TX-Senate: Dominoes Fall
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has yet to officially announce her Republican primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry in 2010 but the expectation that she will is already causing significant movement in the Texas political scene.
On Tuesday, Houston Mayor Bill White announced his intention to seek Hutchison's seat -- becoming the first (and strongest) Democrat into the race. "Texas needs a new voice in decisions that will be made in Washington, and my business experience and administrative expertise will ensure utilizing fiscally responsible means to get our economy moving," White said in a press release announcing his candidacy.
White was elected the mayor of Houston, the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest in the U.S., in 2003 and re-elected with 91 percent in 2005 and 86 percent in 2007.
While White is seen as the strongest potential Democratic candidate, former state Comptroller John Sharp is also mentioned and is a well-known presence given his two unsuccessful runs for lieutenant governor.
The Republican field is far more crowded with Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones, former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams and state Sen. Florence Shapiro already in the race, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as well as Reps. Kay Granger, Joe Barton and Jeb Hensarling all considering the contest.
Should Hutchison resign her seat (as she is expected to do), Perry would make a temporary appointment and then a special election would be held -- either in November 2009 or May 2010 depending on the timing of Hutchison's resignation, according to the Houston Chronicle. All of the candidates would participate in a primary election with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff.
(Hutchison won her seat in just this manner in 1993. Following Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's resignation to take a job in the Clinton Administration, Gov. Ann Richards appointed Democrat Bob Krueger to the seat. Hutchison and Krueger took 29 percent of the primary vote each but she crushed him with 67 percent in the runoff.)
It looks like a sure thing that Hutchison will run for governor in 2010. A poll conducted for her by Jan van Lohuizen earlier this month showed Hutchison leading Perry 55 percent to 31 percent in a Republican primary matchup and with a 73 percent favorable rating among the primary electorate.
Should she make the bid, Texas will have two marquee races in 2009 and 2010. Can Democrats win either one? The Senate race is clearly the better opportunity today with a crowded Republican field and momentum nationally for the Democratic party. But, Texas is one of the strong Republican redoubts in the country so no matter who Republicans nominate, Democrats will start as underdogs in the Senate race.
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