Governor Hutchison? And other questions about Texas politics in the new millennium.

Some say that the millennium arrived in 2000; others say that the correct date is 2001. In Texas politics, though, the old order will prevail for yet another year, until the election of 2002. As George W. Bush closes in on the Republican presidential nomination, everything is on hold — partisanship, ambition, control of both houses of the Legislature. But huge changes lie ahead, both in the personalities involved and in the balance of power.

U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, facing only token Democratic opposition in the November election, already has her eye on ‘02. During a January campaign swing, she confirmed what had been widely rumored for months: She is interested in running for governor of Texas. “If it’s a free run, an open seat, I will look at it,” she said between stops in response to a reporter’s question. Her answer was a bit of a slap in the face of Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry, who earlier had come out to the University of Texas Student Union to stand next to Hutchison as a show of support for her reelection bid. Perry, of course, has his own designs on the state’s top office, which he will inherit if Bush wins the White House and presumably will seek if Bush fails in his presidential quest and serves the rest of his term.

Whether Hutchison would challenge an incumbent Governor Perry is the foremost question of the soon-to-be post-Bush era in Texas politics. Bush has dominated the political scene like no governor in a century, and Hutchison is the only other politician in sight who can approach his popularity. But while Bush (thanks to his name and his defeat of

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