Twilight of the Texas Democrats
The 1978 Governor's Race
Texas History
6 x 9, 234 pp.
7 b&w photos., 2 maps., 8 tables.
Pub Date: 01/22/2008
Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University
  cloth
Price:        $39.95 s

978-1-60344-009-7

Published by Texas A&M University Press
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Twilight of the Texas Democrats

The 1978 Governor's Race

By Kenneth Bridges

In 1978, Republican William P. Clements won the race for governor of the Lone Star State, marking the start of an interlude of two-party competition in the state. Eventually, Republican ascendancy would once again make Texas a “safe” place for a single party—but not the party that had dominated the state since the end of Reconstruction.

At the time, observers asked whether the election of a Republican governor was a mere flash in the pan. For the previous twenty years, other races, at every level from national to local, had made inroads into Democratic strongholds, but that party’s dominance by and large had held. In 1978, the situation changed.

Now, historian Kenneth Bridges—drawing on polling data, newspaper reports, archival sources, and extensive interviews—both confirms the significance of the election and explains the many and complex forces at work in it. He analyzes a wide range of factors that includes the disaffection among Mexican American voters fanned by La Raza Unida, miscalculations by Democrat John Hill and his campaign staff, the superior polling techniques used by Clements, the unpopularity of the Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, the changing demographics of the state, and the unprecedented spending by the Clements team. In the process, Bridges describes not an ideological realignment among Texas voters, but a partisan one.

Twilight of the Texas Democrats illuminates our understanding of both political science and regional history.

KENNETH BRIDGES is an assistant professor of history at South Arkansas Community College. He lives in El Dorado, Arkansas.

What Readers Are Saying:

“The 1970s certainly were a time of transition and change in the state and throughout the entire South. Historians have only begun to assess the impact of the people and events of this era and this study provides important insights for the reader.”--Patrick Cox, Center for American History, University of Texas

“The 1970s certainly were a time of transition and change in the state and throughout the entire South. Historians have only begun to assess the impact of the people and events of this era and this study provides important insights for the reader.” --Patrick Cox, Center for American History, University of Texas


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