Dewhurst can take his pick
David Dewhurst is in the catbird seat for the 2012 elections. The Republican lieutenant governor, who has presided over the Texas Senate for more than eight years, might join the United States Senate, or become Texas governor, or continue in his current job for another couple of years.
Plus, the personal wealth that allowed him to self-finance his way into office in the first place (land commissioner in 1998, lieutenant governor in 2002) gives him a leg up on other candidates and would-be candidates, who have to go out and drag the sack and beg for it.
Although the fact he’ll still be lieutenant governor if neither he nor Perry win in 2012, and thus have fund-raising leverage with those with business before the Legislature, his self-financing ability also affords the luxury of not having to step out too soon. Word is he plans to declare in mid-July his intention to run for the senate seat from which Republican U.S. Sen Kay Bailey Hutchison is retiring.
Others seeking the GOP nomination, or who have talked about it, are Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz and state Sen. Dan Patrick, a radio talk-show host who owns stations in Houston and Dallas.
Dewhurst’s huge swag and name ID already have helped drive two Williamses to quit the senate race to seek a new congressional seat in the Arlington-to- Weatherford area.
Former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, an attorney, has maintained a home in Arlington. Former Secretary of State Roger Williams is an auto dealer in Weatherford and was a Texas Christian University baseball star.
Democrats considering the race seem pretty limited. Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded coalition forces in Iraq, has indicated he may run.
Former state Comptroller John Sharp had said when Hutchison talked about quitting the senate early that he’d be a candidate. But since it seems that the race will be decided at regular elections, Sharp’s jets have cooled.
In a special election, all candidates, regardless of party, are on the same ballot. If no one gets a majority, the top two, regardless of party, would be in a runoff. Sharp thinks a conservative Democrat like himself could have a decent chance in that scenario, where he could attract Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats.
But in a regular election, Sharp would have to clear a Democratic primary, and then the general election.
“With the presidential election at the top of the ballot in Texas, it would take something cataclysmic for a Democrat to have a chance,” Sharp said.
The Dew’s catbird-ness comes because Republican Gov. Rick Perry is making all the signs of running for president. If Perry wins the presidency, and Dewhurst wins the GOP senate primary and general elections, as lieutenant governor he would be in line to replace Perry as governor. Or, he could choose to go to the senate.
Most observers think under that scenario he’d choose the governorship. Though the senate may have been his initial goal when he started thinking about statewide office in the early 1990s, it would be a different story now.
In the senate, he’d be one of 100. And he’d be a 67-year-old freshman in a seniority-conscious body – which would make it unlikely he’d have much impact until he’s at least in his seventies.
As governor, he’d be one of one, and an immediate big deal. His clout would begin even before he takes the oath of office. To a large extent, he could pick and choose how he wants to spend his time. In the senate, many of his expected duties would be decided for him.
If Dewhurst becomes governor under those circumstances, his post as lieutenant governor would be filled by the 31 senators’ picking one of their number to serve as lieutenant governor until the job is filled in the 2014 election.
That would also happen if Perry doesn’t make the presidency, but Dewhurst wins the senate race. Upon Dewhurst’s swearing in to the senate, or earlier resignation as lieutenant governor to give his successor more lead time to organize for the 2013 legislative session, the senators would pick one of their own.
In the unlikely event that both Perry and Dewhurst won their elections, and Dewhurst chose the senate job, Perry’s replacement as governor would be a former senator, and so would Dewhurst’s replacement as lieutenant governor.
Some of the hopefuls will probably run for the senate anyway, even knowing Dewhurst can bury them with money. It’s a means of test-firing their organizations and building name identification for a later race – including a special senate election should Dewhurst become governor.
If Perry loses and Dewhurst wins, and there’s a special election to fill the senate seat after all, Sharp might reconsider his decision to sit this one out.
Contact McNeely at email@example.com or (512) 458-2963.