Power

The old establishment is buried or busted. Here’s who is deciding the fate of Texas now—plus, the runners-up, the comers, the wannabees, and the right man to call in Amarillo.

callee was Zach Lentz, a businessman (granary owner and farm machinery dealer), who handled all the politics for the leading O’Connor and Welder families. Today Lentz is still worth a phone call, but Hewitt, who, as a member of the clan, runs the O’Connor operations, is a better place to start.

Waco: Another power vacuum. Lyndon Olson, Jr., who recently left the State Board of Insurance to return to town, could emerge as new leader, but it’s far too early to tell.

Wichita Falls: Ray Clymer, beer distributor. Veteran political mover and shaker; Coordinating Board committee chairman for college construction.

THE EMERITUS TEAM

Once they were among the most powerful people in Texas. Today they are less active, but they can still affect events when they choose to.

Perry Bass, oilman, Fort Worth. Nephew of the late Sid Richardson, father of the Bass brothers. Mainly interested in wildlife issues. Biggest behind-the-scenes player in getting Legislature to ban commercial fishing of trout and redfish.

Trammell Crow, developer, Dallas. On the surface still an active Republican fundraiser—chairman of Roy Barrera’s finance committee in 1986 attorney general’s race and Ed Emmett’s finance committee in 1988 Railroad Commission race. Mainly lends his name to give candidates credibility; seldom makes the calls anymore.

Robert Mosbacher, oilman, Houston. Big-bucks national GOP fundraiser; still very active for George Bush but otherwise passing torch to son, Rob.

Peter O’Donnell, investor, Dallas. Republican party chairman in the pre-Clements era showed last spring that he still had muscle when he helped persuade Clements to abandon his opposition to new taxes.

Bob Strauss, attorney, Dallas and Washington. Mostly a D.C. figure these days. Former Dem national chairman whose advice is sought by the president and presidential aspirants. Network in Dallas remains in place, as evidenced by triumph of sister-in-law Annette Strauss in hotly contested mayor’s race last spring.

Arthur Temple, lumberman, Lufkin. Still the best person to call to get something done in East Texas.

COUPLES

Texas has a long tradition of political couples—former governors Ma and Pa Ferguson, Cabinet secretary Oveta Culp Hobby and ex-governor William Hobby, and Lyndon and Lady Bird, to name a few. Today Rita and Bill Clements are keeping the tradition very much alive. Other power couples:

Linda Aaker and Bob Armstrong, Austin. She: Capitol lobbyist. He: former land commissioner, now on Parks and Wildlife commission.

Anne and Tobin Armstrong, Armstrong. She: former ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. He: director of appointments in first Clements administration.

Fran and Eddie Chiles, Fort Worth. She: Republican national committeewoman and big player in GOP right. He: generated “I’m Eddie Chiles and I’m Mad” radio campaign for GOP in early eighties; stature now approximates that of Texas Rangers baseball club, which he owns.

Susan and Richard Collins, Dallas. She: former member of Dallas park board, active in city politics. He: point man for Bob Dole fundraising in Texas and major fundraiser for GOP economic and foreign-policy right.

Helen and Ray Farabee, Wichita Falls. She: veteran activist in statewide mental-health reform movement. He: state senator.

Kay Bailey and Ray Hutchison, Dallas. She: Dallas GOP leader and former legislator. He: former GOP state chairman and former legislator.

Cyndi and Joe Krier, San Antonio. She: state senator. He: president of chamber of commerce.

Jane and Larry Macon, San Antonio. She: former city attorney with good connections in city hall. He: has behind-the-scenes ties to Congressman Albert Bustamente and State Senator Frank Tejeda.

Mary Beth and John Rogers, Austin. She: deputy to state treasurer Ann Richards. He: political consultant for AFL-CIO. What happens if labor endorses Jim Mattox over Richards in 1990 governor’s race?

Judith and Carlos Zaffirini, Laredo. She: state senator and Democratic party bigwig. He: attorney and skilled political operative with contacts in wife’s senatorial district.

OUT OF THE ROLODEX

They used to have power, they don’t anymore, and the loss of it was not entirely voluntary.

Robert Baldwin, Austin, degovernored. Developer was big backer of Mark White. Dream of becoming UT regents chairman ended when White lost.

John Connally, Houston, Chapter 11. More X’s than a tic-tac-toe game: ex-Cabinet secretary, ex-governor, ex-Vinson and Elkins law partner, ex-First City bank director, ex-developer, ex-rich man.

James Elkins, Jr., Houston, sold out. Chairman of First City Bancorporation won’t get rich off sale of near-insolvent bank.

Herbert and Bunker Hunt, Dallas, Chapter 11. It wasn’t easy to lose the Hunt billions, but they managed.

Ben Love, Houston, demoted. Former Mr. Big at Texas Commerce Bancshares, but now number two after sale to New York’s Chemical Bank.

Clinton Manges, Freer, beleaguered. Handed out more than $1 million in political contributions during court battle with Mobil Oil; when contributions dropped off in wake of lawsuits and oil bust, so did his influence.

Bob Perry, Houston, dormant. One of city’s most prominent developers and Republican contributors during the boom years is no longer a big factor in politics.

Robert Stewart, Dallas, re-retired. Most powerful banker in state during InterFirst’s boom years; failed in comeback attempt to rescue bank.

Phil Warner, Houston, resigned. Self-appointed power broker gave up editorship of Houston Chronicle when Houston Endowment Foundation sold the paper. Departure was not mourned.

WANNABEES

Ambition is the carbon of the power world—the basic element of life. It is found in abundance, but it achieves its best use only in the right combination with other elements. Wannabees range from political groupies to people with real power, but the one thing they share is an ambition for power that is a little too obvious.

Tieman “Skipper” Dippel, Brenham. Cross a political think tank with the Junior League and you get the Texas Lyceum, an association of business and political types of which Dippel was the first president. Wants to be businessmen’s statewide political guru.

Rex Fuller, oilman, Lubbock. Wants to be sole conduit between Lubbock and governor’s office. Sometimes is. Sometimes isn’t.

Bob Parker, banker, Houston. Made a career out of seeking influence; finally found niche by computerizing Houston Denis’ political contributions, bringing good-ol’-boy fundraising into the modern age. Could move to Comers list.

Pike Powers, attorney, Austin. Former executive assistant to Mark White who spearheaded 1983 drive that brought Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation to Austin. Tried to parlay success

Tags: POLITICS

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...

Most Read

  • Viewed
  • Past:
  • 1 week