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Richards Shifts from Feisty to Gracious In Defeat

November 9, 1994

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ There were no more fighting words, no more sharp-tongued barbs, no more quirky anecdotes about life on the range. Gov. Ann Richards’ feisty campaign for re-election ended with solemnity and grace.

She didn’t call the next governor of Texas ″boy″ and she didn’t call him ″shrub.″ She called him George W. Bush, and didn’t even mention he was the son of the former president.

″He deserves godspeed and he deserves our help,″ she said, the Lone Star flag draped behind her.

But some of the 1,500 supporters gathered at her election night party weren’t as gracious.

″He never would have won if he didn’t have that name,″ college student Jessica Strickel said as she left the party.

″I’m kind of stunned,″ campaign volunteer Jeffrey Stewart said. ″I thought the people of Texas were very happy with her.″

Indeed, surveys going into the campaign showed Richards with a 60 percent approval rating.

Under her leadership, the economy had improved dramatically and crime had dropped. Her homespun charm, wit and penchant for motorcycles made her a national celebrity.

But it wasn’t enough to bring her a victory at home.

″I think it says something about Texans - they don’t know when they’ve got a good thing,″ said supporter Jean Langendorf.

What pollsters had predicted to be a neck-and-neck race split open with the first returns of the evening. By the time she took the stage to make her concession speech, the crowd was prepared.

″You know that I love you,″ she said, as if comforting a child who had fallen in the playground.

″We love you,″ they shouted, some gasping for breath between sobs.

″It is not the end of the world,″ she reassured them. ″It’s the end of a campaign.″

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