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Frances "Sissy" Farenthold, Texas Liberal Lodestar, Dies at 94

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In 1972 and again in 1974, an ardently liberal Texas state legislator named Frances Tarlton Farenthold ran for governor on a platform that included imposing a tax on corporate profits, strictly regulating utilities and liberating state government from Big Oil and a “tyranny of private interests.”

Ms. Farenthold called for lowering first-offense possession of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor and vowed that students in poor school districts would receive the same quality education available in wealthier districts.

She reviled the Texas Rangers as “a festering sore” because of that infamous state police force’s history of lawless brutality and summary executions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans along the state’s southern border. She was also an outspoken defender of abortion rights.

“I play high with politics,” she said on the hustings. “Why be a safe candidate?”

Journalist Molly Ivins, writing in the Texas Observer, described Ms. Farenthold as “a melancholy rebel” for her lack of forced cheer on the campaign trail and her general air of seriousness. Having directed a legal-services program in her native Corpus Christi, Ms. Farenthold said she came to understand cycles of poverty — “and how the indifference of state government plays such a part in that.”

Ms. Farenthold, who went by Sissy, lost two Democratic gubernatorial primaries to the more conservative Dolph Briscoe Jr., a wealthy rancher who led the state for much of the 1970s. But for decades, she remained a lodestar for Texas liberals, particularly women, and she became one of the nation’s most prominent feminists.

“She was a tremendous inspiration to women of my generation, who saw her branch out and do things that we were not sure were possible,” said Mary Beth Rogers, who had volunteered on Ms. Farenthold’s campaigns and two decades later served as chief of staff to Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D).

 

Read entire article at Washington Post

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