Southern Elections: A State by State Version

Southern Elections: A State by State Version

By SRC Staff

Vol. 1, No. 3, 1978, pp. 8-11, 25-29

Former populist Governor Big Jim Folsom of Alabama once said that politics was for him like, “courtin’ a beautiful woman – if you can’t spend a lot of money you’re gonna have to do a little lyin’.” Yet, the days of suds bucket and singing “you are my sunshine” off key – symbols of Folsom’s success – are gone and Big Jim’s confessed wisdom has been adapted for the modern times of Southern politics. Now, in courtin’ Southern voters, a candidate is required to do both.

This year’s Southerners witnessed more than $35 million spent by major candidates on advertising on radio and television stations. Most ads were designed simply to build an image of personality for candidates – leaving the public issues to be discussed in slogans. While the trend was not uniquely Southern, the changing nature of regional politics showed itself in the election’s results and may portend greater danger to candidates who wish to represent the interests of minorities and poor folk in the future.

In all major statewide races in the South, everyone who had a prayer’s chance spent at least a half million dollars and often more than a million. Those who didn’t – like defeated Democratic senate nominee John Ingram of North Carolina – didn’t come even close on November 7.

While Bob Graham was elected governor of Florida and spent less than his opponent, his total campaign expenditure was more than two million dollars – much of it his own money. Republican Lamar Alexander won the general election for the governor of Tennessee over a bigger spending Jake Butcher; however, Alexander spent around a million dollars on his own campaign. In most other races, the victor was the big spending candidate. Vhile it was not the relationship between money and politics alone that decided the South’s elections, its effects were paramount and will be increasingly exclusionary.

The fact is that like selling soap nowadays, if a candidate doesn’t have the millions to spend on advertising, chances for victory in a real contest are hardly worth the trouble. For candidates whose major constituency comes from the uninfluential, minorities, or the poor, the problems of raising enough funds can he deadly.

As disturbing, even Black candidates appealing largely to a Black voting constituency feel the need to have large advertising budgets. In Mississippi, Charles Evers attempted to win a plurality victory for the U.S. Senate by getting a huge turnout with some White votes. According to Jason Berry, campaign aide for Evers, one of the major problems of the campaign was its desperate need of funds for Evers to go on television. “But I haven’t seen you on television…” was a response Evers got even from Black folks as he campaigned throughout Mississippi. In post election analysis, campaign workers for Evers contend that if there had been more money and more television time, there would have been a better chance for Evers in both the Black and White communities.

While influential in its own right, the politics of big money went hand in hand with the politics of Southern conservatism this year. The old Southern hard-line, conservative Democrats who once occupied the U.S. Senate are being replaced by the newer, younger, and just as hard-line conservative Republicans. In Texas Mississippi, Virginia and North Carolina. Republicans who call themselves, “fiscal conservatives” were elected to the U.S. Senate. While a Democrat will return to South Carolina’s statehouse, Strom Thurmond returns to the Senate and a Republican conservative will become governor of Texas.

None of these candidates were elected with the large support of Blacks or other minorities. All talked about cutting government spending and eliminating the frills in government programs especially social programs. Even the more tolerant Democrats who won had to court voters with their own line of old time conservatism.

In Alabama, a sedate former state chief justice Howell Heflin sounded like daddy warbucks charging his opponent with making “America a second-rate power” by voting for a little cut in defense spending. State Senator Bob Graham, Florida’s next governor with a reputation as one of Florida’s leading liberals, attacked his Democratic primary opponent for “socialist leaning” and demanded the death penalty for rapists “who dare defile the women of our state.” Little was said in any campaign in the South of the virtues of giving folks decent jobs or making decent

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housing available.

The candidates who did run with direct populist appeals were roundly defeated. While none could be accused of having open, liberal tendencies, John Ingram of North Carolina and Pug Ravenel of South Carolina failed in their open appeals to Black and White voters. It just didn’t work in 1978.

Candidates who want to give special attention to the needs of poor and minorities have always found hostile audiences and enormous obstacles in seeking statewide offices in the South. The elections of 1978 will not be recorded as an exception to that fact. Rather, it may well be remembered as the time when big money and Republican conservatism became the fashionable ways to court Southern voters.


Nineteen seventy-eight elections in Alabama produced a variety of collector’s items for Southern politics: campaign buttons for people running for other offices, bumper stickers for people who weren’t candidates at all, and hundreds of meaningless slogans (from “Let’s get on down that road” to a more familiar, aborted phrase “More than ever before “). Still, it was not politics as usual in Alabama.

Last year almost everyone expected the political scenario to be as predictable as it has been for the past 15 years. Prohibited by the state constitution from seeking another term as governor, George Wallace was expected to retire from the statehouse and seek the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by retiring Sen. John Sparkman. Alabama’s other U.S. Senator, Jim Allen – the state’s most popular office-holder – was not up for reelection.

As he has for almost two decades, George Wallace began the tremor of events. Facing a campaign against former state chief justice Howell Heflin, Wallace voiced second thoughts about a campaign for the senate. Heflin, the architect of Alabama’s new judicial system and a relative newcomer to Alabama politics, had a broad constituency including lawyers, businessmen, labor and Blacks, and is especially popular in the more urban north Alabama. Finally, Wallace announced: he would not seek the U.S. Senate seat.

Soon another bolting surprise awoke Alabamians. Vacationing on the gulf shore of Alabama, Sen. Jim Allen died of a heart attack. According to Alabama law, the governor was to appoint an immediate successor and an election for the remaining two years of Allen’s term would be held later. Obviously enjoying the speculation that he might appoint himself, Wallace delayed the appointment. Calling a news conference to announce that he had not yet decided on Allen’s replacement, Wallace had changed his mind about going to Washington, many decided. After several weeks Wallace did announce the appointment of Maryon Allen, wife of the dead senator. Mrs. Allen immediately announced that she would run in the Democratic primary.

A state senator with a reputation for consumerism, Donald Stewart decided to remove his name from the growing list of candidates seeking to replace Sparkman and announced his candidacy to challenge Allen. Meanwhile, Congressman Walter Flowers had given up his easy bid for reelection and transferred his campaign to oppose Howell Heflin and seek Sparkman’s seat.

A squadron of other candidates also began printing literature and passing out buttons for their campaigns. More than half the members of the state senate were seeking a higher, statewide office. More than 10 people were running for governor and most of the statewide constitutional offices had at least five or six candidates. Surveying the field, one local political wag noted: “No wonder our crime rate is up.”

Alabama’s most popular female office-holder, State Treasurer Melba Till Allen, was in fact convicted during the summer on federal charges surrounding misuse of state funds. Allen, who was discussed as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate before the trial, said upon conviction that both the Alabama people and God would vindicate her. Allen’s husband later announced that he would seek to succeed her.

As the Democratic primary approached, a former football star, part-time Republican, and millionaire inventor of the sand-filled, plastic dumbbell, Fob James appeared to develop momentum in his race for governor. Helped by a huge advertising budget and calling for “a new beginning,” James led the ticket with Atty. Gen. Bill Baxley a weak second. Apparently, James’ new approach and lack of experience in politics were advantages which Baxley was not able to overcome. With a slick campaign and an earnest face, James became Democratic nominee for governor in late September.

In the senate race, Heflin outdistanced Flowers in a run-off where the congressman emphasized his experience and the judge decried him as a part of “the Washington crowd.” In the other race, Allen and Stewart also faced a run-off in which Stewart was called “a liberal” and Allen portrayed as an “unladylike office-holder.” Stewart prevailed only to face another major challenger, Republican Jim Martin.

At one time registered to oppose the Democratic nominee for Sparkman’s seat, Martin realized Stewart as the “best” opponent and switched races. Supported by considerable Republican money, Martin waged a strong, two-month campaign. Having campaigned against Lurleen Wallace and John Sparkman in prior years, Martin accused Stewart of being liberal and doing nothing to bring down the utility rates of the power company, which he had opposed. Stewart emphasized his opposition to the large utilities and his work in the state Senate to help Alabama consumers.

In congressional elections. State Senator Richard Shelby

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of Tuscaloosa had no problem clef eating his Republican opposition to replace Flowers in Congress. In the primary, Shelby did face State Rep. Chris McNair, one of Alabama’s Black representatives. In a district with 38 percent Black population, McNair failed to gain enough White votes or a large Black turnout.

In other statewide races, all Democrats won with no trouble. Birmingham attorney, George McMillan, had won the Democratic run-off against his colleague, State Senator Bert Bank of Tuscaloosa. While Bank had the endorsement of the largest Black political organization in the state, the Alabama Democratic Conference, McMillan received substantial Black support. Former executive director of the Democratic Party of Alabama, Don Siegelman became secretary of state after defeating in the primary several candidates including the only Black female running for a statewide office, Leola Smith. Charlie Graddick ws elected attorney general.

A peculiar characteristic of Wallace politics – the election of a spouse for public office – failed to carry for other campaigns this year. Sen. Allen’s wife, who advertised herself as “Mrs. Jim Allen,” and the husband of convicted treasurer Melba Till Allen, who was cattily referred to as “Mr. Melba Till Allen,” both failed to replace their spouses unlike Gov. Lurleen Wallace in 1966.

There will be a large number of new faces in the state senate of Alabama this year largely because most incumbents were seeking other statewide offices. Alabama’s two Black state senators, U.W. Clemon and J. Richmond Pearson, were reelected. A Black lawyer from Mobile, Michael Figures, was also elected to the upper house.

Ten Black members of the lower chamber of the Alabama legislature will return; however, two will be new members. Four women and four Republicans will also be in the state legislature.

Local elections throughout Alabama appeared to penalize present officeholders. The plague of incumbency was apparently enough to shake up many local courthouses. In south Alabama, there will be several new Black county officials. For the first time in this century, the Sheriff and Tax Collector in rural Wilcox County, Alabama will be Black as will be the Sheriff of nearby, rural Perry County. Blacks constitute a majority of the population in both places.


Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton breezed through a primary election without a runoff and the general election with only nominal opposition to become the state’s youngest governor ever at age 31. Clinton, who was a Rhodes scholar and former campaign organizer for George McGovern in 1972, had considered entering the Senate race, but decided against joining a crowded field of like-minded candidates. As governor, Clinton is expected to give education a high priority and polish Arkansas’ image and tradition of electing more progressive politicians than the constituency they represent.

Coy. David Pryor, following a close primary race and run-off scored an easy victory in the general election to become Arkansas’ junior senator. Pryor nearly won the seat in a close race against Sen. John McClellan in 1972.

In the House contests, there are two new faces, Doug Brandon in the 2nd District, and Beryl Anthony in the 4th, leaving the House lineup of three Democrats and one Republican unchanged.


The election of Bob Graham as Governor of Florida represents one of the few instances in 1978 Southern politics where the traditional Democratic coalition including Blacks, labor, and liberals had a winning candidate. It also ends a long gubernatorial campaign where two millionaires came face to face in a contest where millions were spent.

Using the gimmick of working at a hundred different jobs during the past several months, Graham had an effective advertising blitz which surprisingly helped defeat his well-known opponent, Jack Eckerd. A Republican millionaire owner of chain drugstores and former head of the General Services Administration, Eckerd easily won the Republican primary using it mostly to campaign to Democrats as well as Republicans. Having sought the Senate post in 1974 and the Governor’s chair in 1970, Eckerd was probably hurt by the GSA scandals which were operating during his tenure in Washington.

Eckerd campaigned on the theme that government is a business and requires a business-like approach. In spending more than $5 million most of it out of his own pocket – Eckerd also apparently was showing voters that you had to sell a product before it could be bought. Graham disrobed his reputation as a liberal but did make direct appeals to minorities.

Graham’s victory was supported by a loose coalition of labor, businesses, Hispanics, Blacks, and urban and liberal voters, who in part helped him defeat Atty. Gen. Bob Shevin who led the ticket in the Democratic primary in September.

Another former office-holder, Edward Gurney, who was tried and acquitted for charges of receiving illegal funds as a U.S. Senator, was defeated by Democratic nominee Bill Nelson. In Miami, Rep. Claude Pepper was also reelected.

The only major female candidate in state elections, Paula Hawkins, ran unsuccessfully for Lt. Coy, as Eckerd’s running mate. In local elections, Florida’s three Black members of the state House of Representatives will return to Tallahassee next year.

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Georgia voters, it appeared, would have an easy time of it at the polls this election. There were only six congressional races and five of them were not highly contested, although the Democratic incumbents, refusing to take their opposition lightly, did campaign actively throughout their districts. Coy. George Busbee faced Republican opposition statewide as did Lt. Gov. Zell Miller, but again without much contest.

But Georgia voters probably experienced more frustration election day than most other voters because they were confronted at the polls with a massive 12-page ballot crammed with 36 statewide constitutional amendments and 88 local amendments. The amendments were condensed, but they still made very tough reading.

Amendment 4 was probably the most controversial item on the general election ballot. It would have doubled legislative terms from two years to four years effective with next year’s General Assembly, but Georgia voters soundly rejected that proposal. Adding insult to injury they in turn supported Amendment 15 which authorizes the General Assembly to pass a law setting up a recall procedure for elected officials.

Georgians lost their opportunity to send a woman to Congress by electing Republican Newt Gingrich over State Sen.Virginia Shapard to fill the sixth district seat being vacated by retiring incumbent Rep. John Flynt. Shapard had the endorsements of first lady Rosalynn Carter, who came to the state in her behalf, and a number of other top state Democratic officeholders, but voters favored her opponent. No newcomer to the district, Gingrich had lost to Flynt on two prior occasions by narrow margins. He will be the first Republican in Georgia’s 10-member House delegation since 1974.

The other Democratic congressional contenders won overwhelming victories. Because of recent legislation, Busbee became the first Georgia governor to succeed himself in office. He and Lt. Gov. Zell Miller scored landslide victories, the worst defeats that Republican candidates for the two top state offices have suffered in more than a decade.

The Democrats also won three new seats in the state House for a total of 159. Republicans hold 21 seats. Black representation remained at 21 in the House and two in the Senate. Fourteen women will be included the next term, an increase of three. All of the Blacks and the women, except one, are from urban areas, principally Atlanta, Macon, Columbus, Savannah and Augusta.


Under Louisiana’s new primary system Sen. J. Bennett Johnston was reelected on September 16. Under the new system Louisiana has a non-partisan primary in which candidates of all parties run against each other. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote as Johnston did, he or she runs in November without opposition. If no one receives more than 50 percent, the top two finishers, regardless of party, face each other in November.

Because of the new primary system, all congressional races except one (4th District, Shreveport) were decided in the open non-partisan primary on September 16th. All of the primary winners were incumbents.

In the 4th District, veteran congressman, Joe D. Waggonner retired after 17 years in the House and nine candidates vied for the vacant seat in the primary. Two former state representatives faced each other in the November runoff and Democrat Buddy Leach defeated Republican Jimmy Wilson by a narrow margin.

Issues were not the main feature of this campaigneveryone in Louisiana is conservative. The effect of the open primary law is still somewhat uncertain, although it clearly seems to favor incumbents, it also seems to have the effect of making the elections in Louisiana uncharacteristically dull, and the voter turn-out unusually low.

In Shreveport, elections were held to elect representatives for a new Mayor-Council form of city government. Following a series of legal actions instigated by BULL (Blacks United for Lasting Leadership), and scandals involving the previous commissioners, the new charter and single member districts were approved by a 3-1 majority last April. This November, as a result of this fall’s election three Blacks will occupy seats on the seven member city council. This marks a dramatic change and new hope for Blacks in traditionally conservative Shreveport.


For the first time since Reconstruction, Mississippi will have a Republican in the U.S. Senate. The election of Thad Cochran, a member of Congress who went to

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Washington in Barry Goldwater’s sweep of the South in 1964, may well mark a new conservative Republican force in Mississippi politics as potentially powerful as the old Democratic regime of U.S. Senator James Eastland.

The shift in Mississippi’s political power was foretold last spring when rumors of Eastland’s retirement spread. When the rumors were confirmed, the June Democratic primary in Mississippi became a crowded contest among some of the state’s most formidable politicians. Fifty-oneyear-old Cliff Finch, in the middle of his term as governor, announced that he would seek Eastland’s seat. Former Governor William Waller, former Lt. Gov. Charles Sullivan, and former District Atty. Maurice Dantin also announced their candidacies.

The campaign for the June 7 Democratic Primary was a contrast between Finch’s folksy, backslapping style and the more subdued campaigns of Dantin and the others. Finch made an open appeal for support among Blacks and rural Whites and even published a listing of all Blacks he had appointed to high positions in the state’s largest newspapers. Dantin had the support of some of Eastland’s political allies as well as the state AFLCIO.

Perhaps hurt by allegations of corruption in his administration and a poor turnout of Black voters, Finch came in second in the primary and lost the run-off to Dantin. At the same time, Thad Cochran won the Republican primary without a run-off.

Three major candidates were in the general election. In addition to the two parties’ nominees, Charles Evers, Black mayor of Fayette, Mississippi ran a populist campaign. Speaking out against multi-national corporations and calling for more local, economic development, Evers’ low budget campaign attempted to pull a large number of Blacks with some Whites for a plurality victory. More than a few Black and White liberals, however, were disturbed by Evers’ opposition to courtordered busing and support for return of prayer in the schools.

While Evers made a strong showing and trailed Dantin by only about 50,000 votes, the effect of his candidacy was primarily to spoil the election for Democrats. Disengaged from the fragile coalition established in the late 60s between Black and White Democrats, Cochran was able to muster enough votes to lead the ticket.

Cochran is a representative standard bearer of Republi-

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canism in Mississippi. He favors lower taxes, strong defense, less money for welfare. While he has attempted to make some accommodations with Blacks in his congressional district, his voting record in Congress exhibits little sympathy for the problems of poor and Blacks in the state.

In congressional races, all of Mississippi’s incumbents were reelected. In Cochran’s old 4th district, which includes Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi, John C. Hinson, a Republican and former aide to Cochran was elected. Perhaps symbolically, Hinson defeated the son of Mississippi’s Democratic senator John Hampton Stennis, who had become a significant political figure in his own right in the state.

With the election of Cochran and his former aide, Mississippians clearly mark their readiness to desert Democratic ranks and they may soon have another chance. Republican Gil Carmichael is expected to be a strong contender in two years for the governor’s chair. Carmichael picked up 45 percent of the vote in his race against Cliff Finch last time. Also, Mississippians did not give Jimmy Carter a clear majority in the 1976 Presidential election (although he carried the state with 49 percent of the vote) and may not do so in 1980.

Mississippi’s three Black Democratic state representatives were not up for reelection this year. In two years, the expected reapportionment of the Mississippi Legislature may well add to their numbers; however, the general mood of Mississippians to vote conservative Republican may also add additional problems for all Democrats.

North Carolina

Armed with more than $7 million for campaign expenses and a strong reputation as a hard-line conservative leader, Republican Senator Jesse Helms swamped populist-styled Democratic nominee John Ingram who had defied pollsters and money to gain the Democratic nomination.

A former broadcaster, Helms will return to Washington for a second term as a conservative Republican with a national following from a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one. Supplied with funds from throughout the nation by the dircct mail appeals of conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie, Helms picked tip votes throughout the state and received a larger vote than his 54 percent in 1972.

Ingram is one of the North Carolina insurance commissioners who surprised everyone by defeating Luther Hodges, Jr. in the May 30 Democratic Primary runoff. Earlier, Hodges had led the Democratic ticket with almost 40 percent of the vote carrying 87 of the state’s 100 counties. Ingram had only 26 percent of the vote and his campaign appeal “I’m fighting for you” appeared to have an isolated following. In the run-off campaign, however,

Ingrain attacked I lodges as “the rich man’s candidate” and referred more often to Hodge’s background as a banker. Despite a large professional staff and many television campaign ads, Hodges trailed distantly behind Ingram in the run-off.

Ingram attempted to use the same approach against Helms in the general election. Calling the Republican “the five million dollar man,” Ingram asked audiences throughout the state how Helms could be a fiscal conservative when spending $7 million just to reelect himself. Ingram’s campaign suffered constantly because of lack of funds.

In mid-October when polls showed that Helms had a sizable lead over Ingram, the Democratic nominee simply reminded voters of earlier polls that showed Hodges as the leading contender. This time, however, the pollsters were right.

While there were no statewide offices up for reelection, members of North Carolina’s general assembly, who are elected every two years, were on the ballot. The state’s two Black Senators from Charlotte and Raleigh were reelected as were the four Black Representatives to the lower chamber.

South Carolina

“Old South” Republican Strom Thurman handily defeated challenger Pug Ravenel in a highly visible South Carolina election. Ravenel hammered away at Thurman’s past stands against civil rights’ issues, but Thurman, who has moderated his position considerably in the last six years, campaigned vigorously for the Black vote. Thurman’s new responsiveness to providing services for Black constituents apparently defused some of Ravenel’s campaign issues but did not result in a significant Black vote for the Republican candidate. In spite of Ravenel’s defeat, it is seen by some as a victory for racial moderation because of Thurman’s visible retrenchment on civil rights’ issues and providing constituent services to Blacks.

In other South Carolina races Dick Hey won the governorship for the Democrats and his running mate Nancy Stevenson won the lieutenant governor’s race, and will become the first woman to preside over the all-male South Carolina Senate. Two congressional races in the Palmetto state also sparked widespread interest in the 4th District (Greenville-Spartanburg) and in the 2nd District which includes Columbia and Orangeburg. Former Congressman James Mann retired from the 4th District seat, leaving the race open to former Greenville Mayor Max Heller, a Democrat, and Republican State Senator Carroll Campbell. Campbell prevailed over the more liberal Heller in a close race dominated by economic issues. In the 2nd District, Congressman Floyd Spence was thought to be vulnerable to a challenge by author-journalist Jack Bass, a Democrat. Spence easily won reelection to a fifth term,

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however, giving South Carolina two Republicans in the House. Both these victories were helped considerably by a large Republican vote as a result of the Thurman campaign. The Thurman coattails were also seen as responsible for Republican Henry Young’s victory as incumbent commissioner of Agriculture.

In the legislature, Blacks retained their seats, but two Democratic women lost their seats. Republicans on the Thurman coattails prevailed in most of the closely contested races to score a net gain in the lower South Carolina House coming especially from the suburban districts.


In Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, a Republican lawyer from Nashville won a clear victory over wealthy Knoxville banker Jake Butcher. Both men had run for the governorship before and went all out to win. Although the race was closely contested, there did not seem to be a great deal of difference on the issues. Butcher, who is a friend of Bert Lance, and not unlike him in style, received .strong support from President Carter, who visited the state on Butcher’s behalf. However, Alexander’s smooth and polished campaign kept Butcher on the defensive about his wealth and flamboyant banking practices. Butcher was able to capture endorsements from normally Republican newspapers in Knoxville and Nashville but that did not provide the support he needed for victory.

The race was characterized by free spending on both sides, but especially by the Butcher campaign which had over 300 staffers on the payroll. Spending was unusually high m the primary election as well.

Alexander was no doubt helped by incumbent Senator howard Baker who led the Republican ticket by defeating Democrat Jane Eskind of Nashville. Senator Baker, apparently looking toward a possible presidential bid in 1980, waged an all-out effort and rolled up a big margin to provide an impressive homestate base.

In other races, Democrat Harold Ford from Memphis became the only incumbent Black representative from the South and Tennessee Democrats kept their 5-3 advantage in the House.


The elections in Texas this year featured Texas style spending and very closely contested races for the governorship and Senate as well as a number of interesting House contests. Veteran Republican Sen. John Tower squeaked by former Congressman Bob Krueger. This contest in which the candidates spent nearly six million dollars was marked with bitter charges and counter charges and a handshake incident that may have cost Senator Tower some votes but not the election.

In the governor’s race, Republican Bill Clements, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense took a very close race from State Attorney General John Hill. Spending in this race also set new records with Clements spending $6.5 million of mostly borrowed money, and Hill about $2.5 million in a strict pay-as-you-go campaign.

Hill drew support from Spanish speaking Texans because of Clements’ percieved insensitivity to Hispanic issues. At one point in the campaign Clements was asked what kinds of programs for Hispanics he would implement as Governor; to which he replied “I’m not running for Governor of Mexico.”

Voting patterns seemed to indicate that Democratic margins in rural areas and minority communities were not enough to offset Republican advantages in Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth. The margin in both races was less than three votes per precinct and the outcome was not decided until the day following the election.

Retiring Representative Barbara Jordan was replaced by Democrat Mickey Leland who along with Harold Ford of Tennessee will provide all of the Southern Black representation in this term of Congress. Texans also approved overwhelmingly a tax relief amendment linking state spending to the growth of the state’s economy.


Former Navy secretary and husband of Elizabeth Taylor, John W. Warner was elected to the U.S. Senate in Virginia. Using much of his own personal fortune and a growing Republican organization in the state, Warner managed to overcome a strong challenge from Democrat Andrew Miller, a former Virginia attorney general, who had relied largely upon the traditional coalition of old time Democrats, Virginia educators, labor, and Blacks.

Unlike most other Southern states, Virginia nominates its party candidates through a convention system which for the Republicans met on June 3rd. The state’s former Republican chairman, Richard Obenshain, defeated Warner and two others to receive the Republican nomination; however, when Obenshain died in a plane accident, Warner became the Republican nominee and inherited the strong Republican organization.

Warner has emphasized his experience in Washington and talked of his tough negotiations with the Russians. He also has often been accompanied by his wife and movie star, Elizabeth Taylor.

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For most of the campaign Warner and Miller attempted to show the other as less conservative. Warner attempted again and again to tie Miller to populist and pro-labor leader Henry Howell, former Democratic lieutenant governor and called frequently for a strong national defense and large tax cuts.

Miller tried to keep his distance from Howell, talk like a conservative, accuse Warner of being less conservative, and still keep labor and Blacks in his camp. His efforts apparently failed.

For a time it seemed that both candidates were trying to see how much they could alienate Black voters. In September, Warner stated in a television interview that as Navy secretary he had worked to slow integration. He constantly refused to appear before the state’s largest Black voting organization or other Black organizations such as the NAACP. While Miller attended such meetings, he kept his distance at tunes and made few promises specifically to Black constituents.

The election marks another victory for a growing Republican party in the South. With Republican Governor John Dalton, the election of Warner puts an end to Democratic hopes to regain the strong rule that the late Sen. Harry F. Byrd maintained. While an unexciting campaigner, Miller was one of the Democrat’s most popular vote-getters and his defeat leaves Virginia’s Democratic party in some disarray.

Both candidates spent well over a million dollars seeking the nomination and election. Most state elections will be held in two years.