Saturday, August 29, 2009

Setting a date for a special Senate election

It's going to be a real special, and it's going to favor the guy who gets to pick when -- the governor. Harvey Kronberg's got the goods:

The Lege in recent years has chipped away at the number of uniform election dates to the point where only two now exist – in May and in November. That trend could end up playing a factor in when the special election to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat might occur.

The next two uniform election dates are Nov. 3 and May 8. To meet the earlier deadline, Hutchison would have to resign her seat and Gov. Rick Perry would have to issue an election proclamation by Sept. 28.

Several factors would argue against Hutchison resigning so soon. The first is that her “no” vote is needed by Republicans in Washington on health care and cap and trade legislation. The other consideration is more local. Republicans don’t want a Senate special election to fall on the November election date because it coincides with contested municipal elections in Houston. That would give Houston Mayor Bill White a boost, possibly enough to lift him into a runoff.

It would also seem that May is out as an option as well, if just for Perry to avoid the politics of a multi-candidate Senate election from spilling into his primary war with Hutchison.

Those factors would seem to argue for a later resignation, perhaps in October, and an emergency special election. Perry has almost carte blanche when setting an election date if he deems an emergency justifies holding the election on a non-uniform date.

Hutchison has indicated she will leave in the fall, which to me would preclude both November '09 and certainly May '10. But Harvey suggests ...

Some thinking has it that Perry would call the special election between Thanksgiving and Christmas with a runoff in early January. An early special election would play to the advantage of the best funded candidate -- presumably Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. Plus, conventional wisdom has always held that Republicans enjoy an inherent advantage in turning their voters out in special elections, even if they are not in holiday seasons.

I would have thought January for a February runoff personally, but an election during the holiday season is certainly no oddity. In SD-17's special, held on the traditional November election day last year, the runoff was on December 16. And getting this out of the way by January lets everyone focus on the March party primaries.

Some interesting scuttlebutt regarding other statewide candidates is beginning to bubble up, and our blogger's alliance has a conference call with Hank Gilbert coming Saturday morning. So a regular posting schedule around here is forthcoming.

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