Hank Gilbert got out of the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, saying there are "two credible candidates" in the race. And he said he'll be a candidate for agriculture commissioner — the office he tried unsuccessfully to win in 2006. And then came the real surprise: Gilbert said he is endorsing Houston businessman Farouk Shami for the Democratic nomination.
"The only reason I was getting in this race was that I didn't see the leadership at the top of the ticket... to change the direction in which the state is headed," Gilbert said. "I feel now that we do have that candidate at the top."
That's when he said he'll go with Shami.
He said he endorsed Shami over Houston Mayor Bill White on the basis of trust. "I was raised to be a man of principle. I was taught that a man's word is his bond... On two separate occasions throughout this campaign, he gave me his word that he was going to stay in the Senate race," Gilbert said. "I never would have got into this race had I thought that he or John Sharp was going to get out of the Senate race and into this race.
"To me, it's a trust issue... I told him, 'Bill, you violated my trust.'"
He said he's running for the agriculture commission job because, he says, nothing has changed over the last four years. Republican Todd Staples won election that year, beating Gilbert in the general election with 55 percent of the vote (Gilbert got 42 percent, and Libertarian Clay Woolam got the rest).
Gilbert made the announcement in a conference call with reporters, then issued this press release:
Hank Gilbert (D-Whitehouse) on Friday announced that he would exit the race for Texas Governor to pursue a bid for Agriculture Commissioner.
"In August when I made the decision to enter the race for Governor, it was to provide the leadership and bold ideas this state needs. At the time, I believed I was the only candidate who could win and carry a tide of Democratic victories from the state House to the courthouse," Gilbert said.
"With recent entries into the race, it's become clear that there are now two people seeking the support of Democrats who can continue this fight to victory and allow me to return to the race for Agriculture Commissioner," Gilbert continued.
"One of them I'm proud to support as a friend and fellow Texan, a man who will serve the citizens of this amazing state faithfully and provide them with the leadership to overcome any challenge. It's my honor and privilege to endorse Farouk Shami for Governor of Texas," he concluded.
"Farouk will force the transformation of Texas into a global leader in education, renewable energy, civil rights, and transportation," Gilbert said.
In announcing his move to the race for Agriculture Commissioner, Gilbert confirmed rumors that he had been asked to consider other spots on the ballot. "While it's true others have asked me to explore other offices on the ballot, Agriculture Commissioner is the decision I have made as it puts me in the one other office where I know I can best serve Texans."
As the 2006 Democratic Party nominee for Agriculture Commissioner, Gilbert garnered more votes than any other non-judicial statewide candidate on the party's ticket.
"For me, my race for governor comes to an honorable conclusion. Today I start anew down an already familiar road into a familiar battle, and it is one I can and will win," he said.
"The decision to seek the office of Agriculture Commissioner is mine, and no outside factors have influenced my decision. I announce this endorsement because I believe Farouk Shami can win and will breathe new life into our party and into Texas," he said. "The policies I introduced as a gubernatorial candidate are close to my heart, and Farouk Shami concurs with what I proposed. I take comfort in the fact that the hard work I have done on transportation, LGBT issues, education, tier one universities, education funding, and energy and the environment will live on," he noted.
"The ideas and people I fought for are the same ideas and people Farouk will fight for," he concluded.