Texas gubernatorial election, 1982

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Texas gubernatorial election, 1982
1978 ←
November 2, 1982
→ 1986

  Governor Mark White.jpg Bill Clements.jpg
Nominee Mark White Bill Clements
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 1,697,870 1,465,937
Percentage 53.2% 45.9%

Seal of the Governor of Texas.svg
Governor of Texas before election

Bill Clements

Elected Seal of the Governor of Texas.svg
Governor of Texas

Mark White

The 1982 Texas gubernatorial election was held on November 2, 1982 to select the governor of the state of Texas. State Attorney General Mark Wells White pulled off an upset in the general election over the incumbent Governor Bill Clements, who was the first Republican since Reconstruction elected to the governorship four years earlier. Clements had faced difficulties during his re-election campaign due to poor economic numbers and weak support among minority voters, especially African Americans and Hispanics, who both strongly disapproved Clement's job performance. The election also was considered a referendum on Clements' conservative policies due to confrontations with the Democratic-controlled Texas Legislature during his first term.


Incumbent Governor Bill Clements announced his candidacy for re-election in 1982, but faced strong difficulties that year following a disastrous and controversial first term in office. The Democrats nominated one-term State Attorney General Mark White of Houston to face the outspoken and controversial Republican incumbent from Dallas for the general election. The heated contest was not a referendum on U.S. President Ronald Reagan's performance in Texas, but on Clements, whose blunt-speaking style and pro-business positions had antagonized many low-income voters. White, the underfunded underdog, began to edge up in the polls after three televised debates gave him an opportunity to put Clements on the defensive. White attacked Clements's mudslinging leak of a driving-under-the-influence charge when White was a law student, and accused, the Governor of anti-consumer appointments to the public utility commission Clements had countered with charges that White was an incompetent attorney general. Clements said, "He was a mediocre attorney general. That's why he can't raise money." [1]


Mark Wells White was elected Governor in 1982 and took office on January 18, 1983. Often described as ordinary, White did not seem destined for the Texas Governor's Mansion. He was born in East Texas and grew up in Houston. He trained as a lawyer, served in the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War and became involved in politics in the 1970s, working for then-Governor Dolph Briscoe-having been appointed as Texas Secretary of State until his resignation in 1977 in order to seek statewide office. White was later elected Texas Attorney General in 1978 during a Republican year, and was "mediocre" at best in office, a deficit brought up repeatedly by Clements during their 1982 matchup.


William Perry "Bill" Clements, Jr., was first elected Governor in 1978, but was defeated for re-election in 1982. Born in Dallas and coming of age during the Great Depression, he worked as a teenager to help support his family. He later toiled the oil fields as a roughneck, attended Southern Methodist University for a few years (later dropped out), and eventually made his fortune with Sedco, an oil drilling company; during World War II, he served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers. By the 1970s, Sedco was the largest company of its kind in the world. Clements had been serving as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense under the administrations of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford from 1973 to 1977.


White was endorsed by the Texas Teacher's Association and the Texas Federation of Teachers.

Clements was endorsed by President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George H. W. Bush, former President Gerald R. Ford, and former Texas Governors Preston Smith, Allan Shivers, and John Connally.


Primary elections for the Texas Democratic and Republican Parties were held on May 1, 1982

Democratic Primary results for Texas Governor Mark W. White=592,658 (44.94%) Buddy Temple=402,693 (30.54%) Bob Armstrong=262,189 (19.88%) David Young=25,386 (1.93%) Ray Allen Mayo=20,088 (1.52%) Donald R. Beagle=15,649 (1.19%)

Turnout: 9.27% of the state's total population

  • Because White was under 50 percent, it was supposed to be a scheduled June runoff: but Temple declined to participate in the runoff in which White was then declared the winner of the Democratic primary for Texas Governor.

Republican Primary results for Texas Governor William P. "Bill" Clements, Jr., (incumbent)=246,140 (92.58%) Lowell "Duke" Embs=19,731 (7.42%)

  • Turnout: 1.87% of the state's total population

Democratic Party[edit]

Candidates in the Democratic Party who pursued gubernatorial bids in 1982 included:

Temple declined to participate in the runoff on the May 1, 1982 Democratic primary election, and White was declared the winner of the race.

Republican Party[edit]

Candidates in the Republican Party who pursued gubernatorial bids in 1982 included:

  • Bill Clements, incumbent Governor, Dallas oil executive and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense under Presidents Nixon and Ford
  • Duke Embs, political novice from San Antonio

General election results[edit]

On November 2, 1982, White defeated Clements in the gubernatorial race. White won 70 percent of Latinos and 95 percent of African Americans, while Clements won 66 percent of Anglos.