Friday, September 18, 2009

Senate special election update

RG Ratcliffe at the Houston Chronic (bold emphasis throughout is mine):

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, according to several reliable sources, has been telling Republicans in the past week that her current plan is to send Gov. Rick Perry a letter next month announcing her intention to resign from office effective on either Dec. 31 or Jan. 1.

By doing that, Hutchison remains in the Senate through this fall's health care debate while also giving Republicans who want to run for other offices when the dominos fall a chance to shuffle their campaigns. The two most obvious instances are Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who likely wants to run for Hutchison's Senate seat, and Attorney General Greg Abbott who wants to run for lieutenant governor.

The filing deadline is Jan. 4, 2010.

The move also would put the ball in Perry's court for naming an interim senator and then calling a special election to fill Hutchison's term through 2012.

Now Kay Bailey said six weeks ago: "The actual leaving of the Senate will be sometime -- October, November -- that, in that time frame", so this obviously appears to be a change of plans. Kay Bailey waffling on previous statements is nothing new; it does however affect the timing of the special election significantly ...

If she resigned at the end of the year, she would force Perry to make the interim appointment before Jan. 4 if he wanted to give the position to someone such as Dewhurst who has to make a choice about running for re-election. It also might push him to allow the Senate special election to occur on the uniform election date in May so that race won't interfere with the governor's race.

Perry can declare an emergency and hold the election sooner, but state law forbids him from setting the special election on the same day as the primary.

There is a high likelihood either way that the Senate race and governor's race would overlap. The potential exists for a gubernatorial primary in March, with a runoff in April, followed by the Senate special in May with a runoff in June. Four major elections in four months.

I (and Harvey Kronberg) had previously written that the special would likely be during the holidays -- between Thanksgiving and Christmas of this year -- on the previous declaration by Kay Bailey that she would cut and run in "October, November".

What changes here is the likelihood of any Democrat running for Senate -- be they named Bill White or John Sharp -- shifting into the race for governor at the last minute. With a four-month timeline between resignation, appointment, and special election, either man is much less inclined to cede the Senate nom to the other.

The other potential clusterfuck is if Perry does NOT name Dewhurst to the vacated seat, leaving him cock-blocking Abbott, who similarly impedes Ted Cruz and Dan Gattis Branch (both of whom have already raised a million bucks each for that race), and so on. A five-month campaign puts a little pressure on the various GOP fund-raisers, with whatever eventual gaggle of Republicans -- Michael Williams, Roger Williams, Florence Shapiro, Elizabeth Ames-Jones, blahblahblah -- vying for caysh with Perry and Hutchison (who have no limits on the amount they can raise for a gubernatorial contest). I'm pretty sure Perry wanted to avoid that, not to mention sharing headlines and dates of campaign events around the state and so on.

And some of those incumbents are going to decide not to make the run, keeping their safe seats in the Texas Senate or the Railroad Commission rather than gamble on the US Senate.

But really: who knows if Kay Bailey means what she is rumored to be saying THIS time?

Anybody need more popcorn?

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