Monday, November 9, 2009

About those Bill White rumors... is he dropping senate race to run for governor?

About two weeks ago I began hearing rumors that Houston Democrat Bill White might be eyeing the governor's race instead of the senate race. Shall we say trial balloons were being floated clumsily by a few of Bill White's peeps in the middle of October...

Take this for what it is worth, but I have been hearing from a wide variety of sources that Bill White is beginning to feel slightly exasperated about Kay. Is she running? Is she resigning? Will she resign with enough time for Bill White to run a special election campaign? There are too many unknowns, and not that Bill White is hurting for money, but that the senate race is becoming harder to raise money for because there is more and more evidence that Kay may not even be resigning and therefore there will may not be a senate race until 2012...

These rumors which seemed to fizzle out by late October got hot and heavy this weekend. A friend of mine with a prominent Republican senate campaign relayed second hand information... dangerous because it is like that phone chain game... that Bill White had recently sought and received the blessing of some key players in the trial lawyer community with deep pockets... to switch his focus over to the gubernatorial race instead of the senate race. Another reader emailed in after I tweeted about it to say the exact same thing.

From what I am being told, there is a growing group in the trial lawyer ranks... the ATM machine of the Democratic Party... who don't think any of current Dem candidates have any chance to beat either Rick or Kay, but they like what they see in Bill White. More than that, people are growing weary of Kay's dithering... they don't think she will resign and or that she can beat Rick... which would mean she would just stay a senator until 2013 or longer if she won reelection in 2012... no open senate seat in 2010 in other words...

I asked around some after the initial rumors about the trial lawyers started coming in, and one of my contacts with close ties to a Dem candidate I won't name told me, "Yes, of course, Bill White has been trying to line up union support, but probably just unsuccessfully against Sharp, so he may have asked them a 'what if' question about the governor's race. As for those trial balloons a month ago, those weren't necessarily coming from Bill White himself. It is the worst kept secret in Texas progressive politics right now that some of Bill White's top backers want to see him make the switch to take on Rick Perry, and they are willing and eager to pony up six and seven figures if he jumps."

Bill White addressed the rumors on twitter... saying...
billwhitefortx @rickvskay Well, the rumors aren't true. Bill
Which rumors he is talking about... I can only assume all of them. There are a lot of rumors out there if only because there is so much uncertainty about the future. Sifting through which rumors are completely true, which ones are partially true, and which ones are entirely false is the challenge.

I think we have to wait and see a little bit about what happens, but I take Bill White at his word. Remember that Bill White was the first to declare that he had been told by Kay what she was doing in terms of resigning and when... he may still believe that Kay is going to fulfill what she told him earlier this year.

Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune breaks down where this rumor came from (link). Excerpt follows...

The noise lets Perry raise questions about whether Hutchison is serious about the governor's race. The spin from his friends is that White wouldn't do this if he thought Kay was still in the running; if White was making a switch, or even thinking about it, that would be evidence that Hutchison is out.

From the Sharp camp, it simply would remove the most serious Democratic competitor from the race to replace Hutchison in a special election. And the rumor — even without confirmation — is the sort of thing that can be played back for potential supporters to raise questions about whether White is serious about the Senate race.

[update] Sharp says this didn't start with his folks, that he heard it out of Houston — and from another of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates — and made some inquiries, but didn't try to spread the story.
While I don't want to play that game I will say it was coming at me from all sorts of angles including surprisingly high level sources that came out of the woodwork to email me about it...

Burnt Orange discusses the rumor and offers the advice to John Sharp that he not Bill White should switch races (link). Excerpt follows...
With Kay Bailey Hutchison appearing to once again be waffling on her decision to resign from the Senate, some have thought White would rather jump to the governor's race than wait until 2012.


In this race without an election date, not much has changed since August, although White's financial advantage over Sharp has only widened.

Sharp came extremely close to defeating Rick Perry in 1998. Since then Perry has gone form being George W. Bush's Lt. Gov. to becoming one of the most unpopular governors in Texas history. Despite Perry and Sharp's past collaboration on school finance, if he decided to switch to the governor's race, he would probably be the favorite versus Perry. Democrats would have a strong candidate for governor and Bill White's huge fundraising lead would stay in the Senate race, where he gives Texas Democrats their best chance to win a Senate seat in years.

Maybe... maybe not. I think Sharp has jumped the shark somewhat while Bill White still has upside ahead of him...

Now for my analysis of this situation...

That Texas Tribune poll that came out last week showing Rick up by 12 over Kay also showed that no Democrat in the governor's race had any command of the field, and Bill White could jump in and basically easily take the nomination without the hassle or uncertainty of a special election. Rick and Kay were both leading my healthy margins over the named Dems in the race, but who knows what a matchup against Bill White might look like.

Assuming Kay does resign, triggering a special election for senate, I think Bill White's best move would be to stay in the senate race and hope the several viable Republicans all on the ballot split the vote up and let him slip into a runoff which he could win if Republicans are caught sleeping.

It only really makes sense for Bill White to make the jump to the governor's race if he and his backers know for sure that Kay is not resigning.

Right now I think Kay is in too deep to not follow through now both on resigning and on filing and running, but she has also boxed herself in somewhat by saying she will stay in the senate and fight against health care reform and new carbon taxes. Those things may drag on into next year. The election is only about 60 days into 2010 so that doesn't give a lot of time to campaign in earnest.

1 comment:

  1. Regardless of what Bill White claims, if Kay Bailey is indeed not running in the end, he will be right there flipping over to the governor's race.


Hey now, campaign characters. Be nice. I know a lot of you on both sides, so I don't want any overly foul language, personal attacks on anyone other than the candidates themselves, or other party fouls. I will moderate the heck out of you if you start breaking the bounds of civility.