that wave," he says. << I would like to see how many Blacks voted for Williams. I doubt it was more than the normal 10% that vote Republican anyway.>>It also didn't hurt that Williams has had a long history with the Republican party. He served as the state party's general counsel and worked for the Justice Department under presidents Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush. "There was no question about my Republican credentials and, at the same time, almost a hunger on behalf of Republican primary voters to vote for an African American,<<There was no hunger, it just did not matter anymore and for those whom it did matter, Bush's endorsement overcame their reluctance.>> in part to show that the presumed bias did not exist. I made an investment in the party, and I had the background and experience—that's the formula." <<The formula was mostly Bush, Bush, Bush>>
In his 2000 campaign, Williams' picture appeared on all his literature, with him wearing his signature bow tie. He ran TV ads and made as many public appearances as possible. "In 2002 we'll make a conscious effort to generate voters in the African American community. There's an African American advisory group as part of Team Williams," he says.<<Like I said, who cares about the Railroad Commission anymore. The Whites are not stupid. They know that it is just a matter of time until all the statewide offices will be open to people of color. But for now the top four offices in the state are strictly reserved for Whites.>>
Williams says he feels a responsibility to seek contacts with African Americans throughout the state "even if it doesn't come within the four corners of the responsibilities of the Railroad Commission." <<He is not going to make a big dent in the mindset of most Blacks that Black equals Democrat.>>He helps circulate young black professionals' résumés, tries to funnel grants to historically black colleges like Prairie View A&M, and searches hard for qualified black applicants when hiring at the commission.<< And that is all as it should be.>>
The Texas Railroad Commission regulates the state's oil and gas industry, which is not a typical minority concern. Still, Williams has identified a few issues in which he's taken a stand that could be called pro-minority. "With pipeline safety rules, we put a priority on testing in high-density neighborhoods, and many of those are going to be low-income areas," he says. "During the natural gas price spike, we passed emergency rules that said you can't cut folks off [for nonpayment of a bill] in the dead of winter."<<Well that is a start.>>
The son of two Midland schoolteachers, Williams proudly claims to be a "second-generation Republican." <<Republican even knowing that there is a major barrier against Blacks with White Republicans and a determination not to let them dominate the Republican Party. As the number of Blacks increase in the Party, the resistance will also increase. >>Despite black voters' loyalty to the Democratic ticket, Williams says he believes he'll draw many of those voters to the Republican slate.<<Pipe dream. Drawing some is realistic.>> "If we tell the Michael Williams story, we will be able to attract those voters," he says. << Hardly. Not until a much great number of Blacks can get into the better colleges and universities. Assuming that the number that even graduate from High School increases. >>As a federal prosecutor in the criminal section of the Justice Department's civil rights division, Williams won convictions of nine members of the Ku Klux Klan on charges involving stolen military weapons and other violations. <<Not many like the Klan anymore. But I applaud his work in this area.>>A security detail was assigned to him after he received death threats. <<Yelp, the Klan is still alive.>>"That has nothing to do with the Railroad Commission, but it does have something to do with who I am," he says.
Like Williams, Kirk is an attorney whose career has been spent mostly in public service. A former aide to retired U.S. senator Lloyd Bentsen, whom he still idolizes, Kirk served as a Dallas assistant city attorney, lobbying the Legislature for the city. He was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Ann Richards before joining the prestigious Dallas law firm of Gardere and Wynne. After years of racial tension that permeated civic issues in Dallas, the city's business establishment got behind Kirk in 1995 in hopes of uniting the minority community under the leadership of a pro-business African American. Kirk won the race with about 42 percent of the Anglo vote. "That was cool," he says.<< Actually Kirk had the credentials and the Whites knew that they would get less grief out of the Blacks if one of their own moved at the top of the pyramid. A few Blacks is OK. A dozen is something to prevent>>
In a July interview, while he was still facing the possibility that Gramm would run for reelection, Kirk traced the recent demise of the Democratic party to Bentsen's retirement from politics. "We yielded the debate about being business-friendly. You can't have a party that business is afraid of." << The demise of the Democratic Party has to do as always with a lack of leadership. Look at what is going on now. At the top of the Democratic Party is Don Sanchez, a Republican turncoat. And then there is Molly Beth the ex-Republican. And until last week Marty Akins. Republicans everyone. Democrats need to be Democrats not Republican. >>
In 2002, though, Kirk believes that Democrats, with the right ticket, "could excite a core group that hasn't had a reason to go to the polls to vote." <<Yelp, if they put up a pro minority White candidate like WorldPeace at the top of the ticket who both minorities will vote for and who will in fact advance the Hispanic and Black agendas as opposed to putting up a couple of judas goats who are destined to lose in November 2002.>> And after years of election defeats, he believes Democrats are ready to coalesce.<< You can bet they are, but not behind a corrupt Hispanic Republican.>> "There's nothing like being out of office for eight years to make you sit down and shut up and put your personal agendas aside.<<Give me a break. The personal agendas are still very much alive. The Democrats have been behind Don Sanchez since June 2000 when John Sharp told the Hispanic caucus that a Hispanic was needed at the top of the ticket.>> We're going to have enough choir books this year, and we're all going to be on the same page." <<No. WorldPeace is not on the same page and the corrupt Don Sanchez, the Democratic race horse is going to be shown by WorldPeace to be a cur dog. How? By WorldPeace increasing his daily telephone calls from 60,000 to 250,000. By the way, this Friday night in League City, there is going to be a no show by Don Sanchez or a showdown between WorldPeace and Don Sanchez. WorldPeace is currently airing all of Don Sanchez's dirty laundry within a 45 mile radius of ground zero. The people will either not show up, or they will show up to see the fireworks.>>
Kirk also believes that African Americans still harbor residual resentment about the stories of disenfranchisement of Florida's black voters in the 2000 presidential election.<<Texans of any color do not care about what happened in Florida with regard to the Presidential Race. The voting machines have been replaced. It is a non issue. >> "That could be an incredibly motivating factor.<<This is an example of how out of touch Kirk is.>> You combine that with a candidate who can appeal to business—that's a prescription for a revival of the party," he notes.<< WorldPeace is an accountant and an attorney. Also as WorldPeace he is a natural to bring business from all over the world to Texas. And as a White guy he is a candidate that both the Blacks and Hispanics can support.>>
Kirk possesses charisma and easy humor; much like Ann Richards, he excels at repartee: "Not a day goes by that somebody doesn't tell me I ought to switch parties. I always say, 'Why don't you switch parties? In the Republican party, you're just another white boy; in the Democratic party, you'd be something special.'" <<Well thank you Kirk for stating the reality of White Republicanism.>>
One reason why the Democrats need both Kirk and Sanchez on the ticket is that recent history suggests that Hispanics will not turn out solely to vote for black candidates and vice versa.<< No truer words have ever been spoken. Blacks and Hispanics do not support each other's candidates.>> Veteran Democratic pollster Jeff Montgomery, of Austin, believes the two groups view each other with suspicion and mistrust: "Oftentimes competing minority groups look at each other as reaching for the same piece of the pie," he says.<<Actually it is more about who is on the bottom rung of the social ladder. To many older Whites, they are both on the bottom.>> "They believe if one is gaining ground, the other is losing."<<And they would be right. Just look at how the Hispanics have come up without a single word of protest from the Black leadership in Texas. Can you say bought off? Can you say thirty pieces of silver times thirty plus Black reps. The Black rank and file are no longer in the back of the bus, they are no longer even on the bus.>> There's little history in Texas of blacks' and browns' uniting behind each other's candidates.<<Amen. So why is Don Sanchez being touted in the governor's race at the expense of the Black vote????>> In 1991 Houston businessman Bob Lanier defeated state representative Sylvester Turner, an African American, to become mayor with the help of Hispanics.<<Yelp.>> In this year's Los Angeles mayor's race, a similar phenomenon occurred when Anglo James K. Hahn defeated Hispanic Antonio Villaraigosa with huge support from African Americans. Hahn received more than 70 percent of the black vote.<<Yelp. And so goes Texas too.>>
Kirk doesn't buy it. <<That is the judas goat in him talking>> .First of all, he notes, he has succeeded in Dallas' "tri-ethnic" environment. "Let's not buy into this 'most-favored minority' thing. Let's move into coalition-building—the shared journeys we have made," he says.<<Yes Mayor Kirk. Tell us all about standing up for Blacks in this Hispanic whirlwind.>>
While no one believes racial bias has magically evaporated since Williams' 1984 race, political experts from both parties believe that people are too sophisticated to answer yes to a poll question about whether race would influence their vote.<<Duh. Do you think?>> "Unfortunately, people are automatically going to say it doesn't affect them," says Republican consultant Reggie Bashur. Bashur points to two North Carolina U.S. Senate election contests between African American Harvey Gantt and incumbent Jesse Helms. "The surveys were much different from what actually occurred when people voted. There was a huge drop-off in voting for Gantt from what the polls had predicted."<<Do you think the polls were rigged to manipulate the Blacks in North Carolina?>>
Bashur believes that Kirk—or any black Democrat—faces a greater disadvantage in Texas than skin color: party affiliation. << Party affiliation is such that Blacks do better as Democrats.>> "Republicans have a ten percent advantage in Texas," he notes. Bigger turnout by Hispanics and African Americans would "chip away one or two percent—not enough to overcome the kind of deficit they face." And while Democrats bemoan their poor turnout in 1998, Bashur notes that turnout was down among Republicans as well.
Williams' election aside, Democrats like state senator Rodney Ellis, of Houston, himself an African American, worry that a glass ceiling exists for African Americans who seek higher state offices.<<He doesn't worry about it, he accepts the reality of it.>> Though Democrats have tried to talk Ellis into making a statewide race, he's not convinced the time is right. <<It is right for races below Attorney General>>"It would be an uphill battle," he says.<<For Rodney, but not for some other Blacks.>> "Somebody has to have the courage to roll the dice and test it. <<Yelp, and Rodney ain't a leader.>>A good number of people in Texas would like to vote for an African American. I just don't know if that number gets to a majority." <<Blacks would like to vote for a Black, generally speaking and Whites would like to vote for a White and Hispanics for a Hispanic, generally speaking.>>
September 25, 2001