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Perry's Options for 2010

The Houston Chronicle continues to report on the back-room preparations for the 2010 elections in Texas. As we have previously noted multiple times (among them here and here), how the election cycle unfolds really revolves around what happens in the governor's race. There seems to be little doubt that Perry is going to try for an unprecedented third term, but there are a few things still up in the air:

  1. Will Senator Hutchison resign to challenge him?

    Sen. Hutchison has served three terms in the Senate, one more than the limit she initially promised the voters of Texas. She is limited in how much more she can rise in leadership or in national stature by both her lack of seniority and the fact that she is relatively pro-choice in a fervently anti-choice party. It was widely thought that she would resign her Senate seat to challenge Perry in 2006, but it's very likely that the crowded field kept her out. Even though she handily defeated Democratic candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky for reelection, the glass ceiling that she faces makes remaining in the Senate much less desirable for her.

    This is the linchpin: will she resign, and if so, when?

  2. Who will replace her in the Senate?

    The two big players in for the seat are State Senator Florence Shapiro (R) and current Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (R). Shapiro already has the support of a few state legislators, but Dewhurst has demonstrated that he can win strongly in state-wide elections.

If Hutchison resigns to challenge Perry, everything is then on his shoulders. Perry will have to decide who he will appoint to fill Hutchison's seat, and neither option open to him is without severe consequences. Hutchison is the first woman to represent Texas in the Senate, and Perry will be under a lot of pressure to appoint Shapiro to balance out her departure. Moreover, he will face a lot of pressure from his key religious conservative constituency to appoint a pro-life Senator to replace Hutchison. From this perspective, appointing Shapiro would be to his advantage. However, it would have the effect of possibly alienating his lieutenant governor, which could be disastrous for him. The Texas Constitution empowers the lieutenant governor to run the Senate, appoint committee seats, etc. With 2010 redistricting approaching and a challenge from the most popular politician in the state, Perry will need to have a smooth two years of governing to survive. A good relationship with Dewhurst would be critical to making the next legislative session work to his advantage.

No matter whom he appoints, Perry is going to anger someone and jeopardize his legislative agenda and survival against Hutchison. To paraphrase, for him, there is no royal road to re-election. It's going to be interesting to see what he decides and when, and how he works to execute it.

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