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Incumbents gear for November after easy Texas primary

Texas voters, in a light primary turnout May 1, largely re-endorsed the state's familiar political faces.

All congressional incumbents held their party's nominations for the November elections. As computer-delayed returns came in, it appeared June runoffs would be needed in only two of the state's 27 districts. Both will be for open seats - one vacated by Rep. James M. Collins (R) who is running for US Senate, the other in one of three new districts created by redistricting.

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Rep. Phil Gramm, a Democrat who aided the White House in last year's economic jousting on Capitol Hill, went unpunished by Texas Democrats in easily defeating John Olin Teague, son of the late Rep. Olin Teague whose seat Mr. Gramm holds. All nine Texas ''boll weevil'' Democrats, including Gramm, who supported Mr. Reagan on crucial budget and tax issues last year, won renomination.

Of the state's other major races, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) easily won renomination, as did Republican governor William Clements.

The light voting disappointed officials of both parties. ''Perhaps people are thinking the real action's in November,'' says Wayne Thorburn, executive director of the state Republican party.

In late returns, it appeared Representative Collins was headed for the Republican Senate nomination over state Sen. Walter Mengden, although a runoff could not be ruled out. Mr. Bentsen's handlers think their candidate is well situated to defeat Collins in November. Texas Republican chairman Chester Upham Jr. promises ''more vulnerability ahead for Bentsen as we go along.''

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Bob Slagel counters: ''Bentsen has already raised and spent over a million dollars and still has $1.6 million. They won't be able to spend Bentsen down the tube. No Democrat in Texas is mad at Bentsen. He has Democrats and business behind him. He won't have blacks, browns, Hispanics out there flaking off.''

In the governor race, Republican Upham sees ''no real threat'' to Clements. In an Austin interview last week, Clements told the Monitor: ''You won't find any of those Democratic candidates finding any issues of substance. They talk a lot about my personality. This is a personality race.''

Clements campaign manager Derry Stone says, ''We figure it'll be a tough race. But we're confident the governor will win.'' Stone agrees personality will be an issue, but one on the governor's side: ''His style is abrasive to the traditional politician, but not to the traditional Texan. He's a black and white guy, he's not a grayer. Texans like that.''

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The Democrats see it differently. State Attorney General Mark White faces a June runoff for the Democratic nomination for governor against railroad commissioner Arthur E. (Buddy) Temple. Both Democrats, especially White, have done well in poll match-ups against Clements.

At the moment, Texans ''are still pretty worn out from the 1980 election,'' says one Texas political observer. ''It'll heat up in the general election when we get some bipartisan fire going.''

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