is executive editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune. Before joining the Tribune, Ross was editor and co-owner of Texas Weekly for 15 years. He did a 28-month stint in government as associate deputy comptroller for policy and director of communications with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Before that, he reported for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as its Austin bureau chief, and worked as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, writing for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ross got his start in journalism in broadcasting, covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is seriously considering entering the race for governor of Texas, according to friends and supporters. That's contrary, mildly, to her 14-month-old pronouncement that she probably would not run against an incumbent governor. But that was during the presidential race. Hutchison herself was up for reelection to the U.S. Senate, and things were more fluid then. There had been no presidential primaries and it wasn't clear that anybody in Texas politics was going anywhere.
The presidential election lasted too long. Then there was a new governor to swear in and a race in the Senate to name a new lieutenant governor and a mini-diaspora to Washington, D.C. Senate committees were named, then House committees, and everyone paused for the inauguration. Gov. Rick Perry will come back and make a State of the State speech this week and then, at last, this contraption will finally be rolling. It's been a weird beginning to what could be a weird year.
Things do pile up when you're away from your desk for a holiday. All that happened during our 17th annual year-end break was the swearing in of a new president and of a new governor of Texas, the election and swearing in of a new lieutenant governor*, a major shakeup (and 24 hours later, an amendment to the shakeup) of Senate committees, and the release of U.S. Census numbers that give Texas two more seats in Congress after the 2002 elections. Oh, yeah, there's a new estimate on how much money will be available for the next two-year budget. And a mess of people changed jobs.
Wow! Live weather metaphors! Just when the television folk ran out of descriptions for the presidential freeze-frame, it got really cold in Austin. It looked possible that it would drizzle and that the drizzle would freeze on the streets. It was dark and stormy and gray. People came to work late. Then the sun broke through, Al Gore resigned, George W. Bush accepted, and Republicans all over the Capital City started smiling again.
Not knowing who will be governor is a relatively small problem for state government. Planning can proceed and most of the governor's power during a legislative session is loaded onto the back end anyhow, when vetoes can be delivered after the Legislature is out of time.
The occupants of the domed Pink Building on the hill in downtown Austin were supposed to be out of the business of election politics and into the business of government during the week after the election. They were supposed to know whether the big shots should switch offices or whether the Senate should shut down the mostly underground 18-month-old race for lieutenant governor.
Okay, okay, so we failed to predict that the Presidency of the United States would be decided by a smaller margin than most races for the Texas House of Representatives. Whodathunkit? The initial Florida margin of 1,784 votes would make for a nail-biter in a major county commissioner's race.
Got political heartburn? It's because the dining has been so rich around here for two years. Though it was never much of a race in Texas, the state has been ground zero for the GOP half of the presidential race for two years. Texas politicos have never been particularly bashful, or even polite, about trying to win promotion to higher offices, but George W. Bush's run for the White House has opened a line of speculation that would make Jim Mattox blush.
Turns out the Republicans aren't the only folks fighting at the dinner table in Senate District 3. The Democrats are at it, too. The general consultants and media folks for David Fisher, the Silsbee attorney trying to wrest that seat from the Republicans, bailed with just a few weeks to go, and Fisher had to come back and hire someone to take over media buys for the rest of the race.
Rep. Todd Staples got a Sunday visit at home last week from Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, pollster Mike Baselice and former Rep. Mike Toomey, now a lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform. They wanted to talk about his campaign for state Senate, and apparently wanted to have that conversation outside the presence of his main political consultant, Bryan Eppstein of Fort Worth.
The quiet race for lieutenant governor got a little louder with a letter from Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, knocking a proposal from Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco. The two are probably the most active candidates for the job. Sibley has proposed stripping away some of the powers of the office and putting them in the hands of the senators. Wentworth, in a letter to his fellow senators and to Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, says that's a rotten idea that would increase partisan rivalries in the upper chamber.
Somebody come up with a title and a pilot script so we can sell the voting saga of the Polk County Escapees to some fool in Hollywood and make a load of money. If the first episode is a hit, there is plenty of material here for sequels. Some of the lawyers and others involved now think they'll be involved in this through at least January. That's when election contests are decided.