Next year is shaping up to be an eventful one in Texas politics. Governor Rick Perry’s announcement that he plans to step down rather than seek another full term means that—for the first time since 1990—there will be an open race at the top of the ticket. There will also be several hotly contested races in the Republican primary, with candidates clamoring to replace Attorney General Greg Abbott (now running for governor), Comptroller Susan Combs (also retiring), and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (running for re-election, but perceived as weak after his bruising loss to Ted Cruz in the 2012 Republican primary for the United States Senate). There will even be some excitement about next year’s general election, as Texas Democrats have a gubernatorial candidate, Fort Worth senator Wendy Davis, who has already proven her ability to capture the statewide spotlight.
Can Davis also capture statewide office? Are we going to miss Rick Perry when he’s gone? And how much power does the Tea Party have in today’s Texas GOP? On November 13 the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas hosted a conversation on these questions, and many more. I was there, along with Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune and Harvey Kronberg of Quorum Report; Jim Henson, a pollster and the director of the TPP, moderated: