Twilight of the Texas Democrats

The 1978 Governor's Race

978-1-60344-009-7 Cloth
6 x 9. 234 pp. 7 b&w photos., 2 maps., 8 tables.
Pub Date: 01/22/2008
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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.

Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University

Published by Texas A&M University Press