My old friend and boss, former Texas Democratic Party Chair Calvin R. Guest, died this past Saturday. He was 81 years old. Calvin served as Chair from 1972 to 1978. He was a good guy.
Calvin was a key figure in opening up the Texas Democratic Party. Back in the old days - before regular GOP Texas Governors - the Democratic governor of Texas hand picked the party chair. Dolph Briscoe picked Calvin Guest in 1972 when Briscoe won the 1972 run-off Dem Primary. In 1974, then Houston City Controller Leonel Castillo, mounted a challenge to Guest for Party Chair at the State Convention that was held in Austin. We nearly pulled it off - some folks we were expecting to go with us instead stuck with the Governor and Calvin. That was the last time the Texas Democratic Party had a big time brawl at one of their conventions.
Leonel Castillo's campaign helped fuel the creation of the Mexican American Democrats (MAD) of Texas. MAD held its first organizational meeting in Austin in January of 1976. One of MAD's goals was to elect its own Latino representatives to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) - in the old days, the Governor's folks had to give approval - MAD didn't want anybody to have to approve. In the days leading up to the 1976 state convention that was being held in Houston, MAD leaders like Castillo, former State Senator Joe Bernal, and former El Paso County Clerk Alicia Chacon held meetings with Guest to cut the deal - MAD gets to pick their own. Guest realized the times were a changing and he agreed to the deal. At the MAD Caucus, Bernal and Chacon were selected as MAD choices for the DNC. Some Briscoe Latino loyalists, not happy with the selections, tried to get other non-Latino Briscoe supporters to scuttle the deal - Guest stepped in and said the deal would stick. MAD was victorious.
Now it seems that just about every major Caucus has a DNC slot. There aren't anymore major intraparty fights. Calvin Guest and MAD deserve some of the credit.
The summer of 1976, after the state and national party conventions, some Latino Dem leaders met with Guest. They wanted to make sure Latinos were involved in Jimmy Carter's 1976 Presidential Campaign and the state's Democratic get-out-the vote effort. Commentary, before Commentary (C,bC), was the staff recommendation made by the Latino leaders to Guest. Guest agreed. C, bC served as Deputy Director of the Texas Democratic Party Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign under my old buddy Dwayne Holman. That was the last time a Democrat carried Texas in a presidential race.
After Carter carried Texas, C,bC stayed on with the party for a few months. C,bC was one of the first Latinos to play a major role in a statewide Democratic campaign in Texas - kind of set the pace -thanks to a good guy named Calvin Guest.
August 23, 2005, 9:00AM