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Democratic Party Turmoil in Texas

Nov. 10, 1963 - The rejection of a poll tax repeal by Texas voters means President Kennedy will have to work all the harder to save the state for the Democratic ticket next year. This is the conclusion political observers have drawn from the results of a referendum yesterday on a proposal to drop the state’s 61-year-old poll tax. The measure, in the form of an amendment to the state constitution, was defeated by 66,239 votes. The citizens least able to pay their poll taxes are, in the main, political friends of Mr. Kennedy’s — the Spanish-speaking and Negro laborers living a marginal existence. Altogether, the effect of the vote was a setback for the liberal wing of the Democratic party of Texas. Politically conscious Texans are now waiting to see whether Mr. Kennedy will further bruise the liberals when he makes a two-day swing through the state later this month. Governor John Connally pictured next to President Kennedy) has already said the guests at his reception for President and Mrs. Kennedy in Austin on Nov. 22 will not include Senator Ralph Yarborough (next to Vice President Johnson), a liberal. The latter’s political demise is a feat the Governor and Vice President Johnson would like to accomplish. Yarborough, who is up for re-election next year, took a strong stand for repeal of the poll tax. Connally’s position was nominally pro-repeal, but he threw none of his weight into the campaign. Liberals believe Yarborough has a right to accompany President Kennedy into the state and to sit at the speaker’s table at the $100-a-plate dinner in Austin after the Governor’s reception. Any deviation from what the liberals consider minimum protocol will be interpreted by these Democrats as intervention by Vice President Johnson on behalf of a candidate of his own to oppose Yarborough. The Vice President will accompany Mr. Kennedy into the state. The man now rumored as Mr. Johnson’s choice to unseat the Senator is Rep. James C. Wright Jr. In this state of internal party turmoil, “soldiers” of all factions in the Democratic party are expected to round up enough registrants by Jan. 31 to save the state’s 25 electoral votes for Mr. Kennedy. The Kennedy-Johnson ticket won Texas in 1960 by a mere 46,000 votes.

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