I never thought of Clayton Williams as a political trailblazer.
Then comes word today that Claytie — a Midland oil and natural gas tycoon who ran for Texas governor in 1990 — has died at age 88.
I extend my condolences to Williams’ friends and family. I do want to offer a comment on his single, but futile run for public office.
He sought the governorship running against the late Texas Treasurer Ann Richards — who had rocketed to national notoriety with her stellar 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech in which she declared that then-GOP Vice President George H.W. Bush “can’t help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
Richards and Williams, a Republican, faced off two years later. Williams was poised to win. Then he started committing a series of gaffes. He compared inclement weather to rape, urging Texans to “relax and enjoy it”; he refused to shake Richards’ hand at an event, a gesture that rankled many Texans who believe a gentleman shouldn’t act that way toward a woman; then he revealed he didn’t pay federal taxes when the oil industry was collapsing in the 1980s.
Richards won the governorship. She served a single term before losing in 1994 to the “silver-footed” VP’s son, George W. Bush.
The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey makes a fascinating point, though, about Williams’ political legacy. He notes that Bill Clements was the lone Republican to win the governorship since the Civil War Reconstruction era. Williams lost in 1990, but well might have paved the way for “W” to win in 1994.
Since then, according to Ramsey, Republicans have clamped a vise grip on the governorship, as well as every statewide office.
The things you can learn …
Rest in peace, Claytie.