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February 12, 2013

Republicans in search of '14 openings

  Dallas Morning News

By Gromer Jeffers

State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas made official last week what political insiders have been saying for months: He'll consider running for Texas attorney general next year, if incumbent and fellow Republican Greg Abbott doesn't seek re-election.

Branch is familiar with this kind of campaign limbo.

In 2010, Texas Republicans were waiting for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to resign her seat to fully focus on her run for governor against incumbent Rick Perry.

As the theory went, Hutchison would resign, Perry would appoint Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to the open Senate job, and Abbott and other Republicans would battle for lieutenant governor and other slots created by the domino effect.

But Hutchison didn't resign, and everyone stayed put.

There was one surprise. Ted Cruz, the Republican who was the top lawyer in Abbott's office, ran and won the Senate post after the one he really wanted, attorney general, didn't come open as expected.

Once again, Republicans with pent-up ambition are hoping for a wide-open election season.

And like before, the potential carousel depends on whether a major officeholder decides to move over or stay put - this time, Perry.

Perry told me on WFAA-TV's (Channel 8) Inside Texas Politics that Abbott would not compete against him in the 2014 governor's race, should he decide to seek another term. Abbott did not comment on whether such an agreement has been made.

If true, Perry's the key to the next round. If he doesn't run, Abbott is expected to go for governor, opening his seat for Branch and others. That would create a situation in which every major statewide office could either be open or significantly challenged.

Along with Abbott for governor, Comptroller Susan Combs, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples are interested in becoming lieutenant governor. George P. Bush is considering a statewide office, most likely land commissioner.

Of the major statewide officeholders, only Dewhurst, the sitting lieutenant governor, has indicated he wants to run for re-election.

If Perry seek re-election, things get complicated. Abbott could indeed run against him, or Perry could draw a challenger who is not currently holding a major office.

But if Abbott stays put, it's possible that the only competitive statewide GOP primary would involve the candidates for lieutenant governor.

That would be disappointing to many Republicans looking for an upgrade.

Over the years, Republicans have been extremely disciplined. Other than the 2010 Perry-Hutchison race, there have been few dramatic matchups between party titans.

But longtime officeholders are getting restless, knowing that every cycle that goes by is a missed opportunity.

Cruz, the distinct underdog against Dewhurst, showed with his prodigious victory that sometimes you get what you want by going for it, not waiting your turn.

We'll see if other Republicans take that message and run with it, or wait until they are told it's OK.

Follow Gromer Jeffers on Twitter at @gromerjeffers.


George P. Bush has full N. Texas slate

George P. Bush is making the rounds this week in North Texas.

He's the featured speaker Friday at an Institute for Policy Innovation luncheon titled "Whither the Conservative Movement: Big Tent or Big Debacle."

The event takes place at noon at the Intercontinental Hotel in Addison.

Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also is the keynote speaker Saturday night at the Rockwall County Republican Party's Reagan Day Dinner at the Rockwall Hilton Bella Harbor hotel.

Bush, a Republican, is preparing a campaign for statewide office, probably land commissioner.

Santorum to speak in Hurst on Friday

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the keynote speaker Friday night at the Tarrant County Lincoln Day Dinner. The main event starts at 7 p.m. at the Hurst Conference Center in Hurst.

Santorum, who sought the GOP presidential nomination last year, is mulling over a run again in 2016.

Illegal immigrant to be Veasey's guest

Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, has invited Julieta Garibay, an illegal immigrant, to be his guest at Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Garibay, 32, moved from Mexico to Austin with her parents when she was 12. She attended El Centro College in Dallas under a program for undocumented students before receiving nursing degrees at the University of Texas.

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration system to include a path to citizenship for Garibay and about 11 million other illegal immigrants in the country.


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