Monday, June 27, 2011

House Members Eyeing Open Senate Seats

As the First Called Session winds down and adjourns sine die on Wednesday, the political class will immediately turn its attention to the 2012 elections. December 12 is the deadline to file for the March 2012 primary election, and the filing period will commence November 14.

At this point, I already see a possibility of 5 open seats if the current Texas Senate map holds.

  1. SD 5 -- Although no final decision has been made, the odds are that Sen. Ogden retires and does not seek reelection. Rep. Charles Schwertner is eyeing the seat.

  2. SD 7 -- We will know soon whether Sen. Patrick's exploratory committee for the U.S. Senate has been successful. If Patrick files for the U. S. Senate, former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt will run for SD 7 and perhaps Rep. Patricia Harless.

  3. SD 10 -- This seat was drawn to elect a Republican, and Sen. Wendy Davis is highly unlikely to be reelected if she runs. Reps. Kelly Hancock is certain to run, and Rep. Vicki Truitt, Rep. Mark Shelton and Dee Kelly, Jr. are considering it.

  4. SD 11 -- Sen. Mike Jackson is taking a hard look at running for Congress in the new CD 36. If he does, expect Rep. Randy Weber to run for his Senate seat and perhaps Rep. Larry Taylor.

  5. SD 25 -- Sen. Jeff Wentworth has long been rumored to be retiring after the legislative session. If Sen. Wentworth retires or does not seek reelection, expect Rep. Lyle Larson to run.

In addition to the open seats, it appears that there could be vigorous primary challenges in two or three other seats. To paraphrase hurricane forecasters, it promises to be a busy Senate primary season!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Perry and Dewhurst Will Run

In my judgment Gov. Rick Perry will announce for President this summer. When Perry declares, he immediately vaults into the top tier of Republican candidates. Nate Silver of the New York Times rates Perry in the first tier today even before he is an announced candidate.

I view the race for the Republican nomination as having three category leaders today: The establishment frontrunner -- Romney; the establishment alternative to Romney -- Pawlenty; and the TEA Party/social conservative candidate -- Perry and Bachmann. As a southern governor with a strong economic record and message to run on, Perry should be able to power past Bachmann. As the most polished political orator on the Republican side today, Perry will outshine Pawlenty. I could easily see the race for the Republican nomination coming down to Romney and Perry.

Even though it appears that Perry will run for President, Lt. Governor Dewhurst still intends to run for the U.S. Senate in my opinion. When he declares, he will be the immediate frontrunner and may ultimately clear the field on the Republican side. No other Republican can approach Dewhurst's name identification or wealth. That is why you are seeing Republicans exit the Senate primary: Michael Williams is now running Congressional District 33 in North Texas; Roger Williams is soon to follow him into the congressional race; and Sen. Dan Patrick will not enter if Dewhurst is in the race. Tom Leppert will find it tough to race money with Dewhurst in the contest, and Ted Cruz will begin to recognize the financial and name identification mountain he faces. In fact, it would not surprise me for Ted Cruz to ultimately not make the race and instead wait and run for an open Attorney General seat in 2014.

Once Perry runs for President, I believe it highly unlikely that he will run for Governor again in 2014 if he is not elected President. This will cause the cascade of Republican dominoes we thought was going to happen in 2010. In 2014 Abbott will run unopposed for the Republican gubernatorial nomination; Combs, Staples and Patterson will square off for the Lieutenant Governor nomination; Cruz and possibly Dan Branch will compete for Attorney General in the Republican primary; and there will be wide open contests for State Comptroller, Land Commissioner and Agriculture Commissioner on the Republican side. It is going to be very expensive for Texas Republican donors over the next three and one-half years!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dan Patrick Poll

State Senator Dan Patrick just released a poll with a sample of 450 likely Republican primary voters showing him leading the Republican field for the U. S. Senate over the other announced candidates (does not include Lt. Gov. Dewhurst who has not announced):
  • Dan Patrick 19%
  • Tom Leppert 11%
  • Roger Williams 6%
  • Elizabeth Ames Jones 4%
  • Ted Cruz 2%
  • Not sure/refused 58%
The poll also shows him leading Ted Cruz in a hypothetical runoff 29% to 6% with 64% undecided.

There should be two keys for Patrick in deciding whether or not to make the race. One, does Lt. Gov. Dewhurst run? Second, can Patrick raise the money to be competitive statewide?

If Dewhurst announces, the Lieutenant Governor is the immediate frontrunner (probably why Patrick campaign did not release his poll numbers -- they certainly polled him). However, if Dewhurst decides not to run, Patrick clearly runs.

With respect to the second key, can Patrick raise the $6 to $10 million he needs to be competitive in a Republican primary with Dewhurst in the race? Probably not, because Dewhurst will grab the vast majority of Houston business money and Austin statewide money.

However, what the poll does show us is that Sen. Patrick is very formidable in a Republican primary, and that he is trying to stop Ted Cruz's recent wave of conservative endorsements.