It's Friday, December 4th, which makes it Houston Mayor Bill White's self-imposed deadline to formally decide whether to enter the race for governor. He's been running for the U.S. Senate for months, but soon it will be all but a distant memory, as White is widely expected to announce at noon today in Houston he's making the big switcheroo.
THE QUICK REVIEW
Bill White is term-limited as a mayor, which freed him up several months ago to enter a quasi-hypothetical race for the U.S. Senate seat of Kay Bailey Hutchison. White announced his candidacy with a web video, a la Hillary Clinton. Doesn't that feel like yesterday?
KBH had said she would resign by this fall to focus on running for the Republican nomination for governor. In a change of heart, Hutchison decided to keep her seat - at least through the March primary, leaving White and other Senate hopefuls continuing their quasi-hypothetical campaigns.
Up until the latest twist, the Democratic gubernatorial field was made up of lesser-knowns like Tom Schieffer and Hank Gilbert, well-known-but-not-taken-seriously Kinky Friedman, and a political novice named Farouk Shami.
Last week, Schieffer decided to give up his bid, and encouraged any Democrats "not named Bill White" to back out of their gubernatorial bids as well, in order to coalesce around a single candidate who Schieffer believes has the goods. White did not immediately jump in, instead saying he'd give Texans a chance to weigh in on what he oughta do.
Today, at a hotel near a municipal park that White counts as part of his legacy, the mayor is expected to say he wants to be governor.
Who is this guy, anyway? You can always go back to our quick primer on Bill White for more context.
WHAT IT MEANS
White is seen as credible, a formidable fundraiser and popular enough in a major metropolitan area in Texas to have at least an outside shot in a D vs R general election. The Republican Party, in a show of electoral clarivoyance, has already come after White in a web ad.
"This changes the whole equation for Democrats," Democratic political consultant Harold Cook said this week.
The entry of White is leading Democratic activists to push other "A team" or "varsity level" Democrats to run for statewide spots like lieutenant governor, comptroller, etc. U.S. Representative Nick Lampson of Houston said he's being pushed to run for the comptroller spot, and speculation swirls about who else might be getting in to add strength to the previously vacant Democratic slate.
How this plays into the unrelated-except-maybe-tangentially-related Republican primary could be interesting. If the R's know who they are likely to face in the general, and assuming they see White as more formidable than the other D's, will they choose differently in their contest between Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Debra Medina?
In the Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll released in early November, White was not polled against the Republican candidates. But the unnamed Democratic nominee numbers could be telling, as Perry proves to be much less popular than Hutchison in a general election matchup in this area:
Q18. If Rick Perry were the Republican nominee for governor, and the 2010 general election were held today, would you vote for Republican Rick Perry, the Democratic nominee, a third party candidate, or haven’t you thought enough about it to have an opinion?34% Rick Perry33% The Democratic nominee8% Third party candidate24% Don’t know
Q19. If Kay Bailey Hutchison were the Republican nominee for governor, and the 2010 general election were held today, would you vote for Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Democratic nominee, a third party candidate, or haven’t you thought enough about it to have an opinion?
36% Kay Bailey Hutchison25% The Democratic nominee9% Third party candidate30% Don’t know
THE DAY AHEAD
White's campaign says it received more than 4,000 emails and Facebook messages with opinions from Texans about whether White should run for governor. He's announcing his decision at noon today.
The Texas Tribune will provide video of the speech from Houston afterward, but as the speech is happening I'll be liveblogging with photos so you can be there, even if you're really not. Stay tuned to the TT throughout the day.