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Governor’s Race Already Heating Up

Governor’s field in 2006 likely to be crowded
Rick Perry wants a record: ten years as Texas governor


Republican Bill Clements served eight, but separated by four years of Democrat Mark White.

The late Allan Shivers, a Democrat then, had the most consecutive years. He moved from lieutenant governor when Beauford Jester died in 1949, and served seven and a half years.

But with Perry’s approval rating low, folks are eyeing his job.

Perry’s fellow Democrat-turned-Republican, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, has mounted the most open intra-party race against an incumbent since then-Comptroller Bob Bullock announced on inauguration day he would run against White in four years. He backed out, however.

Strayhorn says Perry has hurt Texas kids in education and health, and claims he got the state auditor to compare her tax collection policies with her campaign contributors, which Perry denies.

But she’d probably need a substantial crossover of Democrats into the Republican primary to win.

Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison hasn’t ruled out a race either.

But credit for heading the ticket with a no-brainer re-election in 2006, to aim for a slot on a national ticket in 2008, might be better for Hutchison than a mean GOP primary where Perry would hammer her less-than-total opposition to abortion enough that she might lose.

George W. Bush’s commerce secretary and fund-raising buddy, Don Evans, and wordsmith. Karen Hughes, are mentioned. But Evans pooh-poohs the idea, and Hughes isn’t thought likely.

However, if Bush loses this year, some Bush heavy hitters could return to Texas looking for things to do.

The most likely Democrat eyeing the office is former Comptroller John Sharp. He lost to Perry for lieutenant governor in 1998, and to David Dewhurst in 2002.

Sharp co-hosted an open-bar free reception at the recent Democratic State Convention in Houston, and shook more hands than a governor at an inauguration.

Laredo’s Tony Sanchez, whose $60 million of his own money didn’t prevent Perry from stomping him in 2002, also was at the convention. But without a better explanation for not knowing that $25 million in drug
money went through his savings and loan, it’s uphill.

Other Democrats to be considered: former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, who lost for attorney general in 2002; GSD&M head man Roy Spence, Bill Clinton’s buddy, preaching a populist message; and Dallas Mayor Laura
Miller.

Former Land Commissioner Garry Mauro and former Attorney General Jim Mattox both have lost governor’s races, and still love politics .

Iconoclastic humorist Kinky Friedman hints at an independent campaign. His Perry-jabbing slogan: “Why the hell not? How hard could it be?”

Perry is the second to have a shot at serving ten years. The first was Democrat Dolph Briscoe. He sought another four years, after serving one term of two years and one of four.

But then-Atty. Gen. John Hill beat him in the primary and then lost to Clements.

Contact McNeely at 512/445-3644 or dmcneely@statesman.com.