Poll Positions

The right’s phony gay-bashing campaign. Plus: Poor Phil Gramm.

WHO IS SAYING THOSE NASTY things about Speaker Pete Laney and several of his key lieutenants, all of whom represent conservative-leaning districts? They certainly would like to know. Here’s their version of the story. In each of their districts, including Laney’s, north of Lubbock, a telephone poll was conducted that started out innocently enough. The caller asked respondents how they felt about Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and issues like term limits. Then: Do you know who your state representative is? (If not, the caller informed them.) Then: Do you know that Representative So-and-So favors gay rights and is against parental rights? In Laney’s district, the questions included, Do you know that your state representative has served 22 years? Don’t you think it’s time for a change?

All of the Democrats learned about the poll (which might be good political ammunition but is definitely not good polling technique) secondhand from friendly constituents who had been called. The legislators started swapping stories and found out that the same thing had been happening in swing districts around the state: San Angelo, Athens, Huntsville, Galveston. But who was behind it—a fringe group or the state Republican party, which has vowed to make an all-out effort to capture a majority in the House this year?

Tom Pauken, the GOP state chairman,

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