Texas Politics

2014 could shuffle political deck



Election year 2014 is shaping up like it could be one of those games of Political Musical Chairs that we haven’t seen for awhile. Several holders of lesser statewide offices are pawing the dirt, restless to move up the food chain.

And, eyeing some of the offices those officials are indicating they’ll vacate, other contenders are being attracted in.

Most notable is the latest Bush — George P. – nephew of George W. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush.

George P., born to political ambition and heritage, and state and nationwide name identification, is talking about running for land commissioner, or another office to be named later.

The latest user of his famous family’s Golden Rolodex, George P. already has raised more than $1.3 million. He’s also mentioning his age – 36 ((DOB 4/24/76)) –and the ages of other officeholders, saying it’s time for some younger political blood.

Ten-year Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott, 55, mentioned for years as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor, may have shifted his sights to governor. Over the years, like a squirrel, Abbott has quietly stored away contribution dollars, and now has more than 18 million of them in his campaign account.

Ten-year Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, 66, and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, 49, both former members of the Texas Senate, want to be lieutenant governor – the Senate’s presiding officer.

Six-year Comptroller Susan Combs. 67, who previously served eight years as agriculture commissioner, is also mentioned as a possible candidate for that office.

Six-year State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, 62, has drawn some mention as a possible contender for comptroller or lieutenant governor.

Standing in the way of some of these folks are the two guys at the top, who also worked their way up the food chain: Gov. Rick Perry (Texas House, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor), and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (land commissioner).

And they’ve been standing in the way a long time.

That has kept political ambitions of officials in lower offices bottled up. Perry, 62, , has been governor longer than anyone in Texas history.

Way longer. Perry’s now been governor for 12 years – four more than the runner-up, Republican Bill Clements. And Clements eight years came in two separated terms — 1979-83, and 1987-91 — because he lost his re-election in 1982 and then made a comeback in 1986.

And, Perry hasn’t ruled out running for governor again in 2014, or another race for president in 2016.

And Dewhurst, 67, has now been lieutenant governor for 10 years, going on 12 – and maybe 16. He says he’s “101 percent firm” he’ll seek re-election next year.

But, the other officials may think they’ve bided their time long enough. And, they may consider Perry and Dewhurst damaged goods – Perry by an awful campaign for president, and Dewhurst by losing the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate to political upstart Ted Cruz.

If you noticed, all the people mentioned above are Republicans. At present, most of the talk is on the Republican side, since a Democrat hasn’t won statewide office in Texas since 1994.

(Texas has had the longest drought of Democratic statewide elected officials of any state in the country, according to PolitiFact Texas.)

The presumption by Republicans, from Gov. Perry right on to new Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, is that if you win the Republican primary, you’ll win the election.

That said, Democrats continue to hope. They see their fortunes inching back up, and are pushing (and praying) to get the rapidly growing number of Hispanics of voting age to actually vote. There is talk of popular San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, 38, making a run for governor as a Democrat.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, fresh from a tough re-election victory in one of the most hotly contested races last November, also reportedly is hinting at a possible run for governor. She is 49. ((DOB 5/16/63))

And former 12-year state Rep. Paul Sadler, D-Henderson, who was the Democratic loser to Cruz for the U.S. Senate last year, might hope to capitalize on already having established some organization and name identification. Sadler is 57.

Sadler, Davis and Castro are all attorneys, so attorney general, or any other statewide office, would be open to their candidacy.

Dewhurst, incidentally, is about to move into second place in tenure for lieutenant governors. In September, he’ll pass Ben Ramsey. Ramsey served about 10 years and 8 months. He resigned in September of 1961 to take an appointment to the Texas Railroad Commission. First place, at 18 years — 1973-91 — is held by Bill Hobby.

DAVE MCNEELEY is political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@gmail.com or (512)458-2963.

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