Dewhurst’s decision to announce for lieutenant governor has touched off intense speculation about whether this is a final decision or a keep-my-options-open decision. Dewhurst has always wanted to be governor, and so I think his plan is to succeed Perry upon his retirement in January 2019.
But seriously, folks … Dewhurst may have moved because of recent talk that Kay Bailey Hutchison may not resign her seat after all. No resignation means no Senate special election, at least not in the short term, and no interim appointment by the governor. There is a constant flow of disinformation about the KBH campaign, the likely source of which is the Perry camp: that she won’t resign, that she won’t run, that she will leave the race and serve out her term.
Another reason for Dewhurst to push his chips in is the maneuvering in the Senate Republican Caucus, driven by hard-right conservatives Williams and Fraser. Fraser’s stated intention to take over as President Pro Tem in the event Dewhurst runs for the Senate, and the talk inside the caucus of changing the Senate rules to empower the caucus to organize the chairmanships and the committees forced Dewhurst’s hand. He could not sit around and let the conspiracy gain momentum.
Dewhurst has been on thin ice with senators generally and Republican senators in particular since 2005. Some of it is deserved–his sitting on bills–and some of it is not deserved, in particular the criticism of his absences from the podium when Dewhurst was holding meetings about legislation in the back rooms. But it is clear that there is a group of insurgent Republicans who want to strip him of his power and run the Senate along partisan lines with themselves as the leadership. The most likely long-term effect of this maneuvering will be to divide the Republican caucus and force the moderates to choose among joining with the conservatives, forming an alliance of convenience with the Democrats, or helping Dewhurst suppress the uprising. The Senate is likely to be a very tense place in 2011.
So it appears that everyone is frozen in place until Hutchison’s intentions become apparent: Dewhurst, Abbott, Fraser, Combs, Patterson, Bill White, Sharp, Shapiro, Ames Jones, the Williamses, all dressed up only to find that the ball has been canceled. Four more years of stagnant politics. That is what happens when you have a governor who doesn’t want to do anything except be governor.
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