The 1990 Texas gubernatorial election was held on November 6, 1990 to select the Governor of the state of Texas. The race pitted state treasurer Ann Richards against Midland businessman Clayton Williams. Richards, the Democratic Party's nominee, emerged victorious over Republican candidate Williams by a narrow margin on Election Day.
Bill Clements, the incumbent governor, chose not to seek election to a third term in office (second consecutive). Fallout from Clements' role in the Southern Methodist University football scandal, which he had attempted to cover up, overshadowed his years in office and he had also faced impeachment during his term for it.
Capital punishment was a major issue in the Democratic primary. A campaign commercial depicted White "walking down a hallway displaying larger-than-life photos of the men put to death during his administration in 1983-1986. 'Only a governor can make executions happen,' White declared as ominous music played in the background. 'I did, and I will.'"
Williams spent freely from his personal fortune, running a "Good Old Boy" campaign initially appealing to conservatives. Prior to a series of legendary gaffes, he was leading Richards (the race was dubbed "Claytie vs. The Lady") in the polls and was in striking distance of becoming only the second Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. Meanwhile, Libertarian nominee Jeff Daiell was launching a TV campaign which, combined with personal appearances across Texas, boosted him to a showing of 129,128 votes. His drawing power made Richards the first Texas governor in many years elected without a majority.
In one of his widely publicized missteps, Williams refused to shake hands with Ann Richards in a public debate, an act seen as uncouth. Senator John Tower had similarly refused to shake the hand of Democratic opponent Robert Krueger in a 1978 appearance in Houston but went on to win a fourth term by a narrow margin.
Earlier, Williams made an infamous joke to reporters, likening bad weather to rape, having quipped: "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it". In addition, it has been claimed that as an undergraduate at Texas A&M, he had participated in visits to the Chicken Ranch, a well-known Texas brothel in La Grange, and the Boy's Towns of Mexico. His sense of humor was again demonstrated when he urged Hispanic Americans to support his candidacy because he met Modesta in a Mexican restaurant. As a result of his reported comments, Williams was occasionally parodied, such as in the mock political ad, "Satan Williams," which appeared on Dallas/Fort Worthpublic television during the 1990 campaign season. Richards was sworn-in as the 45th Governor of Texas on January 15, 1991.