“I’m not going to get into a race where a vacancy doesn’t exist,” he said, adding he’s focusing on his current job and will consider a run for senator only if Hutchison resigns in the coming months.
“I don’t want to be distracted unless there’s a position open,” he said, speaking to the Reporter-Telegram editorial board while in town Wednesday.
HK: HUTCHISON RESIGNATION DECISION LEAVES DEWHURST AND ABBOTT STUCK IN PLACE
Neither would be ineligible or unable to serve meaning they can not be replaced on the ballot
“Let me also be crystal clear about one thing. I will be resigning this Senate seat. For all of the good Republicans out there who plan on running for my seat next year, make no mistake. This is going to happen. It just isn't going to happen until after health care reform and cap and trade are finished. And that will be after the primary election.” From Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s remarks today to the Texas Federation of Republican Women
By delaying her possible resignation until after the March primary, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has created a whole new set of difficulties for Republicans charging into the 2010 election.
With no open slot, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst must file for re-election in January. Similarly, Attorney General Greg Abbott who hopes to run for an open Lite Guv seat must file for re-election.
Should Hutchison resign after the primary, Dewhurst could run in a special election and the likely runoff.
The problem is that his name will still appear on the November ballot. The only way he can be replaced on the ballot is if he becomes disabled or ineligible at which point the State Republican Executive Committee gets to make the pick.
Taking the oath of office as a United States Senator to fill Hutchison’s unexpired term would not qualify Dewhurst as being disabled or ineligible. If the SREC can not replace Dewhurst, the Democratic nominee wins by default.
The only announced Democrat for Lite Guv is Austin delicatessan owner Marc Katz. While Katz makes a mean pastrami sandwich, it would be charitable to say that he knows little about Texas government or the Texas Senate.
As best we know, the only way for Dewhurst to be declared ineligible for the Lite Guv slot would be conviction of a crime (and not appealing) or moving out of state. The former is unlikely and the latter would disqualify him from serving as United States Senator from Texas.
Once he files for Attorney General next January, Greg Abbott has no pathway to run for Lt. Governor.
There is yet another twist to this tale. If you read Senator Hutchison’s comment at the beginning of the story, you might think that she intends to resign whether she wins the primary or not. If David Dewhurst actually believed she would resign regardless of the outcome, he might simply not file for Lite Guv in January and open the door for Abbott to run for Lite Guv … which would open the door for Ted Cruz to run for Attorney General.
But that is a high stakes game requiring incumbents to give up their advantages of their offices in order to bet on the come.
The more likely scenario is that Hutchison resigns only if she wins and even then, she might not want to let her nemesis, Rick Perry, pick the replacement Senator who would only serve until the next uniform election date.
The only real window for Dewhurst and Abbott would be the day after the general election in November until they are sworn is as Lite Guv and Attorney General in January. After the Senate convenes in January, 2011 a vacancy in the office of the President of the Senate would be filled by the Senators picking one of their own.
Politics are full of ironies. Presuming a legal loophole could be found allowing both Dewhurst and Abbott to withdraw their names from the November ballot after the March primary, the State Republican Executive Committee has the power to replace the two candidates. But how would that be different from New York’s CD 23 where Rush Limbaugh Republicans complained that moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava was an illegitimate candidate because Republican primary voters had been denied a voice when party poohbahs picked her in the back room to replace Rep. John M. McHugh (R). McHugh left office to become secretary of the Army in the Obama administration.
The lineup would not change among those seeking a possible future open Senate seat. Railroad Commissioners Elizabeth Ames Jones and Michael Williams are not up for re-election this year.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is also nosing around the race. Absent David Dewhurst on a special election ballot, some argue it would be difficult to imagine a scenario in which John Sharp does not make it to the runoff. Nevertheless, it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the Mayor of Dallas face off with Bill White, the soon to be former Mayor of Houston.
The salient language in the Election Code is:
FILLING VACANCY IN NOMINATION. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), if a candidate's name is to be omitted from the ballot under Section 145.035, the political party's state, district, county, or precinct executive committee, as appropriate for the particular office, may nominate a replacement candidate to fill the vacancy in the nomination.
....(3) the candidate has been elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in another elective office or has become the nominee for another office.
It’s starting to become clear that U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s decision not to resign her seat in the Senate until after the March primary raises more questions than it answers.
We all know Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst would like to succeed Hutchison in the Senate. But Dewhurst has never decisively said he’s running for the Senate, and in fact he has said he is going to seek a third term as lieutenant governor when the filing period opens next month.
Republican officials have said that if Dewhurst, or anyone else nominated for a spot on the 2010 GOP ballot, is appointed senator or drops out of their stated races to seek the Senate seat, the 62-member State Republican Executive Committee could replace them on the ballot.
So, hypothetically, Dewhurst drops out of the race for lieutenant governor, the SREC taps Attorney General Greg Abbott as the party’s new nominee for lieutenant governor and it picks Ted Cruz to be the party’s nominee for attorney general.
Not so fast, says Buck Wood, a Democratic elections lawyer in Austin.
Wood says Republicans wouldn’t be able to replace Dewhurst on the ballot, unless he passed away or was severely ill. In other words, they can’t just get another nominee because he takes another gig, Wood says.
If Wood is right, one of two things happens. The first scenario is that Dewhurst is off the ballot and there is no Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, giving a huge advantage to the Democratic nominee. And right now, the only Democrat running for lieutenant governor is deli owner Marc Katz of Austin, although other Democrats still have almost two months to get into that race.
The other scenario is even more interesting. Dewhurst stays on the ballot for a job he doesn’t want. If he loses, he loses. But if he wins, Wood says, the 31 members of the Texas Senate would pick someone to serve as lieutenant governor for two years. Then it’s late 2000 all over again, when senators chose Bill Ratliff as the lieutenant governor after George W. Bush was elected president.
Would they have to choose a sitting senator to serve as lieutenant governor, I asked? Wood said he assumed so, but he needed to double-check the law.
My guess would be that a number of Democrats are making calls this weekend to gauge support for a run at lieutenant governor.