Texas Republicans chose this week to make a public push for Hispanics to join them on the ballot and at the polls, with a news conference in Austin saying they'll be aggressively recruiting candidates and Gov. Rick Perry's appearance at a UT-sponsored "Subiendo Academy" for high school juniors who want to be leaders when they graduate.
The timing couldn't be much better for Rolando Pablos.
Rewind a bit. Sen. Jeff Wentworth hasn't quit, and plans to be on the ballot in November, but the San Antonio Republican told us last week he's talking to Texas A&M University System Chancellor Mike McKinney about a job there, which would take him out of the Senate.
Pablos, an attorney and the Perry-appointed chairman of the Texas Racing Commission, is among the would-be successors nosing around.
He says flatly, "I'm interested" when asked about the job, but says he'll wait to see what Wentworth's plans are.
Wentworth might be leaving, but he also said he'll remain on the ballot in November even if the A&M thing works out. Quitting early would allow party officials to name a nominee, but he wants to leave that to voters. His thought is that he'd run, defeat Libertarian Arthur Maxwell Thomas IV, then drop out, setting up a special election between the general election in November and the end of the year. Pablos says he'll wait until then to make a decision, but says he's been talking to people and notes that the Republican Party is aggressively recruiting Hispanic candidates. "Timing is everything in politics," he says. He'd have to quit the Racing Commission to start a campaign committee, and says that, too, is on hold until Wentworth's intentions are clear.
A special election would duck the biggest obstacle to Hispanics running in the GOP: The Republican Party primary. Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo was knocked off in the March primary by political novitate David Porter and blamed his race for the loss. And the GOP doesn't have a single Hispanic legislator in office in Texas. If the Wentworth timing works, Pablos could break in.
If, that is, he could win. He's not the only one looking, and for this we'll rely on last weekend's reporting from Greg Jefferson of the San Antonio Express-News: Joe Krier, the former Chamber of Commerce head has been making calls, too. His wife, Cyndi Taylor Krier, was the state senator replaced in 1993 by Wentworth. Krier's now with the Bracewell & Giuliani law firm, and told Jefferson he's interested.
So did Lyle Larson, the former Bexar County Commissioner who came up short in a congressional race two years ago and is now on the ballot for retiring state Rep. Frank Corte's seat. Larson could run if he loses the House seat — that's a no-brainer — but also if he wins. Voters could boost him to the Senate in a special election, and then turn around and hold another special election for the House seat he won in November.