Rick Perry Wins TX-Gov Republican Primary

In 2006, Rick Perry won re-election as Governor of Texas with just 39% of the vote in a four-way race. A February PPP poll found that almost four years later, his approval rating is just 33% and his disapproval 50%. With numbers like that, one wonders how he can possibly win re-election in 2010. And yet, Governor Good Hair will once again be the Republican nominee this fall. That's bad for Texas since it means the worst candidate has the best chance, but good for Democrats since it means his win isn't a lock.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, once the state's most popular Republican, has conceded to Gov. Perry in today's gubernatorial primary. With 51% of precincts reporting, Perry has 52.77% of the vote to Hutchison's 30.99%. In a surprising twist, tea party/truther candidate Deb Medina has a full 17.57% of the vote, not fading in the stretch the way most third party candidates (think New Jersey's Chris Daggett) do.

Perry's win is probably good news for Democrats, even though I was originally hoping Hutchison would win. She'd be a much better Governor than the power hungry Perry and would leave us with an open Senate seat. That may, however, still be the case, given that she said she would resign her seat win-or-lose. One wonders if she'll keep that promise, but either way, with numbers like Perry's this does create a chance to win the Texas Governorship. It's the Lt. Gov. with the real power in the state - at least, it is Constitutionally, and it was in reality before Perry - but a win would still carry huge symbolic value, especially coming in the political climate of 2010. And in the aforementioned February PPP poll, Perry only beat Democrat and former Houston Mayor Bill White 48-42. Bill White will be a very formidable candidate for us, probably the best we've had for state-wide office since the late Bob Bullock. Texas Monthly had a great article in December on White's heroic response to Hurricane Katrina and his standing in the state:

"He has instilled confidence, and he has gotten people to trust him to such a degree that people have this feeling that the city is in great shape because Bill White has been taking care of it for six years," says Nancy Sims,a long time observer of Houston politics who writes a popular political blog, texas-musings.com. "There is really not a group of people that you can find that, as a whole, hate Bill White, which is a rare thing to say about a mayor." Says Craig Varoga, a national political consultant who has worked extensively in Houston: "Even people who are unhappy or dissatisfied because of their particular issues will say that they think he has done a good job overall. A lot of that is rooted in Katrina, which was the perfect confluence of reality and politics."

He has done it with a complex and ambitious plan that few mayors anywhere would have attempted. Against the advice of his friend, former mayor Bob Lanier, White has not cherry-picked a few prominent urban problems to solve. He has instead taken on more than a dozen major issues, many of which carried considerable political risk. He banned, for all practical purposes, lobbyists from city hall and from any involvement in city contracts, thereby cleaning up what many had come to call "the trough." He took on the city's legendary traffic jams and, in a series of programs, untangled some of them and sped up commuting times. He reduced the city's property tax rate five years out of six; shored up the city's wobbly pension system; reduced the City of Houston's energy consumption by 6 percent, making Houston one of the greenest cities in the country; took on petrochemical companies over air pollution; added parks and libraries; cleaned up decaying neighborhoods and built affordable housing; revamped a badly managed police department, resulting in the city's lowest crime level in decades; and signed new contracts with firefighters giving them 38 percent raises, the first salary increase in six years.

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In the Aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate Results

What Democrats have been doing this year in Washington, D.C. isn't working. The voters of Massachusetts made that abundantly clear last night by electing a Republican to replace Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

It's clear we haven't been picking the right candidates. The mood of the electorate is angry and frightened. We desperately need candidates that can address voters' very real concerns head on, not endlessly repeat the talking points coming out of Washington, D.C.

In Texas, we've got John Sharp running for U.S. Senate. And despite the set back last night, Sharp's candidacy represents a very real opportunity for Democrats to pick up a seat in Texas.


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Kay Bailey Hutchison Running for Governor

It hasn't been much of a secret in political circles, but Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is running for Governor:

I am running for Governor because Texas must prepare for the future. I am running because I believe it is conservative to demand results and hold government accountable - with integrity and responsibility.

It's presumed that Hutchison will resign the Senate at some point during her gubernatorial run. The logic behind such a move seems crystal clear: her votes today have the potential to hurt her tomorrow. To take one example, if she votes to filibuster Sonia Sotomayor, she has the potential to ingratiate herself with the Republican base in Texas, whom she needs to win over in order to wrest her party's nomination from the incumbent GOP Governor Rick Perry, but she also has the very real potential of turning off Hispanic voters, who very well could determine whether she can win a general election. Flip that vote around and you get the opposite situation -- a less happy base but a slightly better shot in November (if, and that's a big if, she can get through a primary).

The same can be said about any number of other issues before the Senate these days. Running in a contested primary for Governor from the Senate places a candidate like Hutchison between a rock and a hard place. How she could succeed without leaving the chamber -- thus opening up a potential Democratic pick-up in an ensuing special election -- is beyond me.

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Hutchison Likely to Remain in the Senate

Via Arjun Jaikumar comes the news that Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison will not likely give up her seat in the United States Senate as a part of her challenge to incumbent Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Republican sources in Washington, D.C., on Monday predicted that the Texas Republican will continue to serve in the Senate, resigning only if she wins the Lone Star State governor's mansion in November 2010. Hutchison had been expected to resign her Senate seat in the coming months to focus on her campaign full time.

Should Hutchison still decide to step down, she would likely do so at the end of this calendar year, setting up a May 2010 special election to fill out the remainder of her current term, which expires in 2012. Gov. Rick Perry (R) would presumably appoint someone to replace Hutchison in the interim, as state law empowers him to do.

Arjun writes that this news is "obviously disappointing," but I'm not certain I would go that far.

Little doubt the Democrats would rather have a crack at the seat with Hutchison not running than with her in the race, because open seat elections are almost always easier than ones featuring incumbents and because Hutchison is by almost all accounts popular in the state.

Yet it is arguable whether 2010 would necessarily be a better cycle to make a run at the seat than 2012, as midterms tend to be more difficult for the party in power than Presidential election years. What's more, two more years of demographic changes in Texas, during which time the Democratic-leaning Hispanic population gains an increasing amount of electoral power, isn't likely to lessen Democrats' chances in the state.

So, yes, this news -- if it pans out -- would mean that the Democrats wouldn't have a shot at Hutchison's Texas Senate seat just yet. But I'm not entirely convinced that that would be a bad thing...

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My 2008 White House and Senate Predictions

With barely 48 hours until polls all over this country finally close on the 2008 presidential election, I figured it time to make my White House and Senate predications. I'm going to stick them here in the diaries rather than on the front page because my educated guesses are hardly worth that level of attention; all of us are arm-chair prognosticators.

I believe that Barack Obama will win the White House with 364 electoral votes and that the Democrats will pick up 7 Senate seats, giving them 57 (58, but I expect Lieberman to fly the coop). These predictions are based on polls from RealClearPolitics, statistical analysis from FiveThirtyEight, and my own understanding of history, geography, and culture.

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