The Austin Chronicle

Guessing Gilbert

By Richard Whittaker, November 24, 2009, 12:46pm, Newsdesk

With Tom Schieffer leaving the governor's race, it's business as usual from rival gubernatorial hopeful Hank Gilbert, with his announcement that he will be rolling out his public education funding plan this afternoon. However, he's not completely ignoring Schieffer's call for him to get out of the way so Houston Mayor Bill White can take the nomination.

His campaign released this statement last night:

"Hank thanks Ambassador Schieffer for his service to our country and for running. Hank appreciates the Ambassador's continued desire to serve our state and wishes him well in future endeavours.

However, a call to leave the Governor's race and endorse another unannounced candidate fails to resonate with Hank. He got in this race because he believed no one in the filed could both win and energize Democrats in order to help elect Democrats to downballot offices at all levels. That remains the case today. Hank is fully committed to this race and will see it through to an honorable conclusion."

Sensible enough: After all, White is still running for the US Senate, and has given himself until Dec. 4 to make an announcement. Why leave a race for a candidate who isn't even running?

But there will be much parsing and dissection of the closing words of Gilbert's statement. After all, he was originally going to launch a second run for agriculture commissioner, and only got into the governor's race because he wasn't inspired by anyone else on the slate. Backing White as a credible and progressive candidate could give him that "honorable conclusion" that he's seeking.

Plus, and this could be the big factor, even some of his biggest admirers weren't convinced that he could take the mansion. Taking Schieffer in the primaries was one thing, but taking White is seen as a lost cause, especially on the fundraising side. However, there's a lot of excitement about Gilbert potentially moving back to the ag race, where he is seen as a serious challenger to moribund incumbent Todd Staples.

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