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The Polling Center: Indirect Soundings on Ronnie Earle

Is retired Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle — who talked about running for governor and then filed for lieutenant governor — a strong statewide candidate?

Ronnie Earle in Austin, July 2008

As reported here and all over the place, after months of rumors that he was running for something, former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle filed papers yesterday to run for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Marc Katz has also declared intentions, but hasn't filed papers despite a noble early attempt. Linda Chavez-Thompson has also been mentioned as someone interested in the race.

In the pre-Bill White/Farouk Shami era (already seems like the distant past, doesn't it?), Earle was being mentioned primarily as a possible gubernatorial or AG candidate, so we matched him up with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry in the October 2009 UT/Trib poll. He ran well behind the two already-declared candidates in a Republican-advantage state: Perry beat Earle 38%-21% with 29% undecided; in what one wag called "a grudge rematch," Hutchison beat Earle 42-18, with 31% undecided (which I suppose would make her 2-0). (For comparison purposes: an unnamed Democratic nominee was bested 36-25 by Hutchison, and essentially tied with Perry at 34-33.)

The main upshot now is that we didn't see any wellspring of support for Earle waiting to flow forth in the context of the governor's race, but there's nothing too surprising or predictive in this. Earle's statewide name recognition, while probably higher than your average DA as a result of his high profile political prosecutions, wasn't likely to be very strong at this point. Matching him up against the two candidates with strong name recognition wasn't likely to work out well for him, either. But he is no doubt the most publicly well-known of the current Democratic contenders, and his entrance removes another question mark from the Democratic primary field.

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