TEXANS ON A MISSION
JUNE 24, 1996
The religious right has gained control of Texas' GOP delegation to San Diego, and they vow to make Bob Dole choose a vice presidential running mate they like. They insist the VP be entirely pro-life. Betty Ann Bowser reports.
JIM LEHRER: Now the battle to be a Texas delegate to the Republican National Convention in San Diego. Dole supporters and anti-abortion advocates fought each other for the privilege this weekend at the Republican State Convention. Betty Ann Bowser has our report.
BILL PRICE, Texans United for Life: When it comes to abortion, the brutal destruction of defenseless babies, principles cannot be compromised. (applause)
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In San Antonio this weekend, the principles of religious conservatives ruled.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The religious right solidified control of the state's Republican Party from top to bottom and sent a firm message to Bob Dole.
BILL PRICE, Texans United for Life: Don't mess with the pro-life plank, give us a pro-life vice presidential candidate.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Texans United for Life Director Bill Price led a group of like-minded anti-abortion organizations in pushing through a slate of delegates to the Republican National Convention that claims to be almost entirely pro-life. Eighty-six of the one hundred and twenty-three delegates signed a pledge not to change the party's anti-abortion platform and not to vote for any vice presidential candidate who is not in sync with their anti-abortion philosophy.
SPOKESPERSON: Now we move on to the election of the district's three national delegates and three national alternate delegates.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Nowhere was control by the religious conservatives more evident than in the 30 Congressional caucuses where the 90 delegates are picked. Another 33 at-large delegates would be selected later by party officials who normally reserve those slots for Republican VIPs.
SPOKESPERSON: They're picking them up in all sorts of things--secure things like cardboard boxes or baseball hats.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Over and over again delegates selected by the Dole campaign went down in defeat because their anti-abortion positions weren't anti enough. One district even rejected its own anti-abortion congressman in favor of a delegate backed by religious conservatives.
TAFFY GOLDSMITH, Defeated Dole Delegate: I am pro-life. I am pro-business, I'm pro-smaller government, I'm pro-Republican Party, and I support the party platform.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Taffy Goldsmith is a longtime Republican Party activist and was a Dole delegate.
TAFFY GOLDSMITH: I've never attempted to be a delegate to the national convention. I want to go this time. And I don't care if I go on the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth ballot, but I want to go.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But Goldsmith refused to sign the pledge. And when the votes were cast, she was defeated overwhelmingly by a delegate endorsed by Price's organization and three leaders of the Texas Christian Coalition.
WHITEY LINGERFELT, Texas Delegate: We agree that it was crucial that conservatives mobilized to ensure two things: One, there could be no weakening of our platform on the question of right to life. It has served us well. And secondly, the candidate selected as a vice presidential nominee must be ardently pro-life and capable of preserving this principle.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Suggested slates of delegates supported by religious conservative organizations were circulated in every caucus. The one handed out at Goldsmith's caucus suggested that even signing the pledge might not be good enough for election as a delegate.
SPOKESMAN: According to the 1996 language--
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Paula Day was a Dole delegate from Ft. Worth who signed the pledge. She is very much opposed to abortion. Still, she was defeated by another candidate endorsed by religious conservatives she says told her: "You're not one of us."
PAULA DAY, Defeated Dole Delegate: I was told they're on a mission, and I was not to as a part of their mission. All the Dole delegates were defeated in my caucus.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Ishmael Moran is another anti-abortion Dole delegate. He was opposed to signing any kind of pledge as the price for a ticket to San Diego but when caucus time came--
BETTY ANN BOWSER: You did sign the pledge, didn't you?
ISHMAEL MORAN, Dole Delegate: I had to.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What happened?
ISHMAEL MORAN: I realized that you had to learn the art of compromise, and sometimes you have to be willing to, to lose a battle so you can win the war.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Dolly Madison McKenna spent most of the convention standing in the wings. As a supporter of abortion rights, she was denied a seat to the state convention in her home congressional district. McKenna is a former congressional candidate who two years ago ran for state party chair.
DOLLY MADISON McKENNA, Republican Activist: When I was sitting in the caucuses when they were selecting delegates, it wasn't whether you are pro-life, it was how pro-life you are, and how many years you worked in pro-life organizations, and how involved you are in your church. The discussion really had very little to do with the Republican Party and you were talking about five people, all of who had effectively have the same philosophy, competing to be more and more and more conservative.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Religious conservatives also tried to keep Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson from going to San Diego as an at-large delegate. She was elected two years ago by the largest margin of any Republican in state history. The popular junior senator favors abortion only under some limited conditions.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHINSON, (R) Texas: Frankly, I think this is a very small group that is not in the mainstream of our party that decided to make an issue of whether I would be a delegate.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Texas Sen. Phil Gramm came to her defense, saying if she didn't go, he wouldn't go either, and he condemned Price's tactics.
SEN. PHIL GRAMM, (R) Texas: I think we have heard from a very small minority and unfortunately they're bullies. And I thought that it was outrageous that people were challenging Kay's right to be a delegate.
BILL PRICE: She is doing things that are detrimental to this party.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Like what?
BILL PRICE: Like opposing the pro-life plank in the party platform. That is a deep offense to one of the biggest core constituent groups of the Republican Party. If that group is continually offended, if it feels continually that it's being stabbed in the back by even a very popular United States Senator, those people are just going to take a walk in presidential years. What we're trying to do is actually save the Republican Party from itself.
SPOKESMAN TWO: Yes.
SPOKESMAN: There is a delegate on this list that has already proclaimed not to represent our platform.
SPOKESMAN: I think that's out of order.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: When the time came for delegates to vote on the at-large delegation that included Sen. Hutchinson, it was almost too close to call.
SPOKESMAN: All in favor of accepting the last place signify by saying aye.
SOME PEOPLE IN CROWD SHOUTING: Aye!
SPOKESMAN: Those opposed signify by saying no.
PEOPLE IN CROWD SHOUTING: No!
BETTY ANN BOWSER: State Party Chairman Tom Pawkin had to fend off angry delegates who demanded a roll call vote.
DELEGATES: (chanting) Roll call! Roll call!
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But in the end, Hutchinson won.
SPOKESMAN: The motion is defeated. The delegates are approved.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: While all this was going on, Bob Dole campaigned in another part of the country, citing a last minute scheduling problem as the reason he couldn't come. When the final gavel went down, religious conservatives had elected the strongest, largest, anti-abortion delegation ever to attend a national Republican convention.
BILL PRICE: We won, as far as I'm