The first gubernatorial election I remember, and remember taking sides on, was in 1990. I remember a spunky, sharp-tongued woman with the beehive hairdo who looked and sounded like the quintessential Texas matron mother making Clayton Williams, a typical rich whitebread oilman who's kind had been running the show since...what, Reconstruction?..., look like a fool when she beat him despite being decidedly left of the rest of the state (and, though no one would ever admit it, a woman).
A woman who was punished at the polls 6 years later for having the sheer chutzpah to allow avowed homosexuals to serve in her administration and to feel some apprehension at the idea of executing 14-year-olds.
In her short time in office, she built an impressive record of achievements and breaking down old walls. Here is a good article on that from Salon. Yet, what I remember most about Ann Richards was that, as a speaker, she was great on her feet and sharp as a tack. Some of her highlights:
While campaigning for Governor, she was asked if she supported or opposed the death penalty. She said, "I will uphold the laws of the State of Texas." The reporter then asked, "But what would you do if the Legislature passed a bill repealing the death penalty?" to which she replied, "I would faint."
Someone told me a story about Richards and a black judge being honored at some awards dinner. As everyone was filing across and shaking their hands, one white guy showed that he was clearly uncomfortable/hiding contempt over the judge as he clumsily congratulated him. The man then looked at Ms. Richards and, not recognizing her, asked, "Well, hello darling, what are you here for?" Without missing a beat, she pointed to the judge and replied, "He's my husband."
Ann Richards on How to Be a Good Republican:
1. You have to believe that the nation's current 8-year prosperity was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but yesterday's gasoline prices are all Clinton's fault.
2. You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.
3. You have to be against all government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time.
4. You have to believe that AIDS victims deserve their disease, but smokers with lung cancer and overweight individuals with heart disease don't deserve theirs.
5. You have to appreciate the power rush that comes with sporting a gun.
6. You have to believe...everything Rush Limbaugh says.
7. You have to believe that the agricultural, restaurant, housing and hotel industries can survive without immigrant labor.
8. You have to believe God hates homosexuality, but loves the death penalty.
9. You have to believe society is color-blind and growing up black in America doesn't diminish your opportunities, but you still won't vote for Alan Keyes.
10. You have to believe that pollution is OK as long as it makes a profit.
11. You have to believe in prayer in schools, as long as you don't pray to Allah or Buddha.
12. You have to believe Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde were really faithful husbands.
13. You have to believe speaking a few Spanish phrases makes you instantly popular in the barrio.
14. You have to believe that only your own teenagers are still virgins.
15. You have to be against government interference in business, until your oil company, corporation or Savings and Loan is about to go broke and you beg for a government bail out.
16. You love Jesus and Jesus loves you and, by the way, Jesus shares your hatred for AIDS victims, homosexuals, and President Clinton.
17. You have to believe government has nothing to do with providing police protection, national defense, and building roads.
18. You have to believe a poor, minority student with a disciplinary history and failing grades will be admitted into an elite private school with a $1,000 voucher.
I'm pretty sure that every liberal Texan's love for Molly Ivins is founded upon the apparition of Ann Richards still jaunting around somewhere in their psyche. There was a lot of hope for the Lone Star State in those days, now seemingly so long ago.