U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) on Wednesday told WBAP’s Mark Davis she plans to officially launch her bid for Texas governor in August. She added that she will step down from the U.S. Senate sometime in October or November to battle incumbent fellow Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
Roll Call lays out Texas’ state policies regarding scheduling and finding a replacement:
If Hutchison were to resign before Sept. 29, state election law requires a special election be held on Nov. 3 of this year. If she steps down any time from Sept. 29 to April 2, a special election would then be held on May 8. …When Hutchison does step down it will be [Texas' Republican Governor Rick] Perry’s job to appoint an interim Senator until a special election can be held. Perry will certainly appoint a Republican to the job, but who that person will be is a question up for debate.
So, if KBH resigns in October or November, we’re looking at a May 8 special election. (After reading Chapter 204 of the Texas Statutes, governing a vacancy in Congress, I can’t tell what the policy is regarding a special primary. I’ll keep an eye out for that.) Whoever Gov. Perry appoints as interim Senator will have around six months of incumbency, that is unless Perry appoints a placeholder. Perry, locked in a gubernatorial primary with KBH, will want to appoint someone who is adequately conservative and who he thinks could hold the seat (rather than a placeholder). It would no doubt be an embarrassment for him to appoint someone who goes on to lose the seat on May 8. So who are Perry’s options?
Currently running on the Republican side are former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, State Senate President Pro-Tem Florence Shapiro, and two State Railroad Commissioners, Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones. According to The Hotline’s compilation, Roger Williams took in $522,422 in Q2 and has $727,597 on hand, while Elizabeth Ames Jones took in $355,862 in Q2 and has $443,211 on hand. Florence Shapiro’s and Michael Williams’ numbers weren’t available. Shapiro’s website mentions only that she has raised $679,000 so far for the entire campaign (no word on remaining cash on hand); Williams’ website mentions $432,000 raised to date (but no word on remaining cash on hand). The aforelinked Roll Call story points out that Michael Williams has just $168,000 on hand, and Florence Shapiro has just under $300,000 on hand. The dollar figures (and his status as a former statewide official) suggest that Roger Williams is the most viable candidate of this foursome.
However, it’s extremely possible (even likely) that Perry will not choose one of those four to appoint as interim Senator. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Attorney General Greg Abbott are both Republicans, both allegedly interested, and both independently wealthy such that they could finance a statewide campaign on short notice. The Hill puts the focus squarely on Dewhurst, with the possibility of Abbott elevating to Lt. Gov. To provide Republicans with the strongest chance of retaining the seat, Perry might feel compelled to tap the deep-pocketed Dewhurst, who of course already has statewide standing as Lieutenant Governor. This is due to the deep pockets of the Democratic candidates.
The big names on the Democratic side are Houston Mayor Bill White and former state Comptroller John Sharp. For fundraising, in Q2, Mayor White raised $1,859,610 and has $3,340,105 on hand. In Q2, Sharp reported $656,417 in receipts (with about $2.8 million on hand), but that number is more than a bit deceiving; in the three months of Q2, Sharp only raised a mere $45,000 from other people. Sharp reportedly loaned his campaign $610,000 in Q2 (bringing the total amount Sharp has loaned his campaign to over $2.6 million, representing the vast majority of his fundraising). In other words, Sharp’s campaign is cosmetically viable; but, if fundraising is any indication, he is not catching on nearly as strongly as Mayor White’s campaign is.
I recall three recent polls on the possible TX-Sen race: a February Public Policy Polling poll, a March University of Texas poll, and an April Research 2000 poll. They all showed White and Sharp in remarkably similar positions in relation to the Republicans tested. Even the Democrats’ favorable-unfavorable measures, when tested (in the PPP & R2K polls), were extremely similar. Also, the U. Texas poll found statistical dead heats between the Dems and Dewhurst, while PPP and R2K found Dewhurst with a lead over both Dems ranging between five and seven points.
In short, the Texas special election for U.S. Senate, once Kay Bailey Hutchison resigns, promises to be an intense, expensive, and competitive race. Stay tuned.
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