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TX-Senate: Dominoes Fall



Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's likely entry into the 2010 Texas governor's race could lead to a wild election season in the Lonestar State. (AP Photo/CSPAN)

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.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 17, 2008; 12:22 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

leichtman:

I'm not saying that Texans are only about God, Guns, and Gays. What I'm saying is that is where the elections fall apart for Democrats trying to win statewide. Austin liberals (myself being one of them) can vote for fiscally conservative Democrats.

The problem is that the 3Gs can be successfully used to wedge apart the coalition necessary for a Dem to win a statewide race; that coalition being blacks, Latinos, Austin liberals, and working class whites. Austin liberals and blacks will stay home, God and Gays can and have been used to peel off Latinos, while all three are used to peel off working class whites.

Posted by: b1gdon | December 18, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

BFGDON: I disagree that we are all about Guns, God and Gays. Dallas and Houston have enormous gay populations who are treated relatively well. We hunt but so does Montana which is becoming more moderate then Texas. Its a very conservative state relative to God and Abortion but our problem is that we are super conservative when it comes to economics. We are a right to work state and unions are hated here. The home builders especially Bob Perry who along with Pickens and Bo Pilgrim (on the verge of bankruptcy)swiftboated Kerry, literally run this state. They own our governor, supreme court and state senate and have single handedly bankrolled every tort reformer into elected office they can find.That will not change any time soon. The hispanic population is exploding but I was slammed at this site in March during our primary when I suggested that their turnout in elections is not so great. Hutchinson may have plans to run for POTUS in 2016 , but hopefully she will be seen as too old and voters will have not forgotten W by then. But its economic conservatism here and why our politicians will not even whisper the phrase income taxes. I am a native and discouraged to see our voting trends even after the Obama blowout not to have made a difference in Texas. Turning blue? Hopefully in my lifetime.

Posted by: leichtman | December 18, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Dems will never win because Texas elections usually come down to three things: Guns, God, and Gays. For a Dem to win a state wide general election, you have to be slightly to the right on the 3Gs to win a large enough share of the Latino vote in the valley that is a must for a general election win. That will never happen because a Dem must be sufficently left on the 3Gs to win the liberal Dems around Austin that are must for any primary win. Rember this is the place where Karl Rove got his start.

Posted by: b1gdon | December 18, 2008 6:39 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand Hutchison's reasons for running for GOVERNOR of Texas -- most of the authority resides in the LIEUTENANT governor's position. Is she planning on using the Texas Governorship for another office? If it's the Presidency that she's after, then her ambition is nothing less than lunacy.

Posted by: nbahn | December 18, 2008 2:49 AM | Report abuse

The next South Western State to turn blue is Arizona. After that it's Texas it's turn. Arizona would have gone blue in this election except for McCain. Here in the south west the tremendous influence of Hispanic voters is beginning to tell. First it was California, now New Mexico and Colorado and soon Arizona and Texas. it's inevitable. It may take Texas a while but it will happen. A Democratic senator would help the process along but just the same, it will happen. In ten years all those states will be blue.

Posted by: Opa2 | December 18, 2008 12:45 AM | Report abuse

"There is a tremendous amount of hostility towards Democrats here in Texas and the reason why Ds do not control any statewide branch of government here."

I'm not quite sure what to make of Texas. It is the LARGEST red state in terms of population, but the reddest? What about places like Utah, Idaho, or Kansas? I don't think Texas will become Virginia any time soon, but people I know there are optimistic.

Also, it does help that the Democratic areas are growing and the Republican areas are shrinking (just like the rest of the country) Austin and Houston kind of run counter to the political bent of the rest of the state. But this is a big rock and Dems need to just chip away. Pick up a congressional seat here or there, even at the state level.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 17, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Hutchinson only pretends to be a moderate and cowtows to every right winger in this state. Expect her to try and outdo Perry with extremism as Texas has become perhaps the reddist state in the union. White is wildly popular in Houston but I expect those same Republicans who have voted for him multiple times as mayor and have relcutantly acknowledged that he has been a good stewart of our city, will abandon him in a heartbeat when he puts on his partisan hat. Our City elections are traditionally non partisan which has served White well as mayor but once seen as a Democrat in a state wide election it will be much much much different. There is a tremendous amount of hostility towards Democrats here in Texas and the reason why Ds do not control any statewide branch of government here. And as long as the Obama supporters refuse to turnout in state elections, as they did yesterday in our State Senate runoff, it will continue.

Posted by: leichtman | December 17, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

"Take a look at the 1984 electoral map. Lonely MN as a blue spot in a sea of 49 red states. 8 years later? Bill C won 2 in a row.

Further, if TX elects a moderate Repub like KBH to the governorship, losing her Senate seat to the Dems may very well be the kind of swift kick in the groin the GOP needs to get its head back in the game & developing a bench full of next generation, moderate conservatives to replace the wingnuts that are now on the cusp of retirement. "

Yeah, that did just occur to me. The 1984 thing. Things do turn around. I think it will be harder today, though since the environment is a lot more polarized and a lot more people are sort of locked in. It will probably take major incompetence from Obama to turn things around that quickly.

I think Republicans will actually start adopting the Ron Paul libertarian platform. He was the only Republican that young people seemed to take a liking to.

But it will be REALLY tough for Republicans to do anything without reaching out to minorities. And McCain's campaign of painting Obama as some strange, exotic unknown was just a shade off from being racist. That's really not something that helped matters.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 17, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

ddawd writes
"But if the Democrats are able to challenge for Texas, that's pretty much the end of the Republican party, no?"

No.

Take a look at the 1984 electoral map. Lonely MN as a blue spot in a sea of 49 red states. 8 years later? Bill C won 2 in a row.

Further, if TX elects a moderate Repub like KBH to the governorship, losing her Senate seat to the Dems may very well be the kind of swift kick in the groin the GOP needs to get its head back in the game & developing a bench full of next generation, moderate conservatives to replace the wingnuts that are now on the cusp of retirement.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 17, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"President-elect Obama received 44 percent of the vote here last month--a significan improvement over the 38 percent Gore and Kerry each received.
In the near future we're going to be able to compete for this state's soon-to-be 38 electoral votes. "

Wow, 44% I didn't know that.

But if the Democrats are able to challenge for Texas, that's pretty much the end of the Republican party, no? After 2010, Texas looks to be the only McCain state that is double digits in EVs.

Posted by: DDAWD | December 17, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Texas is starting to resemble a southwestern state more than it is a southeastern or even a Plains state. The influx of Hispanic voters into the state in recent years means that Texas is likely to pick up four House seats after the 2010 redistricting. President-elect Obama received 44 percent of the vote here last month--a significan improvement over the 38 percent Gore and Kerry each received.
In the near future we're going to be able to compete for this state's soon-to-be 38 electoral votes.
If Bill White is the nominee for the Party, we're going to see just how much progress the state has made in the last few years. I think quite a bit.
At the very least, he forces the other party to spend significant dollars here. Still two years out, that's not that bad of a worst-case scenario right now.

Posted by: jdunph1 | December 17, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

CC, John Sharp was the first Democrat to enter the race, not Bill White. On Dec. 8, Sharp said he'd run for the seat whenever it was on the ballot next:

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/APStories/stories/D94UO7O00.html

Posted by: HoosierBorn | December 17, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

The backward hellhole to which you refer (see photo caption) is the Lone Star State, not Lonestar. I can't wait to see more of Bill White in the news. He's as dynamic as cold molasses.

Posted by: Dawny_Chambers | December 17, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Ron Paul might try a quixotic run?

http://www.gopcatholics.blogspot.com

Posted by: anthem20042001 | December 17, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

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