Fearless Predictions for November 2

Political elections, like horse races, are interesting only if you know which races – and contenders – to watch and which to ignore. Here is a highly select spectator’s guide to the November 2 elections, including some of our fearless predictions:

U.S. SENATE: Incumbent Lloyd Bentsen vs. former Dallas congressman Alan Steelman. This race was expected to produce some fireworks; instead it has been a dud. Steelman needed twice the money he was able to raise ($800,000) to make an interesting race against the well-known and establishment-backed Bentsen. He also needed an issue, which he hasn’t been able to come up with. And most importantly, he needed a McGovern-like Democratic presidential nominee to drive all those conservative-to-moderate Texas Democrats over to the GOP column. Steelman will have to be satisfied with carrying only staunchly Republican Dallas County, while Bentsen – and Carter – carry the state.

5th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Jim Mattox vs. Republican Nancy Judy. Another race conspicuously devoid of substantive issues. Mattox should win rather handily, if only on the momentum of his stunning 63 percent primary victory over former Dallas mayor Wes Wise. That high profile primary has afforded Mattox, the former East Dallas state representative, a clear 5-to-l name recognition advantage over Judy, the former Dallas schools trustee. Judy has made a valiant effort to pump up her name identification, primarily through attacks on Mattox’s compliance with financial disclosure. If she can keep producing headlines, blitz the media in the final weeks, and squeeze every ounce of help out of Ford’s coattails countywide, she could make it interesting. But the smart money has to stay with Mattox.

16th STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 16: Incumbent Bill Braecklein (Democrat) vs. Tom Pauken (Republican). This has been the sleeper of this election year. Insiders now give Pauken at least a 50-50 chance of upsetting Braecklein, despite Pauken’s considerably leaner campaign coffers and considerably lower name identification district-wide. The Pauken campaign has been picture book: the young criminal attorney has been at it for about a year and a half, pounding the streets, knocking on doors, building a precinct machine in the only marginally Democratic district. In the best Steelman tradition, Pauken has combatted Braecklein’s name recognition advantage by firing off press releases to the papers on a daily basis. Braecklein has been strangely silent, presumably adopting the posture that frontrunners should be neither seen nor heard. But many feel he may have carried the strategy too far and be in for a big surprise. Of course, Braecklein, a wealthy attorney, has been known to dump immense sums of money into media at the last minute. (He did that in the 1972 primary campaign for state senate, and eked out a victory over two challengers.) If he does that in this campaign – and there’s little reason to suspect he won’t – it might well be enough to salvage his senate seat. Our prediction: Pauken in an upset.

COUNTY SHERIFF: Incumbent Clarence Jones (Democrat) vs. Carl Thomas (Republican). Another possible though unlikely upset. If ever the Republicans had a chance to make significant inroads at the courthouse it was in this race this year. Incumbent Jones, beleaguered and battle-scarred by scandals, calls for his resignation and rumored insurrection within his own ranks, is as vulnerable as an incumbent can be. But the Republicans may have blown the opportunity. Thomas, an articulate former sheriffs deputy and Marine, is a perfectly adequate candidate. The problem is, his campaign is woefully underfinanced and under-organized. And the Dallas county GOP hasn’t come to his help in either area. Without funds for substantial advertising in the final weeks, Thomas will have trouble legitimizing his candidacy, and Jones could win re-election by default. On the other hand, as one Republican suggested, “Thomas can win simply on an anti-Jones vote, the way John Whittington won on an anti-Sterrett vote.” Possible, but not likely. Our prediction: Jones by a hair.


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