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Texas Democrats Meet in Gubernatorial Debate

March 9, 1990

DALLAS (AP) _ Ann Richards again refused to say whether she’d used illegal drugs, an issue that has hurt her campaign against six other Democrats for the gubernatorial nomination.

Ms. Richards, a recovering alcoholic, said during a debate with her Democratic rivals Thursday night that the issue had never been raised in her eight years as treasurer.

But the drug question has become an acid test for the Democratic candidates. Richards’ refusal to answer apparently is behind her recent drop in the polls.

The polls show former Gov. Mark White leading Ms. Richards, who in turn leads Jim Mattox, the state attorney general. Ms. Richards came to national prominence when she delivered the keynote address during the 1988 Democratic convention.

White, Mattox and four minor candidates have said they never used illegal drugs. White and Mattox offered to take a drug test before the primary on Tuesday.

White and Mattox both took Ms. Richards to task over a new series of advertisements that question their financial dealings and integrity.

″Ann, you know better than what you’ve been saying on television, you know it’s a lie,″ White said.

″I think your advertising now is in really poor taste,″ Mattox said.

One candidate with little backing, Stanley Edward Adams Jr., criticized the others for hammering Ms. Richards on the drug question. ″Too many people right now are trying to destroy this lady. Well, we are overreacting,″ he said.

Adams said he favored decriminalizing drug use.

Extra security was arranged for Ms. Richards when she arrived back in Austin on Thursday night, after someone made two telephone death threats against her from an Austin pay phone, police said.

In another development, the Rev. W.N. Otwell, a candidate with a small following, withdrew from the GOP gubernatorial race Thursday night and endorsed Republican front-runner Clayton Williams.

The winner of the general election will succeed retiring Republican Gov. Bill Clements.

Update hourly