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Why would you want to govern Texas rather than run for Senate?

Although the Texas Governor is weaker in his or her own state compared to most other governors in theirs, and that the Governor might be weaker than the Lieutenant Governor, the Governor of Texas is still possibly more powerful than a freshman U.S. Senator. The Governor has a power of veto that allows him or her to strongly push for legislation ideas, and the governor is still a management position. The Governor of Texas appoints people to countless amounts of important statewide offices, too.

Also, as far as Democrats are concerned, the Texas political landscape is in a lot more trouble than the national one. Oh, and it will be easier for a Democrat to win a state government race in Texas than a Senate race where the D would be died to Obama.

That's commenter Michael JJH, explaining why Houston mayor Kevin White looks likely to pursue the governor's house rather than Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat in the Senate.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 24, 2009; 2:35 PM ET
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From what I hear from friends in Texas, their governor may be weaker, but it has vast appointment power. With a part-time legislate, the governor and his appointed friends actually can do a lot more than what the governor's formal powers suggest.

Posted by: dexparte | November 24, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

From what I hear from friends in Texas, their governor may be weaker, but he has vast appointment power. With a part-time legislature, the governor and his appointed friends actually can do a lot more than what the governor's formal powers suggest.

Posted by: dexparte | November 24, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Let's also not forget that the GOP spent the better part of 2008 telling us that Governors are far more qualified to be President than Senators.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | November 24, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Oh typos. I meant "tied" and not "died." Oh well.

Thanks for posting this!

Posted by: MichaelJJH | November 24, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Bill White, Ezra.

It seems like there are two issues here: one, would White be more influential and powerful as governor or as a freshman senator; and two, would White be more likely to win the gubernatorial or senatorial election?

Regarding the first, dexparte and your other commenters are right. The Texas legislature meets every other year; that's a big chunk of the calendar when the legislators aren't even in Austin. Considering White's already in his mid-50's, he may not have the patience to wait for his seniority to build up in the Senate, but then again, he's not THAT old.

On the second, it's unclear to me why being a Democrat in the one race would be any easier than in the other. Perhaps Michael JJH could shed more light on this, but I'm not sure that this is the controlling factor in White's choice.

In another respect though, the two races look very different. Whether Rick Perry or Hutchinson wins the Republican primary for governor, White would still be challenging a Republican with more than a decade of incumbency as a statewide officeholder. Supposing he decides to take on the Republican primary winner, it's hard to feel optimistic about his chances.

Posted by: mdrecun | November 24, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse


Well, a Democrat would not win less easily in any Senate race, necessarily -- but at least in the general Senate race. Democrats running for the Senate are bound to be tied to support of the Democratic Congress and Democratic President, both of which are pretty unpopular in Texas. Now, if Kay Bailey Hutchison actually resigns and forces a special election, the calculus becomes very different.

Also, the winner of the Democratic nomination will face a bloodied Republican - whether that be Rick Perry or Kay Bailey Hutchison. If it is Rick Perry, as many believe now, it will be a very polarizing politician who won with less than 40% of the vote in 2006.

I've been talking generally about anyone's decision-making process for getting into the Governor's race, but Bill White has some more specific reasons. He is a natural executive (as Mayor); not a legislator. It also seems his supporters who have seen his success at Mayor would prefer him to run for Governor. Such is evidenced by gubernatorial endorsements he has received without even getting into the Governor's race.

White has cited energy policy as a reason for entering a Senate race, but I'd argue that the real problems the U.S. is facing in energy policy resides here in Texas. As a completely shameless plug, I write for and I address that final issue more here:

Posted by: MichaelJJH | November 24, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it's Bill White.

And here's this bit of anecdotal info: my brother and my sister-in-law are moderate independents who tend to vote pocket-book Republican, not that they've been happy with choices lately.

They live near downtown, in a stable neighborhood where they've owned for their entire 15 year marriage. They both have fairly high prestige white collar jobs.

My brother sent around an e-mail recently of a Houston Chronicle story extolling Bill White.

My brother's comment was along the lines of "he's been a great Mayor."

The electorate, IMO, is in the mood for capable managers - and White has a good shot at the job. KHB has been in D.C.long enough to have lost any real "executive" credibility. And being part of the party of no won't help much with fixing Texas real problems.

Bully for White! (I fled TX not long after Dubya was elected Gov).

Posted by: RalfW | November 24, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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