White for Gov
Houston mayor jumps from senate race
By Richard Whittaker,
12:31PM, Fri. Dec. 4, 2009
Shocking no one, Houston Mayor Bill White has jumped from the Senate to the Governor's race in the Democratic primary, triggering Hank Gilbert to withdraw to run for Agriculture Commissioner. For the superstitious, it's snowing down on the coast. What's that saying about hell freezing over before a Democrat won statewide office in Texas?
So what does mean? White has cleared the way for John Sharp's US Senate run, but that all depends on Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison actually standing down (all she's said is that standing down after the primary: Well, the 2010 elections are after the primary, but so are the 2012 elections, which is when her seat is actually scheduled on the ballot). Now the smart money is that White's entry in the hunt for the mansion makes him top contender for the Democratic nomination, leading to a White/Rick Perry stand-off next November, which will get ugly fast.
As for Gilbert, he was originally going to run for ag anyway, so this is just fulfilling the wishes of a lot of his own supporters (Hank is well-liked, but no one thought he could win the governor's race). Incumbent Ag Commish Todd Staples hasn't exactly seen a massive resurgence of Texas farming, so that race got interesting.
Gilbert's stepping aside doesn't mean he's become part of Team White. Instead, he's thrown his support behind hair care tycoon Farouk Shami. In his press release, he explained, "Farouk will force the transformation of Texas into a global leader in education, renewable energy, civil rights, and transportation."
Gilbert only got in the race because he didn't think any of the other contenders were really progressive enough. In his statement, he claims that "the decision to seek the office of Agriculture Commissioner is mine, and no outside factors have influenced my decision." Arguably, if this was true, he wouldn't have scheduled his press conference for exactly the same moment as White's announcement.
Here's the full White press release:
Bill White seeks to serve Texans as Governor After listening to thousands across the state, Houston Mayor announces decision
HOUSTON, TEXAS – Today, after listening to thousands of Texans from all backgrounds, Bill White filed to run for Governor, pledging to fight for Texas' future.
"I am proud of the people of Texas, and as Governor I will move us forward as America's great state of opportunity," White said. "I'll be a Governor who challenges Texans to lead, not leave, the United States."
White highlighted ways of creating new jobs with businesses small and large across the state. He emphasized that Texas could not be its best with skyrocketing insurance and electric rates and college tuition that increases faster than the incomes of Texans.
The son of San Antonio school teachers, White vowed to focus on improving educational achievement in K-12 grade levels, improving high school graduation rates, and reducing the costs of college.
White, a successful businessman, was first elected as Houston Mayor in 2003 and was twice re-elected with margins averaging 88%. He has been hailed as a strong leader and a problem-solver, with the Houston Chronicle noting that he has "deftly steered Houston through fiscal and tropical storms."
During White's administration, Houston led the nation's cities in job growth, adding more jobs than 16 states combined. At the same time, he cut property tax rates five years in a row. After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike, Bill White mobilized an effective disaster response including first responders, businesses and churches.
"I don't have the polish of career politicians. But as a businessman and Mayor I know how to be accountable for results, not just rhetoric. I have a track record of bringing people together to get things done," White said. "That's what Texas needs now."
Last December, White launched a U.S. Senate campaign that in 11 months attracted more than 1500 volunteers, more than 5500 contributors, and more than $6.5 million. He has visited 70 Texas counties to date.