December 17, 2008
More on Bill White's Senate announcement

Here's the full version of the Chron story. It's mostly background and reaction stuff as you'd expect, but this bit is worth mentioning:

[Sen. Kay Bailey] Hutchison, who formed a state campaign committee and put $1 million into it earlier this month, has indicated she will resign from office late next year if she ultimately decides to run for governor. Gov. Rick Perry, who already has said he intends to run for re-election, would appoint a temporary successor to her seat. Voters likely would choose her replacement in a multi-candidate special election in November 2009 or May 2010, depending on when she steps aside.

That could eliminate the bruising primary seasons that often focus on party dogma, potentially elevate the importance of fundraising and name recognition and possibly minimize the built-in GOP advantage in Texas. Republicans still carry statewide office by six to eight percentage points, strategists said.

Geography also will play a key role, sources said. Since special elections often feature a gaggle of candidates, anyone with a strong advantage in one area has a greater ability to win enough votes to make a runoff. For White, who was re-elected in 2007 with more than 86 percent of the vote, Harris County could be that base. And because a handful of candidates who have expressed interest in running are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the strength of any one of them could be diluted, political operatives said.

Other factors include President-elect Barack Obama's performance during his first year, the turbulent economy, and, in Texas, an unusually long period of political jockeying while candidates across the state position themselves for the special race.

"It's the Wild West out there, and I think that's particularly true in the next few months," said James Henson, who directs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. "A lot of the normal rules don't apply. ... It's gonna be nuts."

Vince left an interesting comment on my earlier post. According to correspondence he had with the Secretary of State's office, if Hutchison resigns her seat between January 1, 2010, and the 62nd day before the 2010 primary, then the Republicans and Democrats would get to choose a nominee in the primary, with Libertarians picking one at their convention (as they normally do) and the usual process for filing as an independent applying. There would then be a spot for this election on the November 2010 ballot. That's not much of a window - it'd be something like a week or so - but it is there, so the possibility does exist.

Assuming that strange situation doesn't happen, this would be a standard special election, with however many entrants. (You can add one more as a second Railroad Commissioner, Michael Williams, has announced his candidacy.) A lot of the "normal rules" may not apply, but the one that surely will is that this race will go to a runoff. The big question - really, the only question - to me is how does Bill White - or John Sharp, or State Sen. Letitia Van de Putte, or any other Democrat - win that runoff? Having sufficient amounts of money, strong name ID, and a good showing in the general election mean nothing, as we have just seen. You could persuade me that a June runoff following a May special election might be less unfavorable to a Democrat, but my question remains. What's the plan for the runoff? If it were me, I'd prefer to take my chances in a head-to-head matchup against KBH for Governor (with the happy possibility that either she doesn't run after all or gets beaten by Rick Perry in the primary), with a shot at the special election winner in 2012 in reserve; my 2010 gubernatorial campaign will have given me statewide name ID by then, and I'd feel confident about my chances in a primary. But that's just me, I guess.

UPDATE: Rick Casey floats a sunny scenario:

Assuming no financial disasters hit Houston, White is likely to get into a runoff, and there is an outside chance that it could be with Sharp.

That would involve the two of them splitting about 40 percent of the vote while at least four or five major Republicans split 55 percent of the vote, with 5 percent going to various candidates representing "none of the above."

Since I had recently suggested the possibility of an all-Republican runoff, I thought that deserved equal time. I think it's highly unlikely, partly because I expect some more Democrats to jump in, mostly of the Gene Kelly variety, partly because White might get 25% to Sharp's 15, and partly because one of those five Republicans splitting 55% might still get to 20, but I suppose it could happen.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 17, 2008 to Election 2010

FYI, the 62d day before the first Tuesday in March, 2010--which is the 2d--is Dec. 31 2009. So the scenario contemplated by Vince is moot.

Although I was hoping he was right.

Posted by: Pat on December 17, 2008 6:35 AM


The scenario isn't moot. It is the law. It is in the Texas Election Code. I suppose the Election Code can't help what dates those particular deadlines fall on. That it stretches back into December should be not be relevant.

Posted by: Vince Leibowitz on December 17, 2008 9:26 PM

The Texas Election Code has specific language about a resignation occurring in an odd-numbered year which is when it is likely to happen.

That DOES make what Vince said pointless.

Posted by: Dano on December 19, 2008 10:48 AM
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