Friday, June 5, 2009

Who's Running For KBH's U.S. Senate Seat Now

Six people are now in the starting gate to run for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat - when, and if, she ever decides to resign to run for governor. While Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones (R) has long been planning to run, she actually stepped into the starting gate last week when her campaign put up a new campaign website.

Candidates now in the starting gate pictured below: (Left to right) Houston Mayor Bill White (D), former State Comptroller John Sharp (D), Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams (R), State Sen. Florence Shapiro (R), former Secretary of State Roger Williams (R) and Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones (R)
Bill white senate John sharp senate 2 Michael williams senate
Florence shapiro
Roger williams senate Elizabeth ames jones senate
Pictures from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Otherwise, there is only continued speculation and gossip on who else may enter the starting gate for the race to fill KBH's senate seat and when the starting bell will ring to let loose the candidates to run the race. The problem is nobody, with the possible exception of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, knows when, or if, she will vacate her Senate seat to run against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry for the Governor's Mansion.

Tx Sen. John Cornyn, chairperson of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), leaned on Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison through the first half of 2009 to delay her resignation to put off as long as possible, the special senate seat election. But the math changed when Specter defected to the Democrats in April, putting the Senate head count at 59 Democrats, 40 Republicans.

The long-festering Minnesota senate seat legal contest will likely now end in June, when the state's highest court orders the governor to sign the election certificate for Democrat Al Franken over GOP rival and former incumbent Norm Coleman.

That would give Democrats the 60th senate seat, and Hutchison a clear opening to resign without the worry that her gubernatorial oppoent could tar her for handing a 60 seat fillibuster-proof senate to the Democrats.

Even so, Hutchinson may have her own reason for holding her senate resignation until at least late 2009. If Hutchinson resigns by September 2009, then Gov. Perry will schedule a special election for her senate seat in November 2009. Five candidates in that special election race will not win and some of that number would then still have time to file to run for governor in the March 2010 primary election. Houston Mayor Bill White (D) or former State Comptroller John Sharp (D) would make more probable and more formidable gubernatorial opponents in November 2010, than any of the other candidates that have so far declared for the March 2010 Democrat primary ballot, should either or both not win a November 2009 special election to fill KBH's senate seat.

If KBH resigns after September 2009, then Gov. Perry couldn't call a special election to fill her Senate seat until May 2010. That keeps up to four Republican gubernatorial opponents locked up and out of the March 2010 Republican primary and her strongest Democratic opponents out of the November 2010 gubernatorial election all together.

Then again, Hutchison might just wait until after the November 2010 general election to resign her senate seat, assuming she is elected governor. In that case Hutchison could theoretically name her own short term replacement and call a special election for her Senate seat for May 2011. This would deny Gov. Perry any chance of press coverage in naming KBH's short term replacement and calling a special election.

Other that have been rumored potential candidates for either the U.S. Senate race or the gubernatorial race include: (Left to right) Rep. Kay Granger (R), Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), US Rep. Joe Barton (R), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R), Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) and TX State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio)
Kay granger senate
David dewhurst senate Joe barton senate
Jeb hensarling
Greg abbott senate
Pictures from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Research 2000 Texas Poll of 600 likely voters who vote regularly in state elections conducted from April 20 through April 22, 2009 provides a current snapshot of candidates for the U.S. Senate and Texas Governor races:

Favorable / Unfavorable

PERRY (R) GOV 17 34 24 19 6
HUTCHINSON (R) GOV 27 37 16 13 7
SCHIEFFER (D) GOV 9 17 6 5 63
ABBOTT (R) SEN 21 24 13 13 29
DEWHURST (R) SEN 15 24 17 14 30
WILLIAMS (R) SEN 13 20 13 12 42
SHAPIRO (R) SEN 11 17 14 10 48
SHARP (D) SEN 17 19 14 10 40
WHITE (D) SEN 16 17 12 11 44

Full poll results available here.

Texas Election Code and Special Elections:
If Sen. Hutchison does step down early, Republican Governor Rick Perry will appoint a temporary replacement to U.S. Senate until a special election can be scheduled. Unlike most other states, Texas only allows the Governor to make a temporary appointment to fill the Senate seat until he can order a special election on the next uniform election date after the office vacancy occurs, on the provision that uniform election date falls at least 36 days after the governor orders the special election. If Hutchison resigns by late September, so that Gov. Perry can order a special election on or before September 28, 2009, the special election will occur on the next uniform (odd numbered year) election date in 2009, November 3rd. If Hutchison resigns after September 28, 2009, but before April 2, 2010, Gov. Perry would order a special election for the spring 2010 uniform election date, May 8th. (While Texas election law does allow a special election day to occur on primary election day, which is March 2nd in 2010, certain odd year vs. even year resignation and election scheduling specifications in the law eliminates that possibility in 2010.) And, if Sen. Huchinson resigns after April 2, 2010 and before September 26, 2010, the special election will occur along with the general election on November 2, 2010. [Texas Election Code Sections 2.025, 3.003, 41.001, 41.007, 201.023, 201.051, 203.004, 203.011, 203.003, 204.003 and 204.005]

Alternatively, the vacancy could be filled by a special "emergency election" called by Governor Perry. Under Section 41.0011 of the Election Code, the Governor has authority to schedule an "emergency election" on a "non-uniform election date" to fill a vacated U.S. Senate seat. For example, if Sen. Huchinson resigns any time between September 28, 2009 and the last primary filing date, the Governor could call an emergency election for an earlier date, such as the March 2, 2010 primary date, rather than wait for the spring uniform election date of May 8, 2010. To call a special "emergency election" the Governor must declare that an emergency exists such that warrants the earlier voting date. The Governor has considerable discretion in deciding whether to call an emergency election, and in the last four years Gov. Perry has ordered at least two emergency elections: the emergency election of February 25, 2006 to fill a vacancy in House District 106, and the emergency election of January 17,2006 to fill a vacancy in House District 48.

Since Texas started selecting its U.S. Senators by popular election in 1916, there have been just four temporary senate appointments and special elections fill a vacancy. The temporary appointee has never won a subsequent special election - twice because the appointee didn't run. Of the two appointees that did run, Democrat William A. Blakley lost to Republican John Tower in 1961, and Democrat Robert Krueger lost to Republican K. B. Hutchison in 1993.

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