To summarize: The state's senior senator won't seek reelection and might quit early, and hasn't decided whether to run for governor or to get out and earn some money in the private sector.
Now is that the sort of thing you'd say if you wanted people to put money in your campaign accounts or cut deals with you in Congress?
Here's one great thing about being an incumbent U.S. senator flirting with a race for Texas governor. People can give you money because you're a senator, and they can do it without any risk they'll be seen as contributing to a gubernatorial candidate. And federal campaign accounts can be converted directly into state campaign accounts, at least in Texas, by simply writing a check from the federal account to the state one.
That's one reason — the other is her consistently high poll numbers — that U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has been taken seriously as a potential state candidate. She has a big campaign account. Her most recent (available) report at the Federal Election Commission showed her cash on hand totaled $7.7 million. And she can raise money from people who want her to be governor and from people who think it's a good idea to contribute to a sitting U.S. senator.
But with a series of comments over the last week, Hutchison has made herself a lame duck and maybe plugged the money line, too.
She said — first in an interview with Texas Monthly and later in conversations with Washington reporters — that she won't seek reelection in 2012, that she'll probably leave office early, and that she's thinking about (but isn't committed to) a campaign for governor of Texas in 2010.
Couple of caveats: Hutchison said in her first Senate run that she wouldn't seek the third term in office she's now serving. She has looked at gubernatorial runs twice before — seriously enough to get supporters talking among themselves and with reporters and others. You know the joke about breakfast, and the chicken and the pig? If you're having eggs and bacon, the chicken was involved, but the pig's committed. At this point, Hutchison's only involved (the same can be said about the other Republican flirt, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst).
She announced, in essence, that she'll soon be ending her Senate career and that she's thinking about a run for governor in 2010. Is that enough to check potential gubernatorial opponents like Dewhurst or Chris Bell or John Sharp or Roger Williams or Rick Perry or Your Name Here?
It is enough to unmask donors from here on out: They're no longer giving money to a senator who might run again; their contributions will be seen by other potential candidates as part of the next governor's race. [Counterpoint, from a Democratic consultant: Republicans could flock to her, and this might prove to be a successful bid to shoulder them out of the race before they get in.]
It does get the speculative juices flowing.
When will she leave, and who would run for that seat if there's a special election? And who would Perry appoint to fill the seat between Hutchison's departure and that special election? That's not necessarily preemptory: The last time this happened, Democrat Lloyd Bentsen left office, Gov. Ann Richards appointed Bob Krueger to the Senate, and Hutchison beat him in a special election and then beat Richard Fisher in the general election that followed a few months later. (Getting appointed to the U.S. Senate from Texas is more curse than blessing: No Texas appointee has gone on to win a full term).
Toss this one in [from a Republican lobbyist], just to keep your heavily medicated Austin insider conversation going: If Bush is followed in the White House by Rudy Giuliani and Perry gets a federal gig of whatever kind out of his endorsement of the former NYC mayor, he'd leave Austin near the beginning of the next legislative session. Go ahead — act like a pulp novelist: That'd put Dewhurst in the Mansion, at least temporarily, put one of the 31 senators in the Lite Guv's chair, and depending on the timing, might even put Dewhurst in a position to appoint an interim senator to Hutchison's spot.
That was fun. Now exhale.
Hutchison's talk inspired some conversation, but did she say anything that would merit a change of plans for potential givers? Candidates?
The news is that Hutchison is saying publicly now what she has been saying privately for a few months: That she's tiring of Washington and that she'd like to run for governor if the table settings are right, and that she might quit early, both to get out of Washington and to convince people that she's serious now about what she considered in 2002 and 2006.
But she's not yet committed.
Rick & Rudy
It's official: Gov. Rick Perry endorsed former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
That's an important endorsement for a Yankee who'll be looking for Southern votes next year, and a sign — to some watchers — that Perry is angling for national attention and maybe a spot on a presidential ticket.
"For the last six months, I have cogitated, I've looked, I've studied these candidates — some of them I know very well — and came to the conclusion that the individual who can lead America with clarity, the individual who has the experience, the individual who cleaned up a city that was absolutely on its back is mayor Rudy Giuliani," Perry said.
Flashback to January 2006, with Perry embroiled in a four-way race for reelection against Democrat Chris Bell, Republican-turned-independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn, and independent Kinky Friedman. That month, Perry won an endorsement from Giuliani; and in 2005-2006, the political action committee of the Bracewell & Giuliani law firm gave $20,000 to Perry's campaign. This isn't a new relationship.
Perry said, in a conference call with reporters, that he "won't consider" going on the ballot as a vice presidential candidate. Asked if he'd turn down the veep spot if offered it, he added: "I just had to move out of the Mansion [for renovations] and I'm not looking for another move." But Giuliani, in that same call, kept the idea afloat: "I would say that Gov. Perry is at the top of everyone's list — mine and everyone else's."
Perry's leap prompted a towel snap from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who, with Attorney General Greg Abbott, is co-chairing the Texas campaign for presidential candidate Fred Thompson.
"I'm confused," Patterson said. "One of the most, if not the most conservative governor in Texas history, endorses a pro-choice, rabidly anti-2nd Amendment former New York mayor who as mayor, endorsed the Democrat candidate Mario Cuomo over the Republican candidate George Pataki for New York governor. What happened to conservative principles as a measure when choosing who to endorse for any office?"
A talking points memo sent to Perry friendlies addresses differences between the candidate and the governor on four big issues: abortion, gay marriage and gays in general, gun control, and immigration. Perry's answers, in order: "Good people can disagree on this issue"; "...we, too, are called to love everyone even if we may disagree on issues like this one"; "Mayor Giuliani makes a distinction between what may work in New York City versus the rest of America"; and "Mayor Giuliani understands that you cannot have homeland security without border security."
The two politicians headed off to Iowa to campaign for Giuliani. Perry will be one of Giuliani's national co-chairs; his Texas chair is Comptroller Susan Combs.
• Add Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams to the Giuliani bandwagon. He'll be state vice chairman of that campaign. Like Perry, he ignores Giuliani's position on abortion by citing the candidate's declaration that if elected, he'd appoint Supreme Court justices "in the mold of Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas."
Your land commissioner, who's backing one candidate for president, took off on your governor, who's backing another one.
Jerry Patterson went on a roll, and wrote it down. Some of the highlights from a press release from Patterson — who's backing Fred Thompson — on the subject of Gov. Rick Perry's endorsement of former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani:
• "Texans supporting the Mayor of New York City? Get a rope."
• "With all due respect, Governor Perry's endorsement is all hat and no cattle. He has no base to offer a national campaign. He only got 39% in his last election. Heck, even I got 600,000 more votes than he did in 2006."
• "I'm confused. Why would the most conservative governor in Texas history endorse a pro choice, rabidly anti Second Amendment, former New York City mayor who supported Democrat Mario Cuomo over Republican George Pataki for governor of New York?"
• "Perry is the same governor who upstaged Arnold in California with a message that Republicans need to return to their conservative roots if they expect to win elections. I guess the red meat he was serving in California was 'rare' as opposed to 'well done'."
• "What happened to Republicans using conservative principles as the first measure of who to support for elected office?"
Puente Won't Run
Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, is telling supporters there he won't seek reelection next year.
He's been busy raising money for a reelection bid this year, but with the prospect of a hard reelection race in front of him — and with a minor flap over his business dealings with a friendly lobbyist just behind him — he's apparently decided to leave the Texas Legislature.
Puente, an attorney first elected to the House in 1990, is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and was an early supporter of Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick. He's the dean of San Antonio's House delegation, and one of the Legislature's top people on water issues.
San Antonio limits the terms of city council members, and one — Roland Gutierrez — has been considering a race with Puente for several weeks. His council district covers the majority of HD-119, he says.
He says he's interested in the race, that he's talked to Puente in the last 24 hours, and that he'll have a formal announcement after he talks to his family and others, probably in a week or so. He added that he's "heavily inclined to run."
We're told he's not likely to be a Craddick supporter.
Earlier this year, Puente was the subject of a series of stories in the San Antonio Express-News about his business dealings with lobbyist Marc Rodriguez, whose clients also had business before Puente's committee. According to the paper, they were in a land deal together, and Puente sold a Southside San Antonio house to Rodriguez for a substantial profit, just a few months after he himself purchased it.
Puente is the seventh incumbent to say he won't be back when the next Legislature convenes in January 2009. The list also includes these representatives:
• Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, HD-55, won't seek reelection.
• Fred Hill, R-Richardson, HD-112, won't seek reelection.
• Anna Mowery, R-Fort Worth, HD-97, resigned.
• Rick Noriega, D-Houston, HD-145, running for U.S. Senate.
• Mike O'Day, R-Pearland, HD-29, won't seek reelection.
• Robert Talton, HD-144, R-Pasadena, running for U.S. House.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn raised more money during the last three months than his two Democratic opponents combined, but one of them still has more money in the bank.
According to the reports they've filed with the Federal Election Commission, Cornyn raised $1.7 million during July, August, and September, bringing his total cash on hand to $6.6 million.
San Antonio attorney Mikal Watts, one of two Democrats challenging the Republican incumbent, raised $570,374 during the quarter. Combined with earlier contributions of $1.1 million and his own checks for the balance, that brought his cash on hand total to $8.3 million at the end of last month.
Rick Noriega, a Houston Democrat giving up a Texas House seat to make this race, brought in $580,722 during the quarter — an amount that includes a $50,000 loan from the candidate himself. He ended the period with $510,314 in the bank.
Squint back at those numbers: We're already looking at a possible $16 million race and the elections aren't until next year.
The presidential candidates have raised a little more than five percent of their money in Texas, with a national take so far of $416.2 million and a Texas haul of $21.1 million.
How they rank nationally, according to the Federal Election Commission: Hillary Clinton, $89 million; Barrack Obama, $79.4 million; Mitt Romney, $61.6 million; Rudy Giuliani, $46.7 million; John McCain, $31.4 million; John Edwards, $30.1 million; Bill Richardson, $18.5 million; Christopher Dodd, $13.6 million; Fred Thompson, $12.7 million; Ron Paul, $8.2 million; etc.
How they rank here (same source): Giuliani, $4.8 million; Clinton, $3.1 million; Edwards, $2.5 million; Romney, $2.3 million; McCain, $2.2 million; Obama, $2.2 million; Richardson, $1.3 million; Thompson, $1.2 million; Paul, $731,649; etc.
In Texas, Republican candidates have raised $11.8 million to the Democrats' $9.3 million. Nationally, the Democrats are ahead, with $241.1 million to the Republicans' $175.1 million.
• Game on: Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, announced his reelection bid. He's seeking a second term in HD-54.
• Daniel Boone, a Democrat who claims his famous namesake as an ancestor, will run in HD-73. Rep. Nathan Macias, R-Bulverde, also has a challenger in the Republican primary: Former New Braunfels Mayor Doug Miller. Boone got 5.6 percent of the vote as a write-in last November; with a Democrat in that race, Macias got 75.2 percent and Libertarian Charles Ellis got 19.2 percent.
Letting the CHIPs Fall
Congress, as expected, upheld President George W. Bush's veto of legislation that would have expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program; there were more yups than nopes, but not the two-thirds needed to overturn his veto.
That sends the legislation back to the negotiating rooms of Congress, where they'll try to come with a version more legislators like. The Texas delegation voted on straight party lines, with Democrats voting for the bill (excepting the one who didn't vote at all), and Republicans voting, with Bush, against it:
For the S-CHIP bill: Henry Cuellar, Lloyd Doggett, Chet Edwards, Charlie Gonzalez, Al Green, Gene Green, Ruben Hinojosa, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Nick Lampson, Solomon Ortiz Sr., Silvestre Reyes, and Ciro Rodriguez.
Against the S-CHIP bill: Joe Barton, Kevin Brady, Michael Burgess, John Carter, Michael Conaway, John Culberson, Louis Gohmert, Kay Granger, Ralph Hall, Jeb Hensarling, Sam Johnson, Kenny Marchant, Mike McCaul, Randy Neugebauer, Ron Paul, Ted Poe, Pete Sessions, Lamar Smith, and Mac Thornberry.
Didn't Vote: Eddie Bernice Johnson.
The comptroller dropped a crumb of news for budgeteers, saying she won't have a handle on the revenue from the new business margins tax until mid- to late-summer next year.
That means we won't know until then whether the tax will cover all or part of the school property tax reductions it's supposed to cover.
The assumption had been that Comptroller Susan Combs would have numbers in May, when the tax is due. That's the way it works with the current franchise tax. It's due on May 15, and within a matter of about three days, enough of the returns have been opened for the comptroller to tell how much money that tax will bring in.
She's got two obstacles to that. First, they haven't collected this tax before and don't know the collection pattern (if you've got this much money in the first three days, how much will you get in total?). And second, companies that have to pay it are expected to file for extensions, which allows them to pay 90 percent of what they think they owe or 100 percent of what they paid on the old tax last year.
Combs, speaking to a lunch crowd at the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association conference this week, said she won't have good numbers until, maybe, August. "I would rather not rush and give you half-baked information," she said.
The late date could make the tax a subject (if it's not already) of the 2008 elections. She's talking about dropping a number within 90 days of those elections. If it's really good, or really bad, it'll give the pols something to talk about.
Political People and Their Moves
Robert Scott loses his interim title. Gov. Rick Perry named his former aide the state's new commissioner of education, a role Scott has filled for the last few months since Shirley Neeley resigned the position. Scott was deputy commissioner at the Texas Education Agency for four years and worked as Perry's policy aide on that subject before that. Neeley quit in June. Several candidates for her job have been mentioned, but Scott's name has been in the hopper since before she left.
Perry appointed Dallas attorney David Schenck to the Texas Lottery Commission, giving that agency a full complement of commissioners for the first time since 2005.
Zach Vaughn, who left the Pink Building this summer after staff work there, signed on as the campaign manager for Jonathan Sibley, a Republican who's challenging Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson of Waco.
Lisa Mayes is the new director of government affairs for Dallas-based Lennox International after six years in the lobby shop at the recently renamed law firm of Tuggey Rosenthal Pauerstein Sandoloski Agather.
Robyn Hadley, a former capitol staffer who runs the Capitol Crowd, a networking website for government folk, is joining WaterPR, a public affairs firm that works on water issues. She plans to keep the web thing going, too.
Still alive! Former U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Beaumont, mistakenly counted among the dead in this space last week. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Quotes of the Week
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, asked by Texas Monthly about running for governor: "Well, I have been talking to people quietly about what I hope I can do, what I'd like to be able to do. I haven't made a commitment in any way because it's just too early — it's too early to be gearing up. I don't want to peak in 2007 for a 2010 race. Would I like to do it? Yes. A lot of things have to happen to make it a reality. You can't plan that far ahead with certainty."
Transportation Commissioner Ric Williamson on the state's highway troubles: "The problem is easily quantifiable and the dollar figures are staggering... the problem is so tremendous that we're not prepared [politically] to talk about it."
Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, on the need to simplify transportation policy issues to make them understandable to a public that's not tuned in: "They don't know what manifest destiny is, and they think Marco Polo is just another illegal immigrant."
Republican pollster Mike Baselice, talking about which Democratic presidential candidate would be better for down-ballot Republicans: "It really doesn't matter at the end of the day... whether it's Hillary [Clinton] rather than [John] Edwards."
Former Comptroller John Sharp, talking to the Austin American-Statesman about a difference of opinion between him and Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs: "If you get mad at a politician every time they tell you one thing and do something else, you would die of a heart attack in short order."
Terry Grisham, executive administrator at the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department, telling The Dallas Morning News that only non-dangerous inmates are working on road projects there: "If they take off running, we will wave at them."
Texas Weekly: Volume 24, Issue 18, 22 October 2007. Ross Ramsey, Editor. Copyright 2007 by Printing Production Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. One-year online subscription: $250. For information about your subscription, call (512) 302-5703 or email email@example.com. For news, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (512) 288-6598.