Indecision can make anyone antsy; just ask the would-be statewide aspirants across the political spectrum who await Kay Bailey Hutchison’s decision on resignation. Hutchison announced that she would quit her Senate seat in the fall so she could spend all her time running against Rick Perry for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but both campaign and candidate have sent mixed signals on the exact timing, leading some to believe that she might not resign before the primary after all.
Everyone has an opinion on what she should do — and what she should have done by now. We asked two unaffiliated but experienced political consultants what they’d advise. Longtime (mostly) Republican consultant Mark Sanders, who ran Carole Keeton Strayhorn's 2006 gubernatorial campaign and worked for Bill Clements and Rob Mosbacher and Tony Sanchez before that, says she should resign immediately — in fact, she should have quit months ago. Democratic political fixture George Shipley, whose past clients include former Gov. Ann Richards, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, and state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, insists she should stay in office until the race is done.
If you were her consultant, what would you tell her to do?
The first conversation I would have with Senator Hutchison would be about immediately resigning her Senate seat and getting into this gubernatorial campaign in earnest... You’re basically talking about being down to a three-month campaign at this point, and Governor Perry is a formidable veteran campaigner — and I say that with the full admission that I worked against him twice.
When should she have resigned?
When she announced that she was running for governor. Because, quite frankly, it would ended the speculation... Instead of talking about the issues that are facing the state, the only question that she gets is when are you going to quit the Senate. Therefore, on education and CHIP and the state budget and all the things that are more relevant to the people who are out there, who are actually going to be voting rather than us consultants, there’s no message getting out.
You know, she should have said from the beginning, "I’m not going to resign, and I’m going to continue to serve my constituents in the U.S. Senate and I’m going to run for governor, 'cause I can do both." Or she could have said, "I’m going to run for governor, and here’s my letter of resignation for the U.S. Senate." Instead of taking either of those definitive positions, she’s tried to walk down the middle of the highway and have it both ways. And walking down the middle of the highway’s never safe.
Should she resign?
No. It’s not even a close call. She should have made it clear that she would not resign from the time that she let it be known that she was interested in running for governor... Setting aside the political ambition from that, there is a part of the Senate that is public service. She asked the people for a job, and she ought to finish it... I can see wanting to run, wanting to have the ambition to be governor, but that doesn’t excuse her from the promises that she made to the people and during the election of last year.
Is staying the best political option?
The seat doesn’t belong to her. That is Lloyd Bentsen’s seat if it’s anybody’s seat. And it belongs to the people of Texas. The people of Texas have a right to have a senator who works on their business. That sounds old fashioned, and it sounds sanctimonious, but what’s wrong with politics today is we have too many politicians who think about their own careers at the expense of the public interest...
What she did was to, in effect, flirt with all the elected officials in her own party and create this sort of charade... of fantasy musical chairs where we had three candidates for attorney general and two candidates for this and three or four candidates for Senate, all of which is designed, in a very petty way, to call attention to herself. It does her no good, it did her no good, it did her reputation no good, it did the process no good, and it certainly did the people of Texas no good...
What she did is she handed Perry a sharp knife, ok? And you can take it on either the public service dimension that I argued or in a political dimension — she gave Perry a weapon. And that goes to character. Do you want a governor who gives their opponent a weapon?