Is it possible that Kay Bailey Hutchison may win–may have already won–the 2010 race for the Republican nomination for governor without a fight? There sure is a lot of talk coming out of the Senate that Dewhurst may not run for governor after all and has had conversations with senators about running for reelection. Remember, Dewhurst was trying to get senators to endorse his candidacy at the beginning of the legislative session. No dice. Then the word was that he would announce for governor after the session. No announcement. I have always thought that no one could beat Hutchison in a Republcan primary, including Rick Perry in 02 or 06. Hutchison is the only Republican with star quality.
So, as you might guess, the speculation has focused on whether she and Dewhurst might cut a deal: Dewhurst doesn’t run, she doesn’t resign from the Senate until she’s sworn in as governor, she appoints Dewhurst to fill her unexpired term, Dewhurst’s money enables him to win a special election. (You know it’s the slow season when folks are talking about a special election for the Senate in 2011.) Dallas political operative Jim Francis is just the guy who could broker the deal.
So will everyone live happily ever after? Not exactly. If Dewhurst doesn’t move, Greg Abbott has no place to go, nor do any of the other GOP downballot officeholders. Not that that would break Hutchison’s heart. She is reportedly furious that Dewhurst, Abbott, Combs, et al rushed to endorse Rick Perry in 06 while she was openly talking about running for governor, and that all is not sweetness and light when they are at gatherings together. I think Hutchison has been a very good senator for Texas, most recently in getting the Wright amendment repealed, but she can carry a chip on her shoulder, and that will not serve her well in the small world of the Texas Capitol.
What may be bad for Republican officeholders, though, could be very good for the Republican party. If Dewhurst runs for governor, Abbott runs for lieutenant governor, and you end up with an open seat for lite guv, an open seat for attorney general, and possibly an open seat for comptroller and land commissioner as well, depending upon what Combs and Patterson want to do. All four of those positions are on the Legislative Redistricting Board, and 2011 is a redistricting year. Democrats would have a much better chance of winning those races if none of them had incumbents. (In order to control redistricting in 2011, a party must have the governor–to veto a redistricting bill that isn’t to his or her party’s liking–and three of the five seats on the board (speaker being the other office that is represented on the board.) Dewhurst’s staying put would certainly be best for the Rs in redistricting.