Michael Williams Could Move ... Again

Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a former railroad commissioner, is shown at a TribLive event on Jan. 27, 2011.
Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a former railroad commissioner, is shown at a TribLive event on Jan. 27, 2011.

Michael Williams might be on the move again.

The Republican congressional candidate and former Texas railroad commissioner is considering a switch from a new Tarrant County-centered congressional district to one that starts on that county's southern edge and runs all the way south of Austin into Hays County.

Williams wasn't available for comment.

Williams started the year as a candidate for the U.S. Senate and resigned from his post at the Railroad Commission — where he served for 13 years — in early April to concentrate on the federal race.

But that contest was crowded, and the crowd included Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Dallas Mayor Ted Leppert, both of whom are capable of pouring their own personal fortunes into the race. Then lawmakers drew a new congressional district — CD-33 — that was centered in Arlington, where Williams owns a house and which he considers to be his home base.

That move got complicated a few days later, when Weatherford car dealer Roger Williams, a former Texas secretary of state with no relation to Michael, jumped out of the Senate race and into the CD-33 contest.

Now Michael Williams is getting calls from CD-25 and, according to aides, could make a decision within days about whether to stay put or run in that district.

It's a considerably larger piece of real estate. Where CD-33 has all of Parker County and parts of Tarrant and Wise Counties, CD-25 includes all or part of 13 counties, with the biggest populations in Travis, Hays and Coryell counties. Williams might claim Arlington as his home base, but he's better known in Austin, where he's been working for more than a decade. And there's no declared candidate in that district.

That's not because there's no incumbent. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, lives in CD-25, but it was drawn to elect a Republican, and he's decided he'd rather switch than fight. Doggett plans to run in CD-35, which runs from Austin south to San Antonio. It's got the advantage of being a Democratic district, and a disadvantage in that Doggett will face a Democratic primary against state Rep. Joaquin Castro, the twin brother of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

But it clears the way for Williams, or anyone else. State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, has looked at it, but he's been using his Twitter account to encourage Williams to run. State Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, has been talking about it, but CD-25 includes only 17,534 people from Erath County, his home base. He'd be running without a strong geographic base and against a statewide elected official.

"He called me about a week ago and said he was being encouraged by congressional members to look at it," Miller says. "I think that translates into Roger Williams calling on some congressmen to give him a call and see if they can get him out of his way.

"I don't think it's a secret my colleagues drew it for me to run in," he says.

Miller says he is considering the race, and thinks he could beat Williams if it came to that. But he calls Williams a friend and also says he thinks everything could change. The districts themselves could be unstable; several lawsuits challenging the congressional district lines have been filed in federal court and set for hearing in September. Depending on what happens there, the lines could all change again this fall.

"Michael's a good friend of mine," Miller says. "I don't wish him any ill will."

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