HILL RAISING

If politics really were a horse race, it would be hard to tell where the smart money was being bet in Dallas in the already-hot Democratic gubernatorial primary between front-runners Dolph Briscoe and Attorney General John Hill. No-body expected the campaign contribution money race to be neck and neck at this point.

Backers of Hill initally feared that Briscoe and his Dallas fund-raising chairman, Jess Hay, would virtually stripmine potential campaign money in the area. After all, Briscoe is a six-year incumbent and Jess Hay is on a first-name, back-slapping basis with most of the city’s big Democratic givers. But Hill insiders now say that the county Democratic machine has changed radically since Bris-coe’s 1974 re-election: Under the direction of new county chairman Ron Kessler, the party is no longer run by a handful of downtown heavies. Kessler has brought a lot of new, young money into the party, money that isn’t necessarily attracted to Briscoe merely because he’s the incumbent.

The Hill organization in Dallas has already raised some $60,000 for the challenger – some 15 percent of Hill’s present statewide total of $472,000. It’s conceivable that the Hill people here will more than double that figure by next spring, meaning Dallas could account for 20 percent of Hill’s $800,000 statewide goal. Those figures could come surprisingly close to matching the Briscoe figures: Jess Hay says he expects Dallas to account for 20 to 25 percent of Briscoe’s statewide goal of $1 million.

Most interesting is the fact that Hill’s challenge is producing a good deal of “hedged” monBriscoe: Old Money ey in the race – insiders indicate that more than one big downtown giver has quietly agreed to contribute to Hill as well as to Briscoe. Said one Hill campaign aide, “Look, they’re going to give to Jess Hay just because he’s Jess Hay. But that doesn’t mean they’re all that satisfied with Briscoe.”

It’s too early to tell how those dollars might translate into votes next May. but the money race has shaped up as a dead heat.

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