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No Strong Opponent Apparent In Race Against Incumbent Mayor

October 28, 1987

HOUSTON (AP) _ Mayor Kathy Whitmire appears to be coasting to a fourth win in the nation’s fourth-largest city, despite its depressed oil-driven economy that some say might be reason for an overhaul at City Hall.

Mrs. Whitmire faces no strong opposition from six little-known and under- funded candidates running in Tuesday’s non-partisan election.

″While the (economic) environment might be right for a challenge, there just wasn’t a candidate,″ says pollster David Hill, whose firm has done polling for Mrs. Whitmire’s campaign.

Only the mayor has money - an estimated $700,000 - and name recognition.

Her opponents include Richard ″Dick″ Dimond, Shelby B. Oringderff, Bill Anderson, Mary J. Pritchard, Glenn Edward Arnett Jr. and Don W. Geil. None has raised much in campaign contributions, according to financial disclosure records.

″It’s hard to raise money in this economy,″ Dimond says.

Anderson agrees campaign money has been difficult to find.

Both say they have been campaigning at civic and church functions and trying to get support from minority groups.

″I’m going after it full blast and trying to make a runoff,″ Anderson says. Analysts, however, doubt one will occur.

Unlike last year’s gubernatorial election, when then-Gov. Mark White lost to Republican Bill Clements partly because of Texas’ ailing oil-based economy, Mrs. Whitmire’s bid does not seem to be hurt by the same economic problems.

And unlike two years ago, this mayoral race seems destined to remain low key.

In 1985, former Mayor Louie Welch heated up a humdrum campaign against Mrs. Whitmire by inadvertently making a wisecrack over a live television microphone that one way to halt the spread of the deadly disease AIDS was to ″shoot the queers.″

The homosexual community was enraged. And Welch, who had held the city’s top job for 10 years before retiring in 1974, had to don a bulletproof vest after getting death threats.

Mrs. Whitmire, who subsequently defeated Welch by a 3-2 margin, says she always is concerned about an election, but acknowledges this campaign has been easier.

″Two years ago I had an opponent who was spending $1 1/2 million to try to defeat me and I’m glad those kinds of financial resources have not been put up against our campaign this year,″ she said. ″But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s important to work for voter turnout.″

Richard Murray, a University of Houston political analyst, expects a low turnout and sees Mrs. Whitmire taking more than 70 percent of the vote with no chance for a runoff. A candidate needs a simple majority to win.

″It would be more surprising than the Dow (Jones average) losing 500 points,″ he said. ″It could happen, but it would be shocking.″

Despite tough economic times, Murray and Hill say there appears to be no majority of people who fault the mayor, who gained fame as a tight-fisted city controller in the late 1970s.

Though not perceived as an empire builder, the mayor has been able to keep taxes down and maintain basic services, Hill said, and that seems to keep people happy.

″That’s what she’s done a good job at - the basics,″ said Hill.

″We’ve been dealing with our economic problems most of the years that I have been in office,″ Mrs. Whitmire said. ″I think at this point we are beginning to see some improvements.″

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