Tuesday, May 28, 2024 May 28, 2024
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The Legislative Lineup

There are good guys, bad guys, and some who just don’t matter.

NOWHERE IN TEXAS are labels more important than in the state Capitol. Legislators in Austin for their first term quickly find out that their effectiveness as a representative or senator depends a great deal on their relationship with the powers that be. This session, more than ever, the powers in the legislative game are Clayton, the Team, and the Lobby. Like any other game, you can’t tell the players without a program.


Ted Lyon, moderate Democrat from Mes-quite. In his third term in the House, Lyon has found himself on the short end of most votes. He refuses to play by the Team’s rules, but he does not inspire the animosity that plagues John Bryant’s fights with the House leadership. With Bryant keeping a lower profile this session, Lyon has emerged as a leader in the opposition forces. For two sessions, he has sponsored House bills that would approve the marketing of generic drugs as well as brand names. In the process, he has alienated the powerful pharmaceutical and medical lobbies. A former Mesquite police officer, Lyon, 33, also favors strong law and order legislation that makes it difficult for his opponents to hang a “liberal” tag on him.

Lee Jackson, conservative Republican from northeast Dallas. Jackson is that rare Team player who is respected by everyone: the Speaker, the opposition, Democrats, and lobby groups. In his third session in the House, Jackson is one of Clayton’s inner circle. He is chairman of the Employment Practices Committee and as such is privileged to attend the Sunday evening Team meetings in Clayton’s Capitol apartment. Jackson kelpt his credentials in order last year by supporting Clayton, then Lewis, and then Clayton again in the Speaker’s race. He already is pledged to Lewis for Speaker of the 68th session. But Jackson has no strong Lobby ties, and he has never accepted a gift or trip by the corporate Lobby groups. “He’s a real Main Street Republican, not a Lobby Republican,” one colleague says. Jackson, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Alan Steelman, is said to have his eye on the state Senate seat now held by John Leedom. Republican party activists would like to redraw the senatorial district lines so that Jackson and Ted Lyon, who also has Senate ambitions, would have to face each other. In the predominantly Republican district that would result, Jackson almost certainly would eliminate Lyon, the Republicans hope.

Team Players

Gib Lewis, conservative Democrat from Fort Worth. Clayton’s right-hand man and heir apparent, Lewis is all grins and handshakes on the House floor. But Lewis doesn’t have the political savvy or smarts that have driven Clayton so far. He carries a lot of legislation for the Lobby, but he often seems unprepared to discuss his bills in committee or on the floor. “He carries all these bills, but he doesn’t always seem to know what he’s carrying,” says one House colleague. He apparently has the 1983 Speaker’s race wrapped up because he acted as Clayton’s surrogate in the heated fight last year with John Bryant. Only 76 votes are needed for election, and Lewis says he’s already received 91 pledges. But if Lewis, the biggest practical joke in the House, does become Speaker in 1983, there is doubt even among his supporters that he’ll be able to control an increasingly unwieldy and Republican House of Representatives.

Bob Davis, conservative Republican from Irving. Davis was bought and sold by big business years ago, a fact even he doesn’t bother to deny. “I’m philosophically in tune with the big businesses,” Davis says. He is one of the quickest thinkers in the House and always well-prepared on the floor. Many Davis admirers think the five-term veteran has prostituted himself by allying so closely with the Team and the Speaker. “He could be a real leader if he put his mind to it,” a colleague says. Clayton has rewarded Davis’ loyalty by making him chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, a key position in the Team’s inner circle. Business lobbyists also have rewarded Davis with hunting trips in Mexico and junkets to Nevada.

Chris Semos, conservative Democrat from Oak Cliff. “I don’t know why he bothers to come down here every session unless he just wants to give his restaurant publicity,” scoffs one House observer about Semos, the senior member of the House Dallas delegation. After seven terms in the House, Semos is less effective than many freshmen. Semos spends less time in Austin than any Dallas representative, flying home several times a week to oversee the operation of The Torch, his Greek restaurant in Oak Cliff. The bills Semos sponsors are as noncontroversial as possible, and he timidly presides over Tuesday morning delegation meetings. “Chris treats the delegation like a spinster schoolteacher,” a Dallas House member says.

Bill Ceverha, conservative Republican from North Dallas. “He is the lowest form of humanity,” rails one consumer-oriented lobbyist. “If he ever considers how legislation will affect people outside his lily-white district, he sure doesn’t vote like it.” Ceverha is the Speaker’s man on almost every vote. His door is always open to lobbyists representing the car dealers, bankers, lawyers, etc. He’s also led the fight to repeal the Sunday closing “blue laws,” an effort that has split the retail lobby. There’s speculation that as Republicans gain strength in the House, Ceverha will stray from the Team leadership to develop a power base of his own among Republicans.

Other Team players from the Dallas area include Bill Blanton, a conservative Republican from Carrollton who’s the Team’s man on school affairs; Ray Keller, a conservative Democrat from Duncanville and the powerful Orr family’s man in Austin; Bob McFarland, conservative Republican from Arlington (“He’ll carry any Lobby-backed bill, but he’s especially tight with the utilities.”); and Bob Ware, a conservative Republican from Fort Worth (“They call him ’Wash and Ware,’ the Lobby uses him so much.”).

Free Agents

Oscar Mauzy, liberal Democrat from Oak Cliff. Mauzy is like an aging ex-boxing champion cornered by his younger, more agile opponent. This session, Mauzy finds himself as the only Democrat from Dallas County. He is isolated by his three ideological Republican colleagues from North Dallas. He doesn’t care. “I think partisan politics belong in the Senate chamber,” he says. Mauzy has greeted the challenge by working harder than he has in several sessions. He has tripled the number of bills he’s carrying.

David Cain, moderate Democrat from Dallas. Cain has bad redistricting worries. His polyglot district stretches from Oak Lawn to South Dallas and has lost population. Blacks have targeted the district as possibly becoming a minority district by the 68th session, or it could be eliminated altogether. Even though Cain -whose large, lumbering figure is easily spotted on the House floor -is well-liked by everyone, his independent voting record has made him no close allies on the Team. Cain hasn’t played an active role during his first two terms. But he has sprung back from self-described “sophomore blues.”

Lanell Cofer, liberal Democrat from Dallas. Week after week, Ms. Cofer proves herself to be the most ineffective member of the delegation. She is antagonistic to the white leadership of the House and the Dallas delegation. Ms. Cofer wastes her time on quixotic crusades that make her look silly. She recently engaged Gov. Clements in a highly publicized spitting match over whether Texas would aid in the Atlanta murders investigation. When Clements refused to send money or the Texas Rangers to Atlanta, Ms. Cofer organized a fund-raising campaign among Travis County jail inmates. The effort was co-organized by a convicted murderer. Ms. Cofer’s admirers say, however, that she’s the best dresser in the House.

Anita Hill, conservative Republican from Garland. “I was the shrinking violet of the House last time,” admits Mrs. Hill. She’s shrinking no more, thanks to a highly publicized boycott she’s led against the all-male Citadel Club in the venerable Driskill Hotel. Mrs. Hill began the boycott after being denied entrance to the club dining room, where she was to meet Garland Chamber of Commerce officials. Since then, Mrs. Hill has found herself, uncomfortably, taken to the bosom of Austin feminists. “She’s had her consciousness raised, and it’s improved her performance,” one legislative aide says.

Sam Hudson, liberal Democrat from Dallas. He rivals Ms. Cofer for the title of most ineffective representative from Dallas County. Hudson introduces more bills each session than any 10 legislators combined. It’s a standard Capitol joke by now that “every time Sam loses a lawsuit in Dallas, he introduces a bill to change the law so he would have won.” Committee chairmen this session seem to be having a particularly good time embarrassing Hudson during hearings on his proposed legislation. One of his bills would require that all members of the Indian Commission be Indians and include one “urban Indian.” “What would he be for?” joked one colleague. “To fight the urban cowboys?”

Other free agents include Paul Rags-dale, a liberal Democrat from Dallas who is courting the Team the way Craig Washington, his black colleague from Houston, has done so successfully; and Frank Gaston, moderate Republican from Dallas.

On the Bench

John Bryant, liberal Democrat from Pleasant Grove. “Johnny is burned out and bitter,” one lobbyist says. “He’s been strangely quiet this session, but I don’t think he’ll stay that way.” Bryant has been the highly vocal liberal conscience of the House almost since the day he arrived in Austin in mid-1974. He played his hand last year and lost. His loose coalition of liberals and minorities has disintegrated, and Bryant has found himself isolated this session. Bryant’s effectiveness has suffered. He’s been absent more than ever before because of problems with his Dallas law practice, but he hasn’t missed much. Friends and foes alike predict Bryant will be making waves once again before the end of the session in late May. But whether he will again be a productive legislator or be treated like a blowhard troublemaker depends on Bryant. His aggressive style offends even his admirers.

Robert Maloney, conservative Republican from the Park Cities. Maloney is thought to be one of the most underachieving legislators. He’s one of the brightest men in the House, he represents one of the wealthiest districts in the state, and he’s got a measure of seniority. But Maloney is inactive on the floor and in committee. He’s absent a good deal of the time and lets colleague Bill Ceverha vote for him. Most legislative observers believe Maloney would be an effective member of the Team, like Lee Jackson, if he hadn’t had a falling out with Clayton in 1977 over a rules fight.

Fred Agnich, conservative Republican from North Dallas. “If Fred Agnich cared as much about serving in the House of Representatives as he does about being a businessman, he’d be a hell of a legislator,” a House aide says. But Agnich, who wheels around Austin in an elegantly appointed Stutz Bearcat, is more intent on having a good time when he graces the Capitol with his presence, which is infrequently. When Agnich does vote, however, he tends to side with the Team. “He just doesn’t care anymore,” a Dallas representative says.

Betty Andujar, conservative Republican from Fort Worth. Mrs. Andujar (who is called Betty Slopjar by some Senate colleagues) is the oldest member of the Senate at 68, and many senators wonder if she hasn’t already passed into senility. During a recent debate on state funding for shelters for battered wives, Mrs. Andujar asked, “Why can’t they just go home to their mothers?” She also has interrupted debate with startling observations such as, “You have a very interesting accent. Where are you from?” Moans one veteran lobbyist, “If there has to be one woman senator, why does it have to be her?”

Other Dallas legislators on the bench include Carlyle Smith, a conservative Democrat from Grand Prairie (“A hell of a nice guy who hasn’t found his voice.”); and Ike Harris, a conservative Republican senator from North Dallas (“He’s done less in eight sessions than most senators do in a week.”).


Steve Wolens, conservative Democrat from Oak Cliff. Wolens is the only freshman in the Dallas delegation, and he is that rare legislator who actually introduces legislation that will benefit his district. Wolens has two billsand one constitutional amendment pending that he hopes will stimulate economicdevelopment in his racially mixeddistrict. Wolens is leaning toward Teammembership and has been taken underthe wing of Chris Semos.