Hutchison holds key to who next Lt. Gov. will be
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Senate’s presiding officer since 2003, is hankering for the United States Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison has said she’ll relinquish late this year to concentrate on her Republican primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry.
But Dewhurst reportedly grew tired of hearing rumors that Republican Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott would file for lieutenant governor regardless, and announced for re-election.
Dewhurst apparently wants to have a fallback position if Hutchison hasn’t resigned by the Jan. 4 filing deadline.
“They don’t know what’s happening,” one close observer said of those watching closely to see what Hutchison does.
“My sense is this thing is drifting,” said another. “It (her decision) may not come until mid-January.”
If the filing deadline passes with no resignation, that would back things up for people like Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who has been taking “a serious look” at a race for attorney general if Abbott seeks another office.
“But it’s getting late,” said Branch, chairman of the House’s Committee on Higher Education. It’s hard to file if there’s not a vacancy.
“I’m not sure there’s going to be a race,” Branch said. “I’m hearing that Dewhurst is starting to concentrate on re-election. Abbott, too.”
The word from Washington is that Hutchison wants to cast votes on measures like a “cap and trade” pollution control measure, a health care plan, and budget measures – some of which may not come up until mid-January.
Another reason for delay would be to keep Perry from calling an emergency election for her successor before the March 2 primary for state offices. Doing so could create “election fatigue,” and dampen turnout in the GOP primary – which would help Perry.
If she stalls into late January, Perry would be unable to call the election before the primary, and it would probably fall on the next regular election day – May 8, when many jurisdictions have city council and school board elections.
And she may not resign at all. Her term lasts through 2012.
“Nobody in Washington thinks she’s going to resign, because it doesn’t make any sense at all,” said one onlooker “Why should she? It would just dry up her fundraising ability.”
Still, by her indecision, “She’s set herself up where she hurts herself – either way,” the observer said.
Dewhurst has more money than some countries, and can just wait and see what happens. He can run for re-election to his current post, and if she does resign early, buck for the interim appointment from Perry.
If she resigns and Perry passes over Dewhurst as the interim senator, Dewhurst could still run for re-election and also run in a special election to pick the successor to serve out Hutchison’s term.
Then, there’s the question of when Perry would call the special election to replace Hutchison if she does indeed resign. After Monday, Sept. 28, it will be too late for the 36-day wait before the next regular election date, which is Nov. 3.
Resignation after that, up through the middle of March, would mean Perry could call the special election for the next regular election day May 8.
If Hutchison resigns any time before the middle of March, Perry could declare an emergency and call the election for a date earlier than the May 8 regular election date. (State law precludes calling the election to coincide with the primary.)
Perry’s secretary of state, Hope Andrade, estimated it would cost around $18 million for a separate special election, and another $12 million or so for a runoff.
So if Perry were to set the election for a date other than May 8, the extra cost of the first election would fall on his shoulders, not hers.
Others hoping to replace Hutchison in the Senate are out moving around the state – including two Democrats: former state Comptroller John Sharp, and, to a lesser degree, outgoing Houston Mayor Bill White.
And there are several Republicans who are salivating for the potential Senate vacancy, including two-thirds of the Texas Railroad Commission – Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones.
Others include former Secretary of State Roger Williams of Weatherford, state Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano, possibly U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis and probably others.
Special Senate elections seat tend to draw candidates like flowers draw hummingbirds.