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2010: The Return of Term Limits

Taking a page out of the Kay Bailey Hutchison handbook, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White called for gubernatorial term limits today.

Bill White at the Texas Association of Broadcasters. Austin, Texas on August 12, 2010.

Taking a page out of the Hutchison handbook, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White called for gubernatorial term limits today.

Specifically, he supported a referendum on limiting a governor to two four-year terms.  "Texans want to see less power in the hands of the government rather than more," says White spokeswoman Katy Bacon. "We’ve seen an enormous consolidation of power under [Republican Gov.] Rick Perry."

Currently, White only wants term limits for the governorship because that's the office he's focused on, says Bacon. If White is elected, she says, he would abide by the proposed term limits even if the referendum never got on the ballot or was voted down.

Perry's primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Dallas, also called for term limits. Needless to say, it did not prove to be a winning strategy for her. 

"It's the same playbook, it sounds like," says Perry spokesman Mark Miner. "Bill White clearly doesn't put trust in Texas voters."

Of course, Hutchison made her stand from the awkward position of being in the middle of a third term she earlier promised never to serve. White was term-limited out of office after three two-year terms as Mayor of Houston. Before leaving office, he appointed a commission to study term limits, which ultimately proposed moving to two four-year term limits for the Houston mayor. That proposed change was struck down in a close, contentious vote by City Council in August.

In November, amid Hutchison's call and the ongoing discussion in Houston, the Tribune asked White about the concept of term limits. "Voters always have the right to limit the term of an elected official by voting them out of office, but some believe that there is a reasonable feeling that incumbents become too entrenched and lose accountability," he said. "Voters should take into account that experienced elected officials are often in a better position to hold bureaucracies accountable, against their [voters'] desire to make the political process more competitive with term limits."

Ultimately, if the referendum White is proposing gained enough support, Texas voters would have the opportunity to approve it. In a statement released today, White said, "The public deserves to know from Rick Perry, not some spokesperson, whether he supports or opposes term limits for governor, and whether he supports letting voters decide." 

Said Miner: "Perry believes in letting the voters decide in November, and he believes the current system works." 

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State government 2010 elections Bill White Governor's Office Griffin Perry Rick Perry