Consultant to Tom Leppert and John Carona Says it's Going to Be "a Long, Painful Process" Waiting for Senator Hutchison's Next Move

On Tuesday, state Senator John Carona said he'd "give consideration" to a mayoral run should Tom Leppert vacate office early in pursuit of Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat. A top Republican in the state and one of several names included among Leppert's potential would-be successors in Sunday's story in The Dallas Morning News, Carona also shares a consultant with Leppert, Allyn Media.

Mari Woodlief, president and CEO of Allyn Media, says she hasn't talked to Carona about his plans for mayor, and his statement has nothing to do with having any knowledge of Leppert's intentions. "There is no conspiracy. There is nothing brewing."

Any speculation is premature at this point, she says. "Somebody named Gromer thought it would be a fun story to write who would be the next mayor, and so he called around and got a list of names that other people just tossed out and took people's names that have been on the potential mayor's list before and wrote a story about it."

She stresses that both Leppert's and Carona's prospective moves are contingent on Hutchison's resignation, which Hutchison said will happen sometime in 2010 after the March 2 primary.

"We're not all going to wake up one day and all the sudden Tom Leppert's going to run for Senate and John Carona's going to run for mayor, and it'll all be that cut and dry," Woodlief tells Unfair Park. "This is going to be a long, painful process that's predicated on what Kay Hutchison decides to do at whatever time she decides to do it."

And even though Hutchison assured those jockeying for her job that she's quitting regardless of the outcome of her GOP gubernatorial primary battle against Rick Perry, Woodlief doesn't believe she'll follow through.

"Let's be honest here; she has a history of changing her mind," she says. "If there's anything consistent in all of this, it's that Kay Hutchison changes her mind."

Woodlief claims if Hutchison loses to Perry, she would be motivated to finish her term, which doesn't expire until 2012, because staying in the Senate allows her to remain in the political limelight for another opportunity at landing a spot as vice president on the GOP's presidential ticket in '12 or securing a cabinet position should the Republicans take back the White House.

Hutchison may also be motivated to stay for the same reasons she gave when balking at resigning in October or November as she previously had indicated.

"She's already said she's gonna stick it out through the governor's race because we need seniority and there's too many important things happening," Woodlief says. "So, is all that going to change after the primary? Is seniority not going to matter, and aren't important things going to be going on then?"

If Hutchison wins the primary, Woodlief predicts that the senator will continue to hold her seat until after the general election in November to assure that she secures the governorship and prevents Perry from naming her replacement, meaning Hutchison could call an emergency election for her seat or a special election could take place in May 2011.

While she describes Hutchison's campaign as "unimpressive" so far, Woodlief expects her to regroup for the final two months of the race. "I don't think that race has even started," she says. "We have no idea how crazy that one is going to be yet."

Woodlief says Carona would be a great mayor because he's "super smart," focused, cares about Dallas and has been non-partisan despite being in a partisan office. While praising Carona, Woodlief issued a statement that could be perceived as criticism of Leppert should he leave before his first term as mayor is completed.

"For him, obviously it wouldn't be a political stepping stone," she says of Carona. "It would be [that] he would come back and run for mayor because he actually wanted to be mayor and make some changes in Dallas and make Dallas better."

The absence of Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway in the DMN story surprised Woodlief, she says, because he would become mayor until an election is held if Leppert does vacate his office. And she also thought her former client, taxman Brint Ryan, should have made the list.

"I think he'll do something in the future," she says of Ryan, who ran for city council against Ann Margolin in District 13. "I'm not at all implying that he'll run for mayor."

And, like Schutze, Woodlief found the inclusion of David Laney in the DMN article peculiar. "I haven't heard David Laney's name thrown out in quite some time for anything around here, so I thought that was pretty interesting," she says.

Woodlief scoffs at rumors circulating that Leppert has tired of being mayor or has simply burned out because of his rigorous schedule. "He's finally reached a time where there's not some major controversy or referendum going on," she says. "He's finally getting to be a normal mayor."

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Sam Merten
Contact: Sam Merten