Big-Ticket Races Filling Up
If Rick Perry runs for president, who'll run for governor?
Filing for a place on the 2012 primary election ballot may not open until Nov. 12, but that does not stop a host of hopefuls – some more optimistic than others – from elbowing for space at the starting line. As expected, Republican candidates dominate the field.
In: Congressman Ron Paul. Yes, Texas has a presidential candidate, but it's not who you think. With the GOP increasingly sinking into his free-marketeering end of the pool, Paul's 2012 run is being taken more seriously than his 2008 run as a Republican or his 1988 shot for the Libertarians.
Uncertain: Gov. Rick Perry. For all his bluff and bluster about the Texas miracle and being "called" to run, Gov. Goodhair is still in the "undecided" camp. Neither he nor occasional stump buddy/reality TV star Sarah Palin made it onto the Aug. 13 straw poll in Ames, Iowa (population 58,965), which is traditionally seen as the campaign season kickoff.
In: The Republican line of succession to replace outgoing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a mob. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, former mayor of Dallas Tom Leppert, and ex-Solicitor General Ted Cruz are the big names, but further down the slate there are many low-to-no-name-recognition conservatives running on the anti-establishment ticket. The Democratic primary is less hectic, with former commander of coalition forces in Iraq Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez facing a surprise challenge from fresh-faced first-time candidate Sean Hubbard.
Potential: Former Democratic State Comptroller John Sharp. He could just de-mothball the Senate campaign he announced in 2008, from before his unsuccessful sparring with Bill White for the Dems' gubernatorial nomination. However, campaign trail rumors say he is telling donors he will not be running this time.
Out: Michael Williams. The former railroad commissioner and the state GOP's first African-American candidate elected to statewide office quit in March to run for Senate, but he has now switched to run in the newly created 33rd Congressional District.
In: No one. Perry's current term does not expire until 2015, so as long as he does his presidential dance, there is no seat to run for.
In: Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. The former state senator spent a lot of last session hanging around the House Chamber. Expect him to run on his military record, his folksy charm, and his fervent belief that everyone should carry a gun at all times.
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Seemingly bent on following Perry's path (House, Ag commish, lite guv), Staples is already planning a 2014 run for Dewhurst's seat, and he might have to accelerate those plans if the office opens up sooner. He has a reputation as an extremely vicious campaigner, so maybe bringing MLB pitcher Nolan Ryan in as chair of his exploratory committee will soften those edges.
Uncertain: Comptroller Susan Combs. The Friends of Susan Combs released a long list of supporters on July 22 but, as Quorum Report noted, with no indication of what she is running for. Rumors say she'll make a bid for either lite guv or re-election. However, with lawsuits pending over the massive dump of private data under her watch, the beleaguered Combs may need a legal fund more than campaign contributions.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is another potential candidate. The darling of the fringe right took some open potshots at Dewhurst during the regular session, especially over the failure of the Transportation Security Administration pat-down bill. Naked ambition makes him a fairly clear candidate for self-promotion, but whether for U.S. Senate, lite guv, or even (gulp) governor seems unclear.
Attorney General Greg Abbott. The rumor mill scuppered Abbott's dreams of promotion on account of Perry's seemingly permanent incumbency. That same rumor mill now has him eying Dewhurst's office rather than risking the overcrowded Senate race.
The Texas Democratic Party. Outside of the Senate race, it looks like potential Dem candidates are keeping their powder dry until they know which GOPer is running for what.
Tommy Lee Jones. Seems there is a movement among Democrats to draft Al Gore's craggy-faced former roommate into the Senate race, and the Men in Black star is already appearing on some early polls.