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Several local Republicans are counting their votes before they’re cast.

The next Congressional elections are still 18 months away, but most Republicans – and some Democrats as well -are not putting their money on Jim Mattox in the 5th (District).

For two straight elections, Mattox narrowly defeated Republican stalwart Tom Pauken, who has since joined President Reagan’s staff. The only reason Mattox won in 1978 and 1980 was the overwhelming majorities he enjoyed in South Dallas precincts, which gave him more than 90 per cent of the vote both years.

A simple solution to the problem, Republicans think, would be to slice off the troublesome South Dallas precincts and give them to someone else. Better yet, use them to create a minority seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Dallas County. But get them out of the 5th District, which Republicans feel is rightfully theirs.

There are 11 Dallas County Republicans in Austin who can do just that, and at least two of them would like to take Mattox’s place in Washington.

Freshman Sen. Dee Travis, a former Jim Collins staff member, admits he is considering a race in the 5th District. Sen. John Leedom also is said to be drooling over a U.S. House seat; he currently lives in Collins’ district, but that could be fixed by the Texas Legislature.

Mattox, however, isn’t ready to concede to the Republicans.

“Don’t write Jim Mattox a plane ticket for home just yet,” warns Republican State Rep. Anita Hill, whose district lies within Mattox’s. “You suddenly can’t turn the corner in Garland without being aware that you live in Jim Mattox’s district.”

The congressman’s aides have parked Mattox vans on strategic corners throughout the district. He has increased his mailings and is spending more time in Dallas.

Mattox also spent a whole week in Austin recently to court the legislators who could redistrict him into political limbo. It’s a game many of the Dallas area congressmen have played this spring, and the state representatives seem delighted that they are being wooed by federal officials for once.

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