Chris Bell was in Austin overnight and we had breakfast this morning. The 2006 Democratic nominee for governor didn't sound like a guy who was running for governor, or for any state office. "I'll never run in a race where there are unlimited contributions again," he said, adding the obligatory "never say never." That's unfortunate for the Democratic ticket in 2010, because Bell is one of the few Ds with statewide name identification, after he exceeded expectations with 29% in 2006. He had given some thought to running for mayor of Houston, succeeding Bill White, who is term-limited, in 2009, but the former congressman, a victim of the Tom DeLay redistricting plan in 2004, really sounded like somebody who wants to go back to Washington. That could mean a race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has indicated that she will not run for another term. The seat will not come up for reelection until 2012, a presidential election year--unless Hutchison runs for, and wins, the governorship in 2010, in which she would appoint her replacement, pending a special election in the spring of 2011. Bell doesn't mind the wait: He has established an Of Counsel relationship with the prominent Washington lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, which is prominently linked with the Democratic party.
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