Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

ANN RICHARDS, TEXAS GOVERNOR

Post by Alana Cash









A friend of mine, a campaign manager for local Austin politicians and judges, invited me to a fundraiser for Ann Richards during her Democratic Primary campaign for governor in 1990.  The Jim Mattox camp had just cruelly announced that Ann Richards was an alcoholic, which happened to be true, but neglected to mention that Ann Richards was a dry alcoholic – she had given up drinking a decade before.  At the fundraiser, I shook Ann’s hand and told her not to let them get her down.  She said she wouldn’t, but you could see she was hurt personally.  While this conduct unbecoming a Texas gentleman may not have helped Ann, Jim lost voters.  And lost to Ann. 


Ann wasn’t the first female governor of Texas.  Ma (Miriam Miranda) Ferguson holds that title.  She was the wife of Pa (aka Father Jim) Ferguson, the only Texas governor to be impeached.  Pa Ferguson was barred from holding any political office in Texas on account of taking bribes and embezzlement of state funds, so his wife ran in his place and was elected twice – her platform was “two governors for the price of one.” Ma Ferguson issued so many prison pardons – mainly to those convicted of violating Prohibition laws – that the Texas voters removed the power of pardon from the governor’s office and gave that authority to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.   

Ann Richards was the first female governor of Texas elected on her own merits.

Ann grew up in Waco, attended Baylor University, married her high school sweetheart, and started her career as a social studies teacher at Fulmore Middle School in South Austin.  She began helping in political elections in the 1970s before running for office herself.  She was elected Texas State Treasurer in 1982, the first woman to hold an elected state office in Texas in 50 years.  She did so well at the job, that she was asked to speak at the 1988 National Democratic Convention which made her famous.

She is remembered for saying, "I'm delighted to be here with you this evening, because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like."   And she’s better remembered for saying,”Poor George, he can’t help it.  He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”  After he was elected, George Bush sent her a silver foot charm.

Gaining that kind of national attention was what prompted Ann’s run for governor in 1990.  After she wrestled the Democratic nomination away from Jim Mattox, she faced republican Clayton Williams for the race. 

Forgetting or perhaps unaware that women gained the right to vote in 1920, during his gubernatorial campaign, Williams made the statement: “If you’re getting raped, you might as well relax and enjoy it.”  And he lost to Ann.

The The Texas lottery was introduced during Ann’s term as governor as a means of funding education.  The Robin Hood educational funding system was also introduced.  She instituted substance abuse treatment for prison inmates.  And saved the state $6 billion through audits.  Ann Richards was a music and film lover and supported South by Southwest and the Texas Film Commission.

But I don’t think she altogether liked being governor.

I attended a speaking engagement at the Irwin Center at UT in which Ann said, and I’m paraphrasing, when women have to solve problems, they get in a circle and everyone gets a say.  Men aren’t like that.  They don’t play fair.    

She ran for a second term against George W. Bush.  His political staff started a whisper campaign that Ann was a lesbian because she had hired and appointed so many women to state offices.  I guess that would make all male governors gay, but nobody pointed that out.

Ann left the governor’s mansion to live in a condominium a block from where I lived.  I saw her once in Whole Foods.  And I saw her on TV doing commercials with Mario Cuomo who had lost governorship of New York to Pataki.  In a Doritos commercial Cuomo pointed out that the Cowboys weren’t having a good season and Ann said, “They always won when I was governor.”

Ann Richards.  I admired her.

Music:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjDGNjRUums&feature=c4-overview&playnext=1&list=TLB3B8bOh_PO8 (Asleep at the Wheel singing "Don't Fence Me In")

COMMENTS:

Laura Moliter said...
Love this blog, Alana. I covered some of Ann Richards' press events when I was in radio and felt a personal kick in the stomach when she lost to George Bush. I was naive enough to be waiting at her headquarters when the results came in and had to make a mad scramble with my tape recorder over to where Bush was. What a disappointment. Plus, the sound bites got pretty crappy after she left office. My job got a lot harder! Again, thanks for the blog! 

Anonymous said...
What a cool lady. I wish she had been governor longer.

2 comments:

Laura Moliter said...

Love this blog, Alana. I covered some of Ann Richards' press events when I was in radio and felt a personal kick in the stomach when she lost to George Bush. I was naive enough to be waiting at her headquarters when the results came in and had to make a mad scramble with my tape recorder over to where Bush was. What a disappointment. Plus, the sound bites got pretty crappy after she left office. My job got a lot harder! Again, thanks for the blog!

Anonymous said...

What a cool lady. I wish she had been governor longer.