December 12, 2008
White for Senate

It's not what I wanted, and it's not what I'd have chosen had he asked me, but it looks like Mayor Bill White has his eyes on a Senate race.

Ending months of speculation about his political future, White plans to announce the plans at an event next week, according to two knowledgeable sources, who would only speak on condition of anonymity.

White, a third-term mayor and former state Democratic Party chair, has been discussed for years as a possible gubernatorial candidate, in part because of his appeal as a moderate, popular leader from the state's most-populous city.

White declined to confirm his intentions this evening, saying it would be inappropriate to discuss his political future on the day the city buried a police officer. He said he plans to make an announcement next week.

He also said that it's "possible, but unlikely'' he will change his mind over the weekend.

In considering his future in recent weeks, White said a number of Texans have indicated he should ``try to shape policies that can result in secure and affordable and cleaner forms of energy, both for this community and for the country. That's been a big part of a lot of conversations.''

The mayor joins another moderate Democrat seeking the seat, former Texas Comptroller John Sharp, who announced earlier this week that he plans to get into the race.

Plus a host of Republicans, including (so far) former Secretary of State Roger Williams, current Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and State Sen. Florence Shapiro, with more sure to come. I mean, unless the election - whose timing depends on the effective date of KBH's eventual resignation - is specifically in November of 2010, it's essentially a free shot for any sitting office holder. Frankly, I think that's one of the better arguments against jumping into this kind of race - with so much competition, just making it to the runoff will be hard. The 1993 special election that eventually installed KBH featured 24 candidates, including Congressmen Joe Barton (who is mentioned as a possible candidate this time as well) and Jack Fields. It's hard to break through is all I'm saying, and John Sharp is out there already lining up support on the Democratic side for his bid.

Now, it's not that I doubt White's abilities as a campaigner or fundraiser. Quite the contrary, in fact. My fear, however, is that with two strong Democrats in the race among all those Republicans, you might wind up with neither one making the runoff. Nothing is impossible, of course, and we don't even know when - or for that matter, if - KBH's seat will come open before 2012. I'm just saying again, if it were up to me, I'd have pushed a governor's race.

Of course, the argument against that is the likelihood of facing off against KBH, who would be a very tough opponent. She's releasing a poll that shows her with a lead over everyone at this time. Of course, it's two years out, KBH hasn't withstood a sustained attack from Rick Perry or shifted any of her positions to accommodate GOP primary voters, White hasn't had a chance to introduce himself and make his case, etc etc etc. If we learned anything from this Presidential cycle, it should be that early polling means nothing. But if it was intended to scare off challengers and dampen opposition fundraising, it probably succeeded.

So after all that speculation, this seems to be where we've ended up. It's not what I was hoping for, assuming this is the final answer, but it's what we've got. We still need to know when this election will be, and we need to stay focused on a state slate for 2010. I hope there's a lot more to follow this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2008 to Election 2010

While two strong Democrats might split the vote to the point where it is possible none will make the runoff, if 3 or 4 strong Republicans eventually enter (and you can argue that 2 already have), than it is possible they split their votes even more and none of them reach the runoff.

That is extremely unlikely, but I think it's about as likely as Sharp and White fighting their way to a runoff without a Democrat. I think there are way too many strong Republicans looking to move up for the GOP to coalesce entirely around one candidate.

Posted by: Michael Hurta on December 12, 2008 10:50 PM

In my opinion, White is the stronger candidate. While Sharp may be seasoned, he's doesn't have nearly as much appeal or as many accomplishments as White.

Posted by: Sameer on December 13, 2008 9:38 AM

It might help if she resigned her seat first. It might also be wise for Democrats not to announce until she does.

One of the things her people are looking at is who the Democrats might run. The reason why? If she resigns, loses the primary to Perry, and a Democrat picks up her Senate seat, the Texas Republican Party is not going to be amused. And she is going to become political roadkill.

Where did you all take Politics 101?

Posted by: Baby Snooks on December 13, 2008 10:47 AM

I'm disappointed because I think White has been a great executive for Houston in most respects, and the state of Texas needs executive talent far more desperately than the U.S. Senate does. He could be Obama's man in Texas, and do great things. Not only that, but I don't even see another Democrat who comes close to being an adequate gubernatorial candidate.

Posted by: Dale on December 13, 2008 7:18 PM
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