Schieffer in, Van de Putte out; Watson maybe
Schieffer announced he will indeed seek the Democratic nomination for governor, kicking off a two-week statewide announcement tour June 24 with press conferences in Fort Worth, Houston and Austin. He criticized both Republican Gov. Rick Perry, and his challenger in next year’s GOP primary, U. S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The bullet Schieffer dodged came the day before. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, who’d been considering the race, said she won’t run, citing death of a nephew and her husband’s arthritis.
The new bullet was Van de Putte saying she’ll personally lobby Sen. Kirk Watson to run.
Van de Putte said the encouragement she got to run “was not as much about me as it is about Republican failures.”
She listed “the highest homeowners insurance premiums in the country. . .the highest percentage in the country of those without access to health care. . . the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation, and the highest rate of teens with a second pregnancy.” She said Republican leaders have ignored most Texans, while working “to curry favor with a handful of fringe Republican primary voters.”
In a slap at Schieffer, Van de Putte said, “Prominent Democrats must put personal ambitions aside and very pragmatically nominate the person best equipped to win in November.” Watson, Austin’s former mayor, could be formidable. He was the Democratic nominee for attorney general in 2002 -- buried like other statewide Democrats in the first election after the 9/11 terrorist massacre in New York.
Van de Putte called Watson “a leader in the Senate . . . While true to Democratic values, he is a bipartisan pragmatic leader solidly focused on addressing the priorities of all Texans.”
If Watson doesn’t run, she wants a candidate like him: “energetic, pragmatic, focused, and smart,” who can energize Democrats and attract independents.
Watson would have to relinquish his senate seat to run for governor, since it’s also up in 2010, but didn’t rule it out. He said he was “very flattered by Senator Van de Putte’s confidence in me, and I strongly agree with her about the need for improved leadership in Texas.”
He said he greatly enjoys the senate, but will study “serving in another office or running for reelection.”
Schieffer told reporters Watson earlier “told me he was not running for governor.”
Watson and Schieffer – and Van de Putte – share similar positions on several issues. More attention and money should go to education, at all levels. Expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Perry opposed, is a priority. Schieffer said that could cut local taxes, by affording treatment for now-uninsured people in places other than expensive emergency rooms.
Watson and Schieffer condemned Perry’s veto of a $25 million all-day pre-kindergarten pilot project. Schieffer said he would have liked to see it at the $600-plus million originally proposed. Watson’s weekly newsletter Monday, June 29, said his wife Liz, Sen. Van de Putte “and so many other Texans are absolutely right that the state has endured a crisis of – and, frequently, vacuum in – leadership for far, far too long.” He said hearing that sentiment echoed “by so many people, from so many backgrounds and philosophies”..over the past few days encouraging him to run was flattering, but also grounds for fear and grief about the state’s leadership.
“If absolutely nothing else, the 2010 campaign should give Texans a chance to evaluate the path that this state has taken under this leadership,” Watson said. “We’ve got to have candidates who will give voters the clearest vision of where Texas needs to go for all of those who are here and those who are coming. It’s an honor to be considered as one such potential candidate.”
Schieffer, a former six-year state representative from Fort Worth in the 1970s, was president of the Texas Rangers baseball team, the sale of which made him and former President George W. Bush rich. He was Bush’s ambassador to Australia and Japan.
Bush may be his biggest problem for die-hard Democrats. While Schieffer says he has voted in every Democratic primary since he could vote, and worked in campaigns for Democrats like former Gov. Mark White and former U.S. Rep. Pete Geren, he backed Bush when Bush unseated Gov. Ann Richards in 1994.
“It was hard,” he said.
Schieffer said Texans’ concerns heard on his statewide listening tour helped convince him to run.
Surprises? “Yes,” he said. “I think things are worse than I thought.”