Friday, April 6, 2007

Vote like I tell you

Politics in Texas has always been a contact sport. Some say a blood sport. Here's proof.

I was working for the Texas Municipal League years back when we got the city sales tax passed through the Texas Legislature. It was a local-option bill, meaning the citizens had to vote the tax upon themselves.

When the first election time rolled around the big cities laid back. They were afraid the people would not vote to add to their tax burden. But the smaller cities were hurting for new revenue streams so badly that they jumped at the chance. Hundreds of small and medium sized cities held their elections the same day.

There were so many that the Associated Press asked us to function as Election Central and keep the state-wide totals. So several of us got some cases of beer and starting calling.

My assignment was to make calls throughout South Texas, where politics has been described as a rolling ball of butcher blades. One of the first on my list was Roma, a picturesque and historic little city on the Rio Grande border between Texas and Mexico. I missed the mayor. He had already gone across the border to celebrate. So I called the police chief.

"How did the election go, chief?"

"Oh, we won all right. We won."

"What was the vote talley?"

"It was 500 to one."

"Five hundred to one! Isn't that unusual?"

"Damn sure is," the chief said. "But we think we know who did it."

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