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Interview with: James Kuhn
Interviewed by: Louis Marchiafava
Dates: November 19, 1976
Archive Number: OH 211 01
I: 00:12 Jim, I’d like to ask you a few background questions. How were you selected to be campaign manager in the Bob Gammage—by Bob Gammage?
JK: After Bob’s defeat in the special election in April, mutual friends of ours who were in Senator Bentsen’s office where I was, got us together and we—Bob needed a campaign manager. He’d never had one before and he picked me.
I: Do you have much experience in running campaigns before?
JK: I’d done work for Senator Bentsen in his presidential race and in his senate races in 1970 and 1976. And I’ve worked for the Democratic ticket in New Hampshire in ’74 and the governor’s primary in ’72.
I: Are you a native of Houston?
JK: No, I’m Dallas.
I: Did you manage to gain any insights into the special election and what led to Mr. Gammage’s defeat?
JK: Only by hearsay as I was at that time in Oklahoma for Senator Bentsen. But as I understood it, it was simply a lack of organization and the Democratic vote was not brought out. In a special election with a low turnout, the Republicans generally have the advantage in any race in this state.
I: What did you see as the main problems in this just passed election? What did you see you had to overcome in order to win?
JK: We had to overcome the image of being a loser having lost the special election. We had to overcome the fact of the opposition’s incumbency and the reluctance of people to turn somebody out after so short a time in office. And we had to overcome the financial problems of the campaign. He had a $20,000 debt as of July.
I: That’s quite substantial even before a campaign begins.
I: What has the strategy for the campaign? How did you try to overcome these problems?
JK: Well, given the limited budget, we couldn’t rely on the broadcast media at all. So we went in our media with mailings of printed material on the issues we thought were important. We used Dr. Paul’s building record in Congress. On several cases he had voted against what we thought were the best interests of the district, and we targeted those mailings into the areas most affected by those votes—such as, for example, a vote against the NASA appropriations bill. It was made the subject of a mailing to all the people in the Nassau area. But the real key to our race and to any Democratic race is turning out the vote, motivating them to go to the polls. Particularly in the areas where we usually expect to get a very high vote, the question is getting them out—such as the black precincts and some of the labor union precincts. And to do that you need an organization of volunteers down to the block captain level in your targeted precincts. Now we have about 150 precincts in the district and we targeted, on the block captain basis, about 40 of them to turn out the vote. And those were the first priority precincts. We had another 30 or so precincts that were targeted for precinct captain organization. Our goal, which we achieved, was to have a precinct captain in every precinct in the district, and in the targeted precincts, to have block captains on every block in that precinct. Again, this was achieved, but with, sort of, a pyramidal structure. You had the block captains, precinct captains, area coordinators who had several precincts or an entire county under them, and then you had campaign staff district wide. By virtue of this system, on election day, we fielded between 700 and 850 volunteers. We’re not 100% sure how many finally turned out, but the most was 850. It might have been low 700s.
I: 04:43 How did you go about selecting these personnel, particularly the block captains?
JK: By telephoning within the blocks and voter lists asking them to serve. No special criteria, just a willingness to work.
I: Before the campaign began, did you have any commitments from groups or organizations to assist you either financially or with volunteers or in any other means?
JK: No, we had been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and by the labor unions in general, both in Texas—in Houston and the other counties and nationally. But that was—there was no concrete promise of a certain sum of money that we could rely upon. We did finally raise and spend about $76,000 as of the day before the election, and another $6000 came in the day of the election. So starting pretty much from scratch, I think there was $2000 on the books when I joined the campaign in July. We raised another $80,000 between then and election day. Much of it came in the last week or the last 10 days. As a matter of fact, near $30,000 came in the last 10 days.
I: 06:03 What was the source of most of this money? Was it private—?
JK: Labor and the Jewish community were the 2 biggest sources. Dr. Paul voted against the Israeli appropriations and we used that with great effect.
I: I’m sure you did. I understand that the AFL-CIO contributed a professional organizer to the campaign. Is that accurate?
JK: Yes and no. Not in the headquarters itself. We had some union volunteers but not on that level. One young man, mostly on an errand boy level, came in from the CWA. But Rosa Walker, who is head of the women’s division, I believe, at the Texas States AFL-CIO, spent the last 3 weeks of the campaign working for us in Brazoria and Fort Bend Counties. So I assume that’s who you are referring to.
JK: I’ve worked with Rosa before. She wrote the book.
I: What did her work essentially consist of?
JK: Mobilizing the union volunteers and digging into the local treasuries for campaign contributions. Some of the national unions were spread so thin this year with all the candidates plus the presidential race they didn’t have enough money left in their PAC funds. And Rosa assisted us in getting some money out of the local PAC funds we would not otherwise have gotten. And she mobilized workers on election day—a team, I think, primarily of steel workers. And she assisted us with CWA, which was her mother union, if you wish. That’s the one she’s a member of. But her work, as I said, was primarily to motivate the union people in those 2 counties—which were our weakest counties—to turn out and to turn out their fellow union members and families.
I: 08:10 Now, those 2 counties in the special election, how do they compare with regard to Gammage’s ability to get votes?
JK: Well, we lost them both in the special; we lost them both in the general. But we didn’t lose them as badly in the general as we expected to. We turned our people out. In other words, in the special election, for example, the boxes were incomplete in Brazoria County. We had a very low turnout, whereas Lake Jackson was turning out 80%. Well, in the general election they turned out about the same percentage, and Clute is a labor union, black, and Mexican-American box. And if we turn them out there we expect to get 80% of anybody who turns out. In Harris County, the contrast was the blacks. Some of the black precincts only turned out 10% of their registered voters in the spring, and they turned out between 50% and 60% in the fall.
I: That’s a big deal.
JK: Makes a large difference.
I: What do you account for that difference?
JK: Well, the presidential race—that fact that both the presidency and our race were closely contested people began to take an interest in it. In the black community, Dr. Paul, to my knowledge, never campaigned at all. He spent no time there, which is probably—if I were running his race I’d be agreeable with that strategy because for every 10 blacks that go to the polls, 9 of them probably going to vote Democratic. It’s been our experience in Texas. We rely very heavily on them. But you could see from the figures an enormous increase in turnout from the April 3rd election to the November 2nd election. We tuned out 69,000—almost, not quite 70,000 in April, and we turned out 194,000 in November. And a large turnout generally benefits Democrats.
I: Were there any particular leaders in the black community who were particularly helpful to you.
JK: Well, the entire leadership of the black community assisted us. We had help from Mickey Leland, from Anthony Hall, from Ron Wilson. We had help from Irma Hood who is on the board of the King State Bank, which is in our district. It was the only black bank—or black-owned bank in state—state bank. And Irma’s also a pharmacist—influential black pharmacist.
I: What about the Mexican-American community?
JK: We have very few Mexican-Americans in our district. There’s a pocket of them in Fort Bend County and another pocket, I guess you’d say, in South Houston. But they are, in numbers and in percentage, not that significant—not as they would be on a state-wide or city-wide basis. There just aren’t that many of them there.
I: 11:06 So they really weren’t a major part or even an important part of— (both talking at once; unintelligible)
JK: No. We did run ads in the Spanish language newspapers and we participated in the Fiestas Patrias celebrations, but there was no high-level work with them. Now, Mr. Castillo—Emilio (s/l) (11:28) Castillo—he did do a registration drive in the greater Harris County, if you wish. And I think some of that spilled over into Fort Bend, but I’m not 100% sure.
I: But he didn’t work directly with Mr. Gammage?
JK: No. He was his own operation.
I: Did you try emphasize the different issues when you approached the black community and even in the Chicano community?
JK: Well, the Chicano community, other than just advertising our name, that was about it. In the black community it was rather easy. Dr. Paul was against everything that they would be interested in. He’s against social security. He’s against Medicaid, Medicare. He’s against small business administration loans, which many of the community—in our area we have—we don’t have ghetto blacks so much as we have the working. Many of them own small business and they need a different kind of government assistance than the ghetto people do, but they’re still interested in the welfare issues, if you wish. And Dr. Paul consistently voted against all of it, and he also voted against the HUD appropriations for housing. We just stressed what, I would say, are the traditional Democratic issues in those areas. Plus name identification and just encouraging them just to vote. We used a piece of material that was passed out in all the black precincts, a picture of Martin Luther King. It said, “Somebody died for your right to vote. Won’t you please take 5 minutes to vote.”
I: That’s very hard-hitting.
JK: Yes. And we used material showing Bob with black leadership and with just black people. And we—Bob spent the better of the last 10 days of the campaign exclusively in black precincts, or almost exclusively. He was there during the day, we’d take him somewhere else in the evening. Again, just motivating them to go vote. It’s not a question of how they would vote once they got there, it was just getting them there.
I: 13:42 Were there any major changes made after the halfway point in the campaign with regard to the strategy? Did you find a need to emphasize certain things or perhaps but others in the background?
JK: No, I’d say our strategy was fairly consistent. We adopted, for lack of a better term, the game plan or the campaign strategy—oh, by Labor Day we’d made most of the major decisions of what we were going to do and how we were gong to do it. The later decisions were merely variations on details. We knew exactly how many mailings we were going to do and where they were going to go by Labor Day. We knew which precincts we were going to target by Labor Day. It was just a question of occasionally adjusting to a difficulty, like maybe we didn’t have the money to have the mailing out on that given day and we had to wait another couple of days, or we’d have to choose between a mailings priority and delay one so that we get another one out. But I would say, after Labor Day the principal, the major decisions had been made. The only decision we left hanging, because we couldn’t rely upon the money, was whether or not to run any TV at all. And we ultimately gambled and ran a very small amount of TV towards the end. And the question as to how much radio we could afford to run, it was virtually done on a day-to-day basis as the money came in.
I: Did you emphasize certain stations, radio stations, for example? I know there’s only 3 TV stations, but I’m speaking of radio.
JK: Yes we did. The early radio effort—the radio that we kept consistently going with was the Country and Western stations like KIKK where we had a weakness with some of the voters there. See, Bob had been labeled as being in favor of gun control in the spring election, and we had to counteract that. He’s not in any form, at least not on the federal level. That was the issue I would say we stressed the most on KIKK and similar stations. Towards the end, we got into what we call broad range with as many stations as we could buy time or who would still sell us time—both AM and FM.
I: Who designed the wording of these advertisements?
JK: It was Roy Spence who’s an advertising man out of Austin and San Antonio. He is a partner in a company called GSD&M, and he did all of our broadcast media. Most of the taping, not all of the taping, but most of it was done in Austin. There were some done here—the TV was done here. We used Channel 13s equipment. But it was—Spence wrote the scripts and supervised the production and their location.
I: Do you have any—have you been able to find out or discover if the TV is actually more effective—radio is actually more effective than television? Is there any way a candidate can learn these things?
JK: Well, short of doing an in-depth poll, no. In-depth polls are prohibitively expensive.
I: Yeah, right.
JK: 16:57 My own experience has been, particularly in rural areas or semi-rural areas, that radio is much more effective than television because everybody listens to the radio. They listen to when they drive to work, drive home, they listen to it during the noon hour, and many of the women listen to it all day long. And when I’ve worked in campaigns before, my territory has usually been east Texas and everything east of the Trinity River. And always tend to emphasize radio up there very, very heavily. Did the same thing this time here in Brazoria and Fort Bend Counties. See, TV in a market the size of Houston is—you’re paying too much and you’re hitting 5 congressional districts or 4 others in addition to your own. And you don’t get quite the return for it that you would if you were, say, running it out of the one and only station in Lufkin for east Texas, or the one and only station in Midland or Odessa for west Texas. Here you’re buying a huge market and its price accordingly. It’s the most expensive market in Texas, and we were almost priced out of the market. We might have run 8 or 10 TV spots total, and that still cost us with production $5000. It is not cheap here.
I: That’s pretty expensive.
JK: Yeah. We just didn’t have those kinds of resources.
JK: Loved to have done a TV blitz, but there’s no money for it. Do—when Spence first came to us to do a proper kind of TV presentation, we would have had to spend $20,000, and there just simply wasn’t that in the budget. We ultimately spent about $18,000 on radio, but it seemed—well, radio has a definite impact. You know when to run it and you can select your audiences a little better. Everyone watches TV, and as a result many of your TV commercials, you’ll notice from any campaign, are blander than what you’re liable to here on the radio.
I: 19:03 Yeah. That’s true.
JK: TV is image; radio can also be message as well as an image or issue oriented. You can hit an issue on the radio a lot better—a lot more safely I should say—than you can on the television. Television is very much an image media. I mean, “Look at this guy, he’s a nice guy. Vote for him. He doesn’t have horns and a tail.”
I: Right. (laughs) Preceding the—well, say the first 4 months of the campaign, how much polling and demographic work did you do in the district?
JK: Oh, I’d have to think for a minute. We did an analysis of the April 3rd and May 1st elections; we did that in July. We did our first whole scale poll between the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. We did a second poll after the Republican Convention was over right around Labor Day. We did an additional poll towards the end of September, and a final poll in early October. These were polls involving about—between 600 and 700 people. That was our sample size for the district. And we polled whites only; we didn’t poll any blacks.
I: You were sure—fairly sure—of their support, if you could get them to the polls anyway?
JK: Right. And we wanted to find out what issues were bothering the white community and where we were weakest within the white community.
I: Well, I think the next question is obvious here. What did you find out?
JK: Well, it varied. I wish I had the printouts in front of me. National defense, one of the major issues that everybody cited. And we turned that one against Dr. Paul because of his vote to shut down Ellington Air Force Base. Trust in government—the issue has dominated politics all year long nationally—very big, very big among the young white voters. The older whites were more interested in defense. The younger ones seemed to be more interested in trust. Education was surprisingly a very, very important issue to most people, and they were consistently wiling to spend more money on education. Even those who would cut back on everything else would be willing to consider spending more money on education.
I: That’s a rather pleasant surprise to hear.
JK: We were very surprised at that result. It was listed as a significant issue by about a third of the respondents and of the third—of all of those who listed it as one of their top issues, they were all willing to spend a little more money on it, whereas they would cut welfare back to next to nothing. The ones who wanted to cut defense spending would—that might follow that they’d want increase in something like education, but even the ones who favored maintaining the present level of defense spending or increasing it also favored increasing educational spending, even to the point of new taxes. As I said, we were astonished by that.
I: 22:08 Inflation didn’t take any part of it then?
JK: Well, economy was an issue that was cited very often, but it was hard to break it down as to exactly what they meant. Some people were worried about jobs; some people were worried about inflation. In the Nassau area, you’d find some job worries; and middle class sections of Houston, you’d find inflation worries. But the 2 national issues—trust and economy—yes, they were reflected here in Texas and in our district. But there were certain nebulous issues as you can imagine.
JK: What do you people mean when they say trust? Are they talking about Watergate of are they talking about the girlfriends?
I: What did you see as the strengths and weaknesses of your campaign?
JK: The strength would be that he meets people well. And I had a hell of a time getting him to follow his schedule, getting to places on time. I don’t know if that’s a weakness so much as a personal idiosyncrasy. Biggest problem we had early on, in which we finally got him to watch, was his tendency to give a speech and go on forever, and to get into way too much detail, and sometimes to repeat himself, and to do a Hubert Humphrey. And we finally got him cut down, to make his points clearly, not go into extensive detail, and shut up and make a hard-hitting speech of 5 minutes of 10 minutes, and not drawn on for 20 minutes talking about extraneous issues, and not boring the audience to death. And that was a weakness at first because it turned people off. He would go into a long elaborate discussion of the pros and cons of gun control when all he really needed to say was that I’m against it—period, and drop it—instead of talking about Saturday night specials and the melting point of gun barrels. He used to do that. But again, the weakness was the image problem to overcome that he had gone into the special election as a sure winner and came out a loser. That hurt us with fundraising and that hurt us, I think, generally in the image of the public—the guy was a loser. He had to overcome that. The only way we could do it was to just get him out and move him around. The other problem was that spring he had no—he’d never had a campaign manager before or professional campaign organization of any kind in any race he’d run previously. Never done it; he didn’t do it this spring either. Part of the problem was teaching him how to live and work with such an organization. In other words, let us alone, let us do our job, you go out and campaign, and don’t worry about what’s going on in the office too much. And towards the end of that, we never saw him. He’d finally learned to accept us after watching us for a while. Oh, it’s an understandable fear many candidates have that they don’t know what’s happening in the office and they get paranoid sometimes. I mean, this is something—it’s your life and you’re turning it over to a bunch of young guys and gals and relying upon them to determine the next 10 years of your life and how it’s going to be lived. And it’s sort of natural to want to take a day-to-day interest into—
I: Yeah, sure.
JK: 25:56 Even though you don’t necessarily know what’s going on day to day and you really don’t need to know the details.
I: Did you find yourself often, or at times, in conflict with him over matters, issues?
JK: Oh, we all were at one time or another. Bob likes to edit things, and every time we were going to send out a mailing, it took us a session to get it past his—to get him to sign off on it. He liked to change details in written communications. I sometimes think just to prove he was still the boss, but we all learned how to live with it. We learned that in order to get it out on time, we got to him or else. And once he approved it, we didn’t show it to him a second time, we just sent it out. And after a while he came to—after he got to know—the press secretary was brand new, a guy he’d never met before. And once the press secretary learned how Bob liked to phrase things and Bob could rely upon him to phrase it that way, then we had the editorial problems diminish. It diminished dramatically and towards the end, I’d say the last 3 weeks, we had no trouble at all with anything. And we had no trouble with the radio tapes and no trouble with the TV script. Bob edited it once and that was all and they were minor changes. As I said, he’d learned to rely on the people that we brought in.
I: 27:28 A couple comments that I’ve heard here and even all through your campaign is that his campaign was—he didn’t project a strong enough image in that he didn’t attack Paul, he didn’t attack his issues, his policies. There was one debate in which people have commented on at the U of H.
I: And Paul had left himself open for real telling blows and yet Mr. Gammage seemed to hold back.
JK: Bob tends to hold back. He does not like to campaign negatively, as he puts it. He really doesn’t like it. He does not like to attack the other person. He’d rather sell himself than attack the opposition, and I know the debate you’re talking about. I wasn’t there, but I heard plenty about it. He felt that Paul, by being as shrill as he had been that day, Bob didn’t need to comment on it. That was his feeling. In some of his speeches, I would say, out among the public or his talks at groups, yes, he would attack and attack hard. Yeah, it was a problem. He really does not like to be negative. We had a very difficult time convincing him that much of our radio was going to have to be essentially negative, and it was, as attacking Dr. Paul. And Dr. Paul left himself wide open in many areas for attack.
I: How did you feel about—did you feel very strongly about this, that he should have taken a more active—made an attack on Paul?
JK: Well, it’s a judgment call.
I: Yeah, it is.
JK: If I’d been the candidate I would have, but I’m not Bob Gammage. And I’m not afraid to attack somebody when they’ve done something I consider to be stupid, or said something that is illogical, or they’ve done something to hurt the district—such as some of his votes did. But that really—that is one decision a campaign manager cannot make for the candidate. You can’t tell him what kind of a person he’s going to be. You cannot be a psychiatrist.
I: Some have tried, I would imagine.
JK: Yes, and it’s usually an unfortunate situation when they do. And I don’t hold myself out as a psychiatrist. I was campaign manager. (laughter)
I: How important is the role of the candidate’s family?
JK: 30:11 Well, it’s up to the candidate and the family. They can play a very important role. In this campaign, Judy Gammage—his wife—was our campaign treasurer and she was there day to day, which created some problems too. I mean, it’s one member of the staff you can’t fire very well. It’s one member of the staff it’s difficult to give orders to. I would say that in future campaigns I will never have a member of the candidate’s family on the staff ever. They can go out and campaign all they want, but I don’t want them there day to day as a general rule. It doesn’t necessarily reflect on Judy, but as a general rule I would not do it again under the circumstances. Now, Judy did make many appearances for Bob when he couldn’t—such as in the Brazoria County Fair parade—open parade. Bob had to be Austin that day at a fundraiser and Judy went down to represent him. She accompanied him to most of the evening events. And as I said, she kept all of our books and wrote all of our checks. His mother went door to door in the precincts around where she lived, and very effectively too. His children were too small to campaign.
I: But having a member of the family in the office did create problems for you?
JK: It can, it can. And as I said, it’s not something I’d repeat.
I: Were there any mistakes which you feel Paul made that you took advantage—that you managed to take advantage of in the course of the campaign?
JK: Well, in the fall campaign he didn’t seem to be as organized as he was this spring. He didn’t seem to have the resources he had this spring. And I can’t say that we took advantage of it, it was just that we had less attacks as a result. His voting record, we went after it. He made several votes that were directly contrary to what we considered to be interests of the district or the interests of Texas, and he usually was one of anywhere from 3 to 14 members of the entire Congress of the United States voting against this sort of thing regardless of where Texas stood on it. For example, in Texas—or the Texas delegation in Congress traditionally block votes on agriculture issues. It’s famous for that up in Washington. There was a bill that came up which the cattle industry wanted creating a beef board—and I won’t go into the details of it, but to promote the consumption of beef was behind the idea behind the bill. And Dr. Paul was the only Texan to vote against it. Even Mr. Archer and Mr. Collins voted for it. And it was not a spending bill, it was to be a self-imposed tax on the beef industry. And the bill was supported by the cattlemen and by all the—I would say by almost the entire membership west of the Mississippi. Dr. Paul voted—excuse me. (recording interrupted) Dr. Paul voted against that particular bill in company with such noted Conservatives as Bella Abzug and Father Drinan. So it was not exactly a Liberal/Conservative issue. It was more or less a Northeast versus the rest of the country issue. There was the coastal states aid bill which passed through Congress with 3 dissenting votes endorsed by the administration. Dr. Paul was one of the 3 dissenting votes. Brazoria County happens to be the one county in the United States that is eligible, currently, for aid under that bill. There were subsequently—Galveston County would become eligible for it, as will Matagorda as time goes by, and so will several Louisiana counties. But it was a bill that provided for the use of federal royalty money from offshore drilling to aid coastal counties affected by the increasing population brought on by offshore drilling, in order to enable them to build roads, schools, and to support the population that would be coming in as a result of the superport, in our case, or as a result of increased offshore drilling. And Dr. Paul voted against it. And as I said, Brazoria County stood to gain more from that bill than any other county in the country. As a matter of fact, Senator Babe Schwartz of Galveston was one of the drafters of that bill in conjunction with the Texas delegation in Washington. As I said, it passed with 3 dissenting votes in the entire Congress. There are other examples of where he was very much in the minority. He voted against every appropriations bill that came along—very single one. I believe he ultimately voted for the defense appropriations, but he voted against NASA, he voted against veteran’s benefits, he voted against the HEW appropriations, HUD, Justice Department appropriations—somewhat of a surprise—voted against the LEA Ed. Dr. Paul was nothing if not consistent.
I: 35:31 When did you feel there—was there a turning point in the election? In other words, was there a point where you really felt you were the underdog and you made a turn where you really had a chance to come in?
JK: When the organization started functioning, when he had our precinct and block captains in place by the second week in October. We felt that we had a real shot then. And then on election day when we got the news of how big the turnout was going to be or how big it was apparently going to be. Other than that, there was no dramatic, single turning point that I could see. It was just a steady process of a lot of hard work on our side. And the other side had done its work too, that’s why it was as close as it was. They’d done their work this spring and they lived off the benefits of that. And they may not have had the resources this fall that they had this spring, but they did all right. They had their phone banks operating, they had their people out.
I: Given Dr. Paul’s voting record—as you’ve indicated was a negative record—in analyzing the mentality of the voter, what was the appeal of Dr. Paul? It was still a very close race as it came out. He was only a couple of votes—a hundred votes ahead of—Gammage only came in a couple of hundred votes ahead. What is that appeal?
JK: 37:01 Well, the details of his voting record were one thing that we had to communicate to the public because the public didn’t know about it. There was only one newspaper in the entire district that printed day to day Paul’s voting record, and that was Brazosport Facts. The Post and Chronicle don’t print that and Herald Coaster didn’t either—those are the other major papers. And again, what is printed in the papers is rather dull congressional news not everybody reads. We had to get that message to the voters and say, “Yes, this man is espousing an idea of putting big government on a diet, controlling Uncle Sam.” And there isn’t any Washington feeling in the country right now—all over the country. I ran into that in Bentsen’s presidential race. People don’t trust Washington. They want to bring control over their lives back to the state and local level, no question about it. And Dr. Paul espoused this philosophy, but he carried it to its illogical extreme. He was against everything the federal government did, and we are not. We think the federal government does have a role to play in our society. And Dr. Paul stated on several occasions that the only role he thought the federal government had was to protect the validity of contracts and provide for the national defense, period. At one point he proposed the abolition of social security entirely. One statement—we never could get it in writing—but apparently in a speech in Fort Bend County he proposed the abolition of public education. We never could get that one in writing.
I: Did the label of ultra liberal—?
JK: It hurt.
JK: It hurt. It hurt a great deal with money raising downtown.
I: Can you give me some examples of this?
JK: 38:55 Many companies and big givers, on what we could loosely Main Street in Houston, did not give to Gammage because he had been painted as a liberal or painted as a Ralph Yarborough kind of liberal. Dr. Paul came on as the Conservative. I don’t think many of them realized just how conservative he was. The probably thought of him as another Bill Archer, a responsible Conservative Congressman. However much I might disagree with Mr. Archer, he is open to reason—he can be talked to. Gammage was painted as the labor dominated, big spending liberal by the other side’s propaganda pretty much. Because when Bob was in the legislature he never voted for an appropriations bill the whole time he sat there, and never voted for a tax bill the whole time he sat there. I don’t think he’d qualify as a big spender. He and Governor Briscoe are friends and Briscoe supported us and helped us behind the scenes. And Lord knows, Governor Briscoe’s not a big spender and doesn’t traditionally support big spenders. So we didn’t—people or candidates like Senator Bentsen are able to get money out of the Houston business community, we were not. We were shut off. But to a certain extent that was John Connally’s doing also. He shut off a lot of the Democratic money this year in Houston. It just wasn’t there; they were giving it to the Republicans. It’d be very interesting to see how they respond now since they have consistently backed losers this year, and Connally has led them to back losers this year. I would assume that his influence to be diminished downtown, that they will listen to others.
I: Did you have any direct contact with the people downtown— (both talking at once; unintelligible)
JK: Yes. Uh-hunh (affirmative). Quite a bit and again, it was overcoming this labor—dominated image. People who had been my law clients or people I dealt with while I was with Senator Bentsen’s operation, they were standoffish. If they gave, they didn’t give as much as they could or as they otherwise would have. Somebody who might give $1000 only gave $250. Somebody who might have given $250 gave $100. Somebody who gave $100 traditionally wouldn’t give anything. It was that kind of a situation. We did not raise that much money downtown.
I: Well, Bentsen would appear, to me, to have more of a conservative appeal. He is certainly that—well, certainly appears from the outside at least more conservative than Mr. Gammage.
JK: Yes, but I don’t know—it’d be interesting to see how their voting records compare, how the ADA ratings compare after a couple of years. Because you remember Congressman Krueger came in with a very liberal image and his ratings were as conservative if not more so than Bentsen’s. He became a moderate representative when he got to Washington. If there’s anyone who’s a liberal by Texas standards, is probably a moderate by national standards. I can’t think—other than Mr. Eckhardt I can’t—and Barbara Jordan, I don’t think there are any true Liberals in the Texas delegation by national standards. And even Jordan and Eckhardt don’t go to the point that the Abzug’s and the Drinan’s do it in the East. You can’t do that and survive in Texas. And Gammage may be—we did get a lot of support from the labor, but he will not vote to repeal 14(b). Nobody in Texas will—and besides of which he is opposed to it philosophically. He’s opposed to domesticate the oil companies again, for philosophic an economic reasons, as well as for obvious political reasons in Texas. But then again, I don’t think you would find any Texan, including Ms. Jordan, who would vote for domestic. And Eckhardt, if you will recall, changed his position on that this spring.
I: 43:12 What effect, if any, did Carter have being on the ballot—Democratic ballot? Did it help you or hinder you?
JK: No, it helped—not in the practical sense. The organization that turned out the vote in our district was our organization. We carried Carter and Bentsen, but we received some assistance for doing it. But the closeness of the presidential race sparked the big turnout and that assisted all of us. Now, Carter ran ahead of us throughout the district. And I don’t think there was coattail effect because again, it was our organization turning people out. Now, we may have gone ahead and turned out people who voted for Carter or Ron Paul or Carter and Bentsen and Paul. Bentsen, of course, did it by a landslide in our district, and I am sure there are many people who voted for Bentsen for example or for Bentsen/Paul. But to the extent that our efforts were helping to generate the turnout, the—as I said, the closeness of the presidential race convinced people that it was important to vote, and in that sense we were helped. If you recall, Carter only came to Houston once and it was a downtown rally. He didn’t appear in our district. Mrs. Carter made one appearance at Hobby Airport, and that was towards the very end of the campaign. No other—Senator Mondale never made an appearance for us in our district. Andy Young came in once and made appearances with Gammage in the black community. That was back in early October, late September.
I: So you pretty well carried it on your own?
JK: Yes, I’m afraid. Yes. Well, it’s hard to bring in someone from the outside. We tried to get John Glenn to come in. He canceled on us at the last minute. But this spring when Bob brought in all the state elected officials, it had almost as many negative aspects as it did positive. I mean, we put—we had all the Austin officials up on the stage. If there was somebody up there that you didn’t like—whether it was Governor Briscoe or John Hill or John White or Bob Armstrong—there was somebody up there you didn’t like, and it made Bob look like an establishment candidate. And establishment incumbent candidates were not popular this year. So we did not bring in any state officials this fall. As I said, the only people who came in that Bob appeared with were Congressman Young, Congressman Wilson from Texas, Mayor Friedman of Austin at a Jewish fundraiser, and—I’m trying to think—Congressman Krueger came in for us twice. Those are the only ones we used.
I: 46:13 Did Barbara Jordan play a significant role in the black community?
JK: No, not at all. None whatsoever.
I: Was there any particular reason for this?
JK: To my knowledge, she played no role in Texas this year out of her own choice. She went national. She just was not present most of the time.
I: Did you request her assistance?
JK: Yes, we were turned down.
I: And reasons given?
JK: She just said her schedule was too full. I don’t speculate—and she got involved with that race out in El Paso this spring—the primary. And she endorsed White against—White was not endorsed by the unions or by the Chicano organizations, and she got some bad flak from that. And I think as a result she decided to pull out of Texas politics temporarily.
I: Do you think she thought perhaps Gammage was a very poor risk to get into?
JK: Might well, very possible. Barbara’s a very clever little lady and she also doesn’t take unnecessary risks. How many years can I block this? (laughs)
I: As long as you want. (whispers; unintelligible) What about the Democratic establishment in Houston, I’m thinking right now of Billie Carr’s organization?
JK: 47:50 Billie helped. We used many of her precinct lists, some of which we paid for but we used them. She was present at many meetings. We coordinated with her efforts in some of the precincts that she had supporters in. The local union people—of course, Don Horn and O. D. Kenemore from the unions were both extremely active with us. We met with them constantly. Not Steve Oaks himself but many of his people. We had a liaison with the county Democratic headquarters. We worked very closely with Victor Veysey, he was running in the primary—very closely. And we worked closely with Bentsen’s people, which was easy because I came right off of Bentsen’s staff.
I: Right, that was convenient.
JK: Well, I talked to them daily and they assisted us in fundraising too. They pulled some strings that we couldn’t pull. I pulled it through them. Had them ask for money rather than have me ask for the money.
I: You mean from Democrats, from business, from—?
JK: The unions.
JK: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Senator Bentsen may project a conservative image, but he was thoroughly endorsed and backed by the AFL-CIO this year and got his share of their contributions. And through him, we generated some.
I: Besides from Ms. Jordan, were there any other people that you requested assistance from and failed to get it?
JK: Yes, we tried to get Mr. Teague to come into the Nassau area. He turned us down primarily because of his health. As I said, we requested and got Senator Glenn and he canceled the national tour at the last minute. It wasn’t just us, he canceled appearances in Florida, Texas, and another state at the same time. He said he had to stay in Ohio. So I don’t know if you’d call that a turn down. We didn’t really request any other outside help. We didn’t think it would be that beneficial. Besides, when you in bring an outsider of importance, you have to divert your staff’s attention to arranging the function for him and it takes it away from other things that they might more profitably be doing—such as staying on the telephones.
I: 50:15 He was hesitant so maybe that factors too?
JK: We requested—we’d have loved to have Carter, but he only made the one appearance, and that decision was made in Atlanta. I wouldn’t want to speculate on why.
I: There was a rumor that you held back on the closing of the base—the air force base. You made that an issue rather later in the campaign. Was that by design or simply by accident?
JK: No. In fact, we didn’t find out about it until rather late. We found out about it again, from Bentsen’s office. They were deeply involved in it. And we found out that the disposal report—what they call it when they’re going to close a base—was coming before the relevant subcommittee about 2 weeks before it actually came before the subcommittee. And by the time we had found out the details and sent the telegrams to Congressman Casey and White—who were the Texans on that subcommittee—then another week had lapsed because we wanted to make sure we had our details right and it took a little time. And it meant talking to the governor’s office, to Bentsen’s office and to Casey and to White, and then we went public with it. Dr. Paul apparently was unaware of it until we made him aware of it, which is a little strange because Congressman Casey had been fighting that disposal report for a year. But then again, he retained only, I think, one person from Casey’s entire staff on his staff. I take it back, 2 people, one of whom was an errand boy.
I: Also, late in the campaign the flood insurance issue was brought up. Again, was that by accident or design that you picked that particular time to do it?
JK: No. Well, we picked it primarily in response to a bill that Dr. Paul introduced to repeal the federal flood insurance program. We didn’t bring it up late, he did, but we just used it. We had talked about using it quite a bit. It was a question of timing and a question finding the money to send out a mailing on the issue. But that timing, as it turned out, it was Dr. Paul who raised the issue himself by introducing that bill. There’s no question the federal flood insurance program needs amending, but it doesn’t abolition.
I: Well, I know at this moment—right before the—maybe before we began you mentioned it, the election may be contested.
JK: Yes, there are rumors that there will be a lawsuit filed.
I: Were you aware of any irregular voting patterns or practices?
JK: No, I was not, and to the best of my knowledge nobody on our staff is aware of it. That’s not something—I have one ambition when I’m involved in a campaign that overrides everything, including winning, and that is I do not care to end up inside of a federal prison. (laughter) So I will not condone irregularities either on voting or on money raising. I won’t be any part of it; I can’t be.
I: Well, I’ve asked all the questions that I have. Are there any areas which I overlooked that you’d like to talk over?
JK: Not unless you wish to get into the recount problems?
I: Well, please say a few words about that.
JK: 54:05 Well, as you know we claimed the victory originally by 94 votes. The recount has increased that to 271, thus far, and the last count isn’t done being counted. Now Dr. Paul’s people—Dr. Paul’s attorneys—have asked for a hand recount of the punch-card ballots is Brazoria County, which started yesterday I believe. It is a proceeding before a district court judge unlike the normal recount proceedings which are before the county judge and the commissioners. And he has been granted his hand recount on the condition that he put up a bond of somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000, which will be forfeited if the recount doesn’t change the results. Well, they always did have more money than us. (laughs) They are looking for voting irregularities, I assume, with the idea that they’re going to file a lawsuit. What they’ve done is they sent out a mass mailing early this week primarily to the black precincts, which is an address correction mailing. The envelope has on the outside “Do not forward, address correction requested, return to sender.” And this went, as I said we noticed, primarily in the black precincts. There’s a simple letter saying, “Thank you for performing your civic duty and voting on election day.” I assume they’re checking for false addresses or moved or deceased voters. But he’s also having 3 more lines—telephone lines—put into his headquarters. Apparently they’re also doing a telephone canvas.
I: 55:43 Is that here in Houston or in Lake Jackson?
JK: No, in Houston in his headquarters down on—I think it’s Buffalo Speedway. So I assume that’s preparation for a lawsuit. But the ultimate decision of who sits in the House of Representatives is up to the House of Representatives, not to any state court. Assuming that after the recount is completed, the secretary of state certifies Mr. Gammage as the new congressman elect, the House will act rather expeditiously to seat him. Dr. Paul can litigate all he wants thereafter. He cannot overturn it unless the House finds irregularities in the election, unless he can to show to satisfaction in the House of Representatives—specifically the House Administration Committee—that there is reason to contest this. And I don’t expect the result to be changed. But it’s going to—it could cost us some money to defend a lawsuit, which we don’t to spend it on that.
I: So at this time, Mr. Gammage, is not certified?
JK: No. We’ll, know in the outcome.
I: Right, the outcome of this recount is what’s—
JK: Well, the secretary of state has not certified anybody in the whole state yet. They just resumed—their target date was today with certification of the rest of the congressman and Senator Bentsen and the other elected officials in the state that ran. But I don’t know whether they’re going to do it today or not. They may wait until Thanksgiving. We have just not heard. They are going to be scrupulously correct and wait for the second recount in Brazoria County—the hand recount—to be completed before they certify to the House of Representatives. But it so unlikely that they’re going to find 272 mistakes anywhere at this point. Every county we have recounted has increased Gammage’s vote. He picked up 156 votes in Fort Bend when they found 156 Republican ballots that been counted twice—straight-ticket Republicans. That was the first windfall. The secretary of state’s office found that 2 days after the election on their own investigation. And then subsequently, we picked up 8 votes in Waller County and about 8 in Houston and Harris County and 6 in Brazoria County. And I think when we recounted the absentees in Houston we picked up another 1 or 2. So every time we’ve gone in, we’ve added gross to ours. And we’re not particularly concerned about either Fort Bend or Brazoria. Many of the precinct judges down there are Republicans and we have a suspicion that if there was a mistake made it wasn’t made in our favor. And I don’t know where they’re going to find 272 people to get on a witness stand and swear they voted in the wrong precinct—which is a misdemeanor—or swear that they violated the election laws by voting twice, or that they are convicted felons and they registered to vote anyway. And even if they do, nobody has to say how they voted unless you are illegally registered. And if they are machine counted, there’s no way to find out because you don’t have the stub box. You’ve got no paper ballot to count where you can go in and find out who voted how. You can’t find that out in either Harris County or Brazoria because there are no stubs—no stub box vote. And again, that’s a highly unusual procedure to open a stub box in Texas. Again, it takes an order by a district judge. That’s very rarely and reluctantly granted by the courts. A recount in Texas has not changed the results of any elections since 1947. It just hasn’t happened.
I: 59:27 Well— (recording distorted; unintelligible)
I: (recording distorted; unintelligible)
JK: Yeah, we’ll go off the record for a minute. Are we finished pretty much?
I: I’m going to finish now. On behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, I want to thank you for coming down and donating your time so generously. Thank you very much.