HARLINGEN, Tex. — Republican gubernatorial candidate Clayton W. Williams Jr. on Saturday defended his admission that he paid no income taxes for 1986.
He described it as a lean year for many Texans, yet one in which his Democratic rival, state Treasurer Ann Richards, drew "a fat government paycheck."
Meanwhile, a poll published in today's editions of the Houston Chronicle showed Richards gaining ground on Williams as the campaign nears its end.
The poll showed Williams was favored by 44% of those surveyed, while 39% backed Richards. Thirteen percent were undecided, and 3% backed other candidates.
The Oct. 28-30 poll by the University of Houston's Center for Public Policy surveyed 767 of 1,042 likely voters who had been interviewed for a Chronicle poll in September.
The earlier poll showed Williams favored by 48% and Richards by 33%. Both surveys had a margin of error or four percentage points.
Williams, campaigning here on Saturday, said Richards did not understand the hard times many Texans suffered during 1986.
"I'm just bothered that somebody who was drawing a fat government paycheck, sitting in Austin in 1986, was hiding under that rock," he said.
Williams, a millionaire whose business interests include oil and ranching, on Friday disclosed that he paid no taxes in 1986 "when our whole economy collapsed."
"I didn't get a paycheck in 1986 because I was trying to keep my business afloat, trying to pay interest on bank loans and trying to survive," he said.
Richards renewed her call for Williams to release his income tax returns, and said: "I paid my income tax in 1986. How about you?"
Reggie Bashur, a Williams spokesman, said Williams had complied with tax laws and "I don't think the people of the state of Texas care" to see his tax returns.