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Texas Lobby Group October 2013 Newsletter

Texas LobbyistWith the Regular and three Special Sessions finally over, the focus in Austin has turned from policy to politics. The March primaries are just 150 days away. All state-wide executive office holders are up for reelection as well as all members of the Texas House of Representatives. With Governor Rick Perry – Texas’ longest serving Governor – not seeking reelection, many officials are testing the waters in hopes of reaching higher office, creating a crowded primary season.

Sitting Attorney General Greg Abbott is the clear front runner in the race to succeed Rick Perry as the next Governor of Texas. Former Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken is challenging Abbott in the Republican primary. Democrat State Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth and of filibuster fame, is expected to announce her candidacy for Governor later this week. General Abbott is considered the odds on favorite against Senator Davis – the last time that a Democrat candidate came within 10 percentage points of the Republican at the top of the ticket was in 2006, where Kinky Friedman and Carol Keeton Strayhorn ran as Independents and combined for more votes than Democrat Chris Bell. But, SPOILER ALERT, democrats are hoping to lure Debra Medina out of the Comptroller’s race and into the gubernatorial fray as an independent potentially making this a three person general election.

While it is fun to speculate about how things will shake out in the general election, there are a few heated primary battles to watch right now.

Republicans have declared for each statewide office on the ballot. Only one Democrat has officially declared for a statewide office so far. Democrats have not won a statewide seat in nearly two decades. Despite the long-odds, the national Democratic Party is working to turn Texas “blue” and are hoping that a Senator Davis gubernatorial candidacy and a slate of other qualified candidates for all statewide offices may be just what it takes to end their losing streak. Or at least help them begin to rebuild at a faster rate.

Four elected officials are seeking the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor. Incumbent Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (who fell short in his bid for U.S. Senate to now Senator Ted Cruz in the last election cycle) hopes to hold off State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston), Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Democrat State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) is reportedly eyeing a “free run” at Lieutenant Governor. She has a four year Senate term, so she can run and still remain a Senator if she does not win. Expect an announcement after Senator Davis makes her announcement tomorrow.

Three Republicans are vying for the party nomination for Attorney General. State Senator Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), State Representative Dan Branch (R-Dallas), and Chairman of the Railroad Commission Barry Smitherman look to succeed General Abbott. While no Democrat has declared, rumors abound that the party will announce a bid for the office.

Republican State Representative Harvey Hilderbran will face off with State Senator Glenn Hegar for the Republican nomination for Comptroller. Debra Medina is currently in the fray for the Republican nomination, but has indicated that she is unable to compete due to a lack of funds and may throw her hat in the governor’s race as an independent. Businessman Mike Collier has announced he will seek the Democrat nomination.

In addition to the statewide movements, there are numerous retirements in the Texas House of Representatives, and there will probably be more to come before the filing deadline. State Representative Mark Strama (D-Austin) resigned from the legislature for a private sector job, and a special election will take place for that Austin area seat. Other announced retirements – who will serve out the rest of their terms are – current House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), Pensions Chairman Bill Callegari (R-Katy), Economic and Small Business Development Chairman John Davis (R-Houston), Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Chairman Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa), Craig Eiland (D-Galveston), and Rob Orr (R-Burleson).

Musical chairs, anyone?

In addition to the openings presented from retirements, many seats will open up from legislators seeking higher office. In the House, State Representatives Van Taylor and Stephanie Carter (R-Dallas) look to move up – Select Committee on Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility Chairman Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Higher Ed Chairman Dan Branch (R- Dallas), House Ways and Means Chairman Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville) will all be vacating their seats to pursue higher office. In the Senate, Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston), and Senator Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) will give up their seats to run statewide. Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) is also running statewide but he has a four-year Senate term, so he will stay in office either as a Senator, or as Comptroller if elected statewide.

With all of these retirements and current members running for higher office, the outcome of the races – no matter how they turn out – mean that there will be at least a dozen new House members. Again. The last two freshman classes have already historically been the largest we have seen in a decade. Now it appears those young members are moving up the Seniority Chain relatively quickly.

The political season is definitely running in high gear – and there are more announcements to come.

We will keep you posted….