As 2012 began, Gov. Rick Perry was coming to the end of an embarrassing presidential race. As it ends, he’s deftly entertaining steady inquiries about his plans for another run at the governor’s office, or for president, or for both.
It was that kind of year.
The federal courts moved the primaries from March to May and the runoffs from May to July, changing the political clock to the benefit of some challengers and to the consternation of some established candidates.
The leading examples of that are Ted Cruz, days away from being sworn in as the newest United States Senator from Texas; and David Dewhurst, who has returned to his post as the state’s lieutenant governor. Cruz was virtually unknown to Republican primary voters less than 12 months ago. Dewhurst won statewide elections in 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010. Go figure.
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Four statewide officeholders are openly expressing interest in higher offices in 2014 and the field is already growing. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples — both of them former state senators — have their eye on the lieutenant governor’s job and have said so publicly. Comptroller Susan Combs has told supporters she’s interested in that job, too. And Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s got more political money in the bank than anyone else in the state, would like to replace Perry in the governor’s office. Whether that’s a friendly or unfriendly succession — and it’s timing — is a matter of vigorous speculation in Austin as the year comes to an end. Numerous state legislators are looking for promotions, too, depending on what opens up and who looks weak. It’s only 2012, and the elections just cooled, but the 2014 game is well underway.
In the elections just ended, voters put a lot of new people in office. In the 150-member House, 44 members will be serving in their first legislative session next year. The Senate will start with five new members and will get a sixth after a special election replace the late Mario Gallegos, D-Houston.
The Organization for the Disruption of Every Other December remains strong and diligent — a way of saying some House members are trying to stir up a real challenge to Speaker Joe Straus while another group is doing what it can to quell the insurrection. David Simpson, R-Longview, wants the job and is calling around for support.
Perry ends the year with an anniversary of sorts. He became governor on December 21, 2000, meaning his 12th anniversary as governor fell on the date of the Mayan Apocalypse.
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