• Matthew Dowd, 43, and Mark McKinnon, 49, Austin
The two Bush campaign veterans have returned to Texas, consultant Dowd to set up his own firm and media guru McKinnon to return to Public Strategies, his old stomping ground. Their political talent and impeccable credentials will have an impact here.
• Donald Evans, 58, Midland
The former U.S. Secretary of Commerce is back in Texas and said to be contemplating a future race for governor or the U.S. Senate. Or he could choose to be a major fund-raiser and GOP player. His wealth, contacts, and prestige enable him to play on any level he wants to.
• Mustafa Tameez, 35, Houston
The hot political consultant in Houston helped engineer Bill White’s victory in the mayor’s race and Hubert Vo’s upset of Talmadge Heflin. His only problem is that he’s on the Democratic side, which makes it hard (for now) to win statewide races.
• Massey Villarreal, 48, Missouri City
He could become the first Hispanic power broker—on the Republican side. The computer executive and past chairman of both the national and Texas Hispanic chambers of commerce was appointed by Rick Perry to head the governing board of Texas Economic Development.
• Mikal Watts, 37, Corpus Christi
The trial lawyers, once the swagger boys of the Capitol, have been on a long losing streak, culminating in the tort reform rout in the last legislative session. Watts and his firm contributed $845,237 in the 2003–2004 political cycle, much of it to Texans for Insurance Reform, which came oh so close to beating the constitutional amendment that was an essential element of tort reform. The trial lawyers desperately need new leadership, and he’s high on the list.