By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Around we go: He doesn't have Governor Rick Perry's awesome, awesome hair. He doesn't have Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's statewide name recognition. Plus, he's a Democrat in what remains a GOP state. So, does Houston Mayor Bill White have a real shot at becoming the next governor of Texas?
Maybe, provided he actually decides to run. He's been a little iffy on that point.
It was only a month ago that White made a stop in Plano—he was one of the many folks vying for Hutchison's Senate seat at the time—and we asked him four times whether he would consider running for governor instead. He gave us four squishy answers, which sort of had us believing that White would run for governor until Katy Bacon, his campaign spokeswoman, sent us a final, definitive answer. "The answer is no," to the question of whether White would run for governor, she wrote in an e-mail message.
Of course, with Hutchison dithering (Dick Cheney's famous word) over when she will retire from the Senate—not until after the March Republican primary, she now says—statewide politics has been looking like a game of musical chairs in which the music just goes on and on. And it turns out that, early statements notwithstanding, White may indeed try to plant his backside in the chair labeled "governor."
Shortly after Tom Schieffer announced his withdrawal from the governor's race this week, White said, "I agree to consider running for governor," at the urging of Texans throughout the state.
Ah, yes. The ol' reluctant candidate ploy. You'd think with the large numbers of Texans royally hacked off with Perry and his radical lurch to the right, that Dems would be lining up to take him on. Not so much, it turns out.
White's sorta-kinda decision is bad news for the GOP and whoever emerges from the Perry-Hutchison primary battle. White brings an impressive résumé from Houston, including his ability to improve education and lower taxes. While Dems probably wish he looked (he's 55, white and bald) and sounded (he's hardly an inspiring speaker) a little different, he may be able to develop an actual plan to help the state. Meanwhile, Perry and Hutchison will be fighting over who's moreconservative and how many votes she's missing in Washington.
White could easily grab a decent number of Republicans unwilling to vote Perry in for another four years. Is he truly The Great White Hope? Are the Dems ready to steal the governor's mansion earlier than anyone expected? We'll find out soon, as White says he'll make a decision by December 4.