The first hat has been thrown in the ring to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison as Texas’ next senator. The three-term Republican announced Thursday that she would not seek a fourth term, after serving nearly two decades as Texas’ first female United States senator.
Of course, with the announcement came speculation about who would vie to replace Hutchinson, and within hours one name can officially be added to the list of candidates. Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has already gone on the record saying he is considering a run to replace Hutchison. “I fully intend to explore running for the United States Senate, and should I run, I will run with the intention of winning and continuing to serve the people of Texas just as I have done throughout my career,” Mr. Dewhurst said in statement. Dewhurst is often described as the “wealthiest man in Texas politics.” He amassed his fortune after founding Falcon Seaboard, a Houston-based energy investment company.
The list of other contenders is quite interesting. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former Dallas Secretary of State Roger Williams are said to be eying the soon-to-be vacant Senate seat. And there are also plenty of reports out there that Rep. Joe Barton wants a shot at Hutchison’s seat.
Mayor Leppert is an interesting case because, while he is a Republican, he has taken a few stances that have put him at odds with Texas conservatives. Beyond supporting a citywide smoking ordinance and taking a hands-on approach to education, Leppert has been an outspoken supporter of the environment. His environmental platform, outlined in a Dallas Morning News article shortly after he took office, says he wants Dallas to, “pursue cleaner air, lead the nation in green building standards and secure water resources. ‘Without those basics, we have nothing.’”
As for former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, his views on environmental policy are largely unknown. However, when in office, Williams did take measures to connect Mexican and Texas power grids to increase capacity in communities on both sides of the border.
Then there is our old friend Rep. Joe Barton, who as you may have heard, is best known for his apology to BP after their oil spill last summer. Barton certainly comes with strong name recognition, but because of his outspoken past he may attract the strongest opposition from Democrats.
Speaking of Democrats, there is a lot less hat-throwing on their side than from their counterparts in the GOP. One Associated Press article names United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and former Texas Comptroller John Sharp as possible candidates.
Whoever succeeds Hutchison will have a history of anti-environmental voting to follow. The League of Conservation Voters gave Hutchison an 18% grade when assessing the 110th Congress, which was actually a vast improvement over her 0% mark she received during the 104th Congress. In 2005, Hutchison voted against blocking oil leases in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, she took similar stances in 2002 and 2003. She took the fascinating position of opposing the inclusion of oil and gas smokestacks in the EPA’s mercury regulations, and in 1999 voted to remove funding for renewable and solar energy. In 2006, Hutchison is reported to have taken more campaign dollars from large oil and gas corporations than any other member of Congress.
Those are big shoes to fill. Luckily for Republicans, there seems to be a Texas-sized pool of candidates to choose from.