The Insider

Custer at the River
Texas Democratic Chairman Bill White is nothing if not optimistic.
Shortly before voters returned most GOP incumbents to office and gave a resounding victory to Bob Dole in the state and Harris County, the former Energy Department undersecretary issued a statement declaring that Election Day would "send a clear signal about the renewal of the Democratic Party of Texas."

The clear signal didn't reach Harris County, where GOP candidates continued to close in on a monopoly of countywide elected posts. Only Tax Assessor-Collector Carl Smith, a half-century institution in county government, and two Democratic judges avoided defeat in what had been billed as a Democrat-friendly election year. A week after the vote, White had a more somber assessment of the results, blaming the drubbing on paltry support from the Democratic National Committee and the lack of well-funded Democratic incumbents other than Clinton-Gore at the top of the party's ticket.

White is not without his own critics in local Democratic circles. One blames the chairman for allowing the presidential campaign to soak up millions from Texas while returning little for local candidates. "I figure he was here just to help pump money to Clinton, and he'll be going back to Washington. After all, there is an opening for secretary of energy, isn't there?" White insists he's here for the long, tough job of rebuilding the Democrats from the ground up.

Holes in the Bigot Defense
Kingwood residents who've tried to spike Houston's impending annexation of the north Harris County community by claiming it would hurt minority political aspirations suffered something of a setback on Election Day. Two GOP judges appointed by Governor George Bush -- Hispanic David Medina and African-American Dwight Jefferson -- took 70 to 80 percent of the totals in selected Kingwood precincts. Their vote hauls in Kingwood were comparable to or better than other winning Republicans. Of course, the only catch for blacks or Hispanics is that they have to be Republicans to have any chance of victory in Kingwood, and nonpartisan municipal elections would be a whole 'nother game.

Get Me Rewrite!
The Chronicle's support of a new downtown stadium was never in doubt, but the lengths to which the paper went to boost Proposition One continue to amuse and amaze. A stadium supporter who penned a letter to the editor (and asked that we not use her name) was flabbergasted to discover that her missive had been rewritten to amplify the ring of her endorsement of the stadium. In the unedited original, the woman wrote, "Granted, I still don't understand how this has come to a vote before we have a more specific building and financing plan to review. But this is the time we are being called on to decide a large chunk of Houston's future. And it is possible downtown progress will be seriously set back with a no vote." When the letter appeared in the paper's Viewpoints section on November 2, it read like this: "And it's possible that forward progress for the entire city will be seriously set back by a no vote."

"Apparently it wasn't gung ho or Chicken Little-ish enough for them," says the letter writer.

Editorial page chief Frank Michel told The Insider that the Chronicle employee who typed the letter into the paper's computer system had no explanation for the revision. To the suggestion that the employee had just gotten carried away by the wave of pro-stadium sentiment washing through the Chronicle, Michel muttered, "Well, it's possible, I don't know."

Actually, we should be grateful for small signs of restraint from Houston's biggest newspaper. After Prop One inched to victory, editor Jack Loftis was overheard bragging that although the paper considered publishing one more pro-stadium editorial on Election Day, it was decided that a final salvo might be construed as a bit, well, over the top. We'd like to think he snickered when he said it.

The Insider can be reached 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax), or e-mail him at

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