Potential 2012 U.S. Senate Candidates

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s announcement Thursday that she won't run again for the seat that she has held since 1993 was not entirely unexpected, but it still has the potential to overturn the state's political apple cart. Already, several prominent pols in both parties have announced their intention to run, and several more are considering it. State lawmakers who are up again in 2012 have a decision to make: They can’t run for reelection and run for Hutchison’s seat at the same time. By contrast, most current statewide officeholders aren’t on the ballot again until 2014, so a run for the U.S. Senate this time would be a free shot. The GOP is favored to retain Hutchison's seat — no Democrat since John Sharp ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002 has won more than 46 percent in a statewide race — so the Republican primary is likely to be the real battle. To separate the would-bes from the could-bes, we’ve created a guide to certain, likely and plausible candidates — as well a few who are plausible only to us here at the Trib.

  • CONTENDER
  • PARTY
  • LIKELIHOOD
  • THEY SAY
  • OUR TAKE
  • Greg Abbott
  • Republican
  • Low
  • On YNN's "Capitol Tonight" show, he said, "My focus is not on the next election." When asked if he was ruling out a run for Hutchison's seat, he said, "The only thing I'm ruling in is the work I'm doing for the state of Texas."
    On YNN's "Capitol Tonight" show, he said, "My focus is not on the next election." When asked if he was ruling out a run for Hutchison's seat, he said, "The only thing I'm ruling in is the work I'm doing for the state of Texas."
  • Abbott has his eye on the Governor's Mansion if and when Rick Perry moves on; the U.S. Senate is down the list. (MORE)
    Abbott has his eye on the Governor's Mansion if and when Rick Perry moves on; the U.S. Senate is down the list. There's an outside chance he'd run for lieutenant governor if David Dewhurst moves out, but the middle office has his attention. This is important: He had a $12 million war chest as of the end of October 2010. He's viewed as a strong conservative and an ambitious Republican up-and-comer in Texas.
  • Chris Bell
  • Democrat
  • Medium
  • "I guess you always think about it." (MORE)
    "I guess you always think about it. At this juncture, I really don’t know how seriously I'll think about it. I’m buried in my law practice and enjoying it and really wasn't expecting her to give up the seat."
  • He lost a four-way race for governor in 2006 and a state Senate race in 2008. (MORE)
    He lost a four-way race for governor in 2006 and a state Senate race in 2008. But the former Houston congressman has deep interest in public policy and still spends plenty of time in Washington as a lawyer and lobbyist with Patton Boggs. His odds aren't great, though. He, like Bill White, suffered a double-digit loss statewide but, unlike White, was a consistent fundraising underperformer.
  • George Prescott Bush
  • Republican
  • Low
  • "All I am prepared to say is that I am currently on military orders in my capacity as a Naval Reservist," he told the Tribune in an e-mail. "Because of my responsibilities with the military I cannot comment at this time."
    "All I am prepared to say is that I am currently on military orders in my capacity as a Naval Reservist," he told the Tribune in an e-mail. "Because of my responsibilities with the military I cannot comment at this time."
  • George H.W. Bush's grandson — one of his "little brown ones" — is all grown up. (MORE)
    George H.W. Bush's grandson — one of his "little brown ones" — is all grown up. An attorney, he co-founded the new Hispanic Republicans of Texas PAC, created a literacy initiative in Central Texas and is a U.S. Naval Reserve officer who has done a tour of duty in Iraq. He may not run in 2012, but he certainly is amassing the credentials to seek office one day.
  • Julian Castro
  • Democrat
  • Low
  • “I am only focused on running for re-election as mayor of my hometown. (MORE)
    “I am only focused on running for re-election as mayor of my hometown. There is a lot of work left to do for my vision of the city of San Antonio.”
  • The well-liked mayor is enjoying a growing national profile — The New York Times Magazine promoted Castro in 2009 as a potential statewide candidate in Texas, due in large part to his ethnic background and Ivy League education. (MORE)
    The well-liked mayor is enjoying a growing national profile — The New York Times Magazine promoted Castro in 2009 as a potential statewide candidate in Texas, due in large part to his ethnic background and Ivy League education. He has plans, to be sure, but will he decide 2012 is the right time?
  • Ted Cruz
  • Republican
  • High
  • Cruz declined comment through his political consultant, John Drogin.
    Cruz declined comment through his political consultant, John Drogin.
  • A Republican source says the former solicitor general, who hoped to run for attorney general in 2010, is "strongly considering" a run. (MORE)
    A Republican source says the former solicitor general, who hoped to run for attorney general in 2010, is "strongly considering" a run. And he was talking to potential supporters about the idea before Hutchison announced her intentions.
  • David Dewhurst
  • Republican
  • High
  • "... I fully intend to explore running for the United States Senate ..." (MORE)
    "While my focus remains on the challenges we face here at the state level and making this upcoming session successful, I fully intend to explore running for the United States Senate, and should I run, I will run with the intention of winning and continuing to serve the people of Texas just as I have done throughout my career."
  • He's considered one of the top contenders for the job — if not the top. (MORE)
    He's considered one of the top contenders for the job — if not the top. The lieutenant governor has retained Washington consultants, according to Politico, and has $4 million in his statewide campaign account. Even if he can't legally use it all of it for a Senate race, money won't be a problem, as his large personal wealth can easily be tapped. Another advantage? If he wanted to keep his current job and run for the U.S. Senate at the same time, he could: His current term doesn't run out until 2014.
  • Chet Edwards
  • Democrat
  • Low
  • After his loss in the November general election, Edwards told the Tribune that while he wouldn't rule out another try at politics, “I think my wife and sons would strangle me if I even talked about another race at this point.”
    After his loss in the November general election, Edwards told the Tribune that while he wouldn't rule out another try at politics, “I think my wife and sons would strangle me if I even talked about another race at this point.”
  • After serving more than a decade as a congressman from Waco, he was unable to swim against the GOP tidal wave of 2010. (MORE)
    After serving more than a decade as a congressman from Waco, he was unable to swim against the GOP tidal wave of 2010. It leaves Edwards with some free time on his hands, and so far, he hasn't joined the lobby, an affiliation that would be politically unsavory for him. Despite losing a re-election bid, Edwards maintains good ties on the Hill and knows well the ways of Washington.
  • Kinky Friedman
  • Independent
  • Low
  • "I think I’ll continue my vacation from politics for a while longer. No ... for now."
    "I think I’ll continue my vacation from politics for a while longer. No ... for now."
  • The perennial political candidate's 2006 bumper sticker read: "Kinky: Why the hell not?" We're sticking with that.
    The perennial political candidate's 2006 bumper sticker read: "Kinky: Why the hell not?" We're sticking with that.
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison
  • Republican
  • Low
  • "When my current term is up, I will have served Texas for 19 years in the United States Senate." (MORE)
    "When my current term is up, I will have served Texas for 19 years in the United States Senate. I intended to leave this office long before now, but I was persuaded to continue in order to avoid disadvantage to our state."
  • Should we believe her this time? The veteran senator has said she would resign before, promising numerous times during her 2010 run for governor that she would step down. (MORE)
    Should we believe her this time? The veteran senator has said she would resign before, promising numerous times during her 2010 run for governor that she would step down. She promised not to seek a third term and then ran in 2006. But since she isn't seeking any other office and has long told her friends and colleagues that she wants to return home to Texas, we're inclined to trust her.
  • Craig James
  • Republican
  • Medium
  • "I'm not going to give you a yes or no." (MORE)
    "I'm not going to give you a yes or no. I'm 100 percent committed to being involved in public policy and public service. I'm going to look and analyze opportunities as they come up. It's an opportunity, and I'm gonna talk with my folks and evaluate it."
  • The ESPN analyst and former Southern Methodist University star running back has high name recognition and solid conservative credentials. (MORE)
    The ESPN analyst and former Southern Methodist University star running back has high name recognition and solid conservative credentials. A native Texan, he says he has a network of friends and associates who are encouraging him to run. But all that unpleasantness at Texas Tech — he stood up for his injured son and helped bring down head coach Mike Leach — won't help him win voters in the Panhandle.
  • Elizabeth Ames Jones
  • Republican
  • High
  • "I look forward to an aggressive, spirited campaign on the issues." (MORE)
    "I look forward to an aggressive, spirited campaign on the issues. I will bring fresh leadership to the Senate and lead the fight to create good new jobs, stop runaway spending and stand up for our Texas values in Washington."
  • While she hasn't wavered in her desire for the Senate seat, her fundraising and polling were dismal the last time she was in the hunt. (MORE)
    While she hasn't wavered in her desire for the Senate seat, her fundraising and polling were dismal the last time she was in the hunt. The former San Antonio state lawmaker also lacks name recognition, and she isn't the only Texas railroad commissioner who wants the job.
  • Tom Leppert
  • Republican
  • Medium
  • "I want to join with so many Texans in thanking Kay for her outstanding service to our state and our nation." (MORE)
    "I want to join with so many Texans in thanking Kay for her outstanding service to our state and our nation. Clearly she has been a strong advocate and has fought tenaciously for the interests of Texas. In addition, she has been a good friend and champion of Dallas.”
  • The Dallas mayor has already announced he's not running for another term. (MORE)
    The Dallas mayor has already announced he's not running for another term. He would hope to count on wealthy North Texas donors who have been helpful to Hutchison in the past, and his strong ties to the business community across the state could also be a plus. But like some others on this list, Leppert lacks a high statewide profile.
  • Rick Perry
  • Republican
  • Low
  • "He just won re-election [for governor] and is focused on that," said spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger.
    "He just won re-election [for governor] and is focused on that," said spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger.
  • While Hutchison certainly expressed interest in his seat, he has never done the same for hers.
    While Hutchison certainly expressed interest in his seat, he has never done the same for hers.
  • Farouk Shami
  • Democrat?
  • Low
  • "I don't think so." (MORE)
    "I don't think so. I think I'm a better businessman than a politician."
  • We can only hope — if only so that rapper J. Xavier can record his long-awaited follow-up to his single "Farouk is on Fire."
    We can only hope — if only so that rapper J. Xavier can record his long-awaited follow-up to his single "Farouk is on Fire."
  • Florence Shapiro
  • Republican
  • Medium
  • "I am committed to serving in the Texas State Senate now and in the future." (MORE)
    "I am committed to serving in the Texas State Senate now and in the future. My full focus is on serving the families of my State Senate District and Texas to ensure that no new taxes are imposed, our conservative values are protected, and responsible legislation is enacted."
  • The former Plano mayor and longtime state senator has plenty of clout in Austin and public policy chops, and she started a committee back in 2008 to seek this U.S. Senate seat. (MORE)
    The former Plano mayor and longtime state senator has plenty of clout in Austin and public policy chops, and she started a committee back in 2008 to seek this U.S. Senate seat. But she folded it when it was clear Hutchison would stay put. Now it's an open question whether Shapiro will give the job another shot.
  • John Sharp
  • Democrat
  • High
  • His last post on his "John Sharp for U.S. Senate" Facebook page is from all the way back in March. (MORE)
    His last post on his "John Sharp for U.S. Senate" Facebook page is from all the way back in March. It thanks supporters for attending an event the night before, saying, "You confirmed to me that I am ready to win this Senate seat tomorrow, or in 2012."
  • The former comptroller and two-time candidate for lieutenant governor is considered a moderate Democrat, after helping his friend Perry in striking a margins tax and school finance deal in 2006. (MORE)
    The former comptroller and two-time candidate for lieutenant governor is considered a moderate Democrat, after helping his friend Perry in striking a margins tax and school finance deal in 2006. Liberal Democrats aren't crazy about him, and he'd have to convince donors that a Democrat has a chance and that his last two losses shouldn't count heavily against him.
  • Leticia Van de Putte
  • Democrat
  • Low
  • "I have absolutely no interest in seeking the Congressional seat Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will be vacating." (MORE)
    "I have absolutely no interest in seeking the Congressional seat Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will be vacating. The task before the state of Texas that we face this session is simply too important and too urgent to expend any unnecessary energy contemplating political ambitions."
  • The pharmacist and longtime San Antonio state senator has been a go-to player for state Democrats in the Legislature, and as a Latina, she has enjoyed a growing national profile. (MORE)
    The pharmacist and longtime San Antonio state senator has been a go-to player for state Democrats in the Legislature, and as a Latina, she has enjoyed a growing national profile. Her name was thrown into the mix as a potential gubernatorial candidate for 2010 before she publicly bowed out, but Democrats looking for someone of her demographic background could urge her to run this time around.
  • Bill White
  • Democrat
  • Low
  • "Sen. Hutchison has worked hard for Texas for many years." (MORE)
    "Sen. Hutchison has worked hard for Texas for many years. I wish her and her family well. I look forward to going back into business this year, and will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2012."
  • The 2010 Democratic nominee for governor originally went after this job before switching to the governor's race. (MORE)
    The 2010 Democratic nominee for governor originally went after this job before switching to the governor's race. A run and win could help erase his humiliating showing against Perry. A public policy wonk and impressive fundraiser, White should have stayed in the Senate race because he'd do better in Washington than in Austin, some argued. But he may have had his fill of statewide electoral politics.
  • Michael Williams
  • Republican
  • High
  • "He's definitely running." (MORE)
    "He's definitely running. He'll have more to say later," said spokesman Corbin Casteel.
  • Williams has received national attention for his speaking style and charisma. (MORE)
    Williams has received national attention for his speaking style and charisma. He began his run for this seat back in 2009, when Hutchison was expected to resign last time. Skilled in social media, he has a network of loyal followers but might have trouble raising enough money to contend. His run will test 2002 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ron Kirk's conclusion that Texas isn't ready to elect a black candidate to that high office.
  • Roger Williams
  • Republican
  • High
  • "We announced in January 2009, and regardless of who was in or not, we've never stopped campaigning since then."
    "We announced in January 2009, and regardless of who was in or not, we've never stopped campaigning since then."
  • The car dealer, collegiate baseball player and former secretary of state announced his campaign in January of 2009 and has been fundraising ever since. (MORE)
    The car dealer, collegiate baseball player and former secretary of state announced his campaign in January of 2009 and has been fundraising ever since. Before his run, Williams was the Texas GOP's fundraising ace, but beside the gubernatorially appointed statewide office he held, his legislative and policy chops are thin.

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