The race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the United States Senate has not produced any stars. Some national conservative publications ballyhooed Ted Cruz, but ultimately his boomlet was a ripple, not a wave. The only candidate who advanced himself politically (other than Dewhurst, the likely winner) is Tom Leppert. He has one foot in the business community and one foot in politics, as a former CEO of a major company and a former mayor of Dallas. After more than decade of an unloved politician as governor, Texas may be ready for a businessman. Leppert could emerge as a formidable challenger to Rick Perry, if the governor is serious about running again in 2014, which I doubt. Leppert ran a solid race for Senate and adopted the role of a centrist conservative. I think a business message in a state whose budget and state services are in shambles would go far in the next election. Leppert has no obvious negatives, except his service on the Washington Mutual board of directors during the mortgage crisis. The case against Leppert is that mayors have had a difficult time transitioning to statewide politics, the most recent examples being Bill White, Ron Kirk, and Kirk Watson, but Leppert is in a different position, having had a year of free exposure to the public in the Senate race, as well as exposure on his own media spots. Perry’s numbers have bounced back somewhat from his failed presidential race, so he is no pushover, and the state’s economy seems to be in full recovery mode, for which he will take credit. Greg Abbott is a likely rival if Perry doesn’t run, and he will inherit Perry’s supporters on the far right. But Leppert can position himself to be the new, improved version of Bill Clements, a Dallas businessman who can restore common sense to state government. The sooner the better.
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