With Rick Perry declining to run for reelection as Governor, we finally have the crystallizing event that will set the 2014 field. So here’s an early look at how the next year’s statewide races are shaping up in Texas:
Attorney General Greg Abbott and his $18 million warchest is going to be the overwhelming favorite almost no matter who else jumps into the race; he has all Perry’s strength’s without Perry’s disadvantages. If David Dewhurst jumps into the Governor’s race, Abbott will still be the prohibitive favorite. Tom Pauken will be hard-pressed to match Glenn Addison’s 2012 senate race total of 1.6%. On the Democrats’ side, instant abortion celebrity Wendy Davis might be the favorite, but there’s no reason to expect Abbott won’t cream her by 20 points, and as a politician since 1999, there’s no indication she can self-fund. Neither of the Castro brothers strike me as stupid enough to want to tarnish their national office chances by losing a governor’s race. Beyond that it’s random state senators and reps (reportedly Rep. Mike Villarreal and Sen. Kirk Watson are considering runs), or retreads from the 2012 senate race.
His humiliating senate race defeat proved that David Dewhurst is vulnerable to a challenge from the right, but I remain unconvinced that any of the three currently declared candidates (Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples, and State Senator Dan Patrick) are the ones to do it. Dewhurst and Perry both moved up from the Land and Agricultural Commissioner positions (respectively), but neither ran against an incumbent, much less a well-heeled, entrenched one. Patrick tested the waters for the 2012 senate race, but found the groundswell for him non-existent. Moreover, Patrick’s candidacy appeals most to social conservatives, but after the abortion dustup, they would seem among the least likely to desert Dewhurst. Presumably U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul (the only man currently in Texas politics richer than Dewhurst) could defeat Dewhurst were he to get in, but so far he hasn’t made any moves to get into the race. In this, and all lower statewide races, whoever runs for the Democrats is whatever random candidates decided to skip the governor’s race.
With Abbott running for governor, this race is wide open. With Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman’s website already touting him as a potential candidate, his entry is pretty much a foregone conclusion. State Rep. Dan Branch is also said to be considering a run. Someone on Abbott’s staff could also get in, or a state legislator with a law degree who has been blessed by Texans for Lawsuit Reform. (Maybe Ken Paxton?)
Incumbent Susan Combs has said she’s not running for reelection. Early word was she was eying the Lt. Governor’s race, but I don’t see her getting any traction there. Losing 2010 Tea Party/Ron Paulite gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina is rumored to be considering a run (and the previous link goes to a webpage for an exploratory committee for that race). State Senator Glenn Hegar is also said to be considering a run, as is state Ways and Means chairman Harvey Hilderbran. (State Senator Tommy Williams has preemptively bowed out.)
With incumbent Jerry Patterson gunning for Dewhurst’s job, George P. Bush, son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, nephew of Bush43, and grandson of Bush 41, is considered a lock for the race. Though nothing about George P. Bush’s limited public appearances suggests he’s invulnerable, it’s doubtful he’ll draw a serious challenger this far down the ballot who’s willing to take on the Bush Machine’s renowned fundraising prowess.
State Rep. Brandon Creighton is rumored to be interested in a run. Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt is passing on the race
When Smitherman runs for AG, his position will open up. State Rep. Stefani Carter will be running, along with “Dallas businessman Malachi Boyuls and geologist Becky Berger of Schulenburg.” Greg Parker, who made it into the runoff with Smitherman in 2012, is another possibility.
And don’t forget all those wildcard Texas millionaires and billionaires who might suddenly decide to run for office…