June 24, 2009
A San Antonio state senator on Tuesday doused talk of seeking the 2010 Democratic nomination for governor, suggesting instead that first-term Austin Sen. Kirk Watson would be a strong challenger to Republicans, who have won every gubernatorial race since 1994.
Watson, the 2002 Democratic nominee for attorney general, welcomed Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s shout-out while saying he probably won’t decide on his political future before summer’s end.
“I have a job I enjoy greatly,” he said. “Over the next several weeks, I will evaluate the role I intend to play in serving Texas. That service may include running for and serving in another office or running for re-election.”
Van de Putte, a legislator since 1990 who leads the Senate’s Democratic caucus, had been urged to leap into the governor’s race by activists leery of Tom Schieffer, a former Fort Worth state representative who is expected to declare for governor today.
Schieffer’s ties to former President George W. Bush rile some Democrats. Most recently, he was Bush’s appointed U.S. ambassador to Australia and then Japan. He previously helped Bush buy the Texas Rangers baseball team and once served as the club’s president.
“He’s been gone (from Texas) for eight years,” Van de Putte said. “We need somebody who knows what’s happening in Texas now.”
Van de Putte, citing the recent death of a nephew and her husband’s battles with arthritis, said family concerns deterred her from making a gubernatorial run. Recalling a TV ad suggesting that 2002 Democratic nominee Tony Sanchez should have known that drug money was laundered through his bank, Van de Putte said, “I think (opponents) would come after my children.”
Schieffer expressed gratitude at Van de Putte’s decision, adding that he hopes to win her support.
Consultant Harold Cook, who has helped Van de Putte and Watson in past campaigns, said that if Watson runs for governor, he’ll be the Democratic front-runner because of his demonstrated prowess as a fundraiser and on the campaign trail.
“Ultimately, thousands of people are going to encourage him to run,” Cook said.
Other potential Democratic aspirants include Garland therapist Mark Thompson, the party’s 2008 nominee for the Texas Railroad Commission, and Kinky Friedman, who ran for governor as an Independent in 2006. Thompson said Tuesday that he’s in, unless a meteorite hits. Friedman said there’s ample time to decide, adding: “There’s plenty of room in the hot tub.”
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has said he’ll seek re-election, and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison plans to challenge him in the GOP primary.
Van de Putte called Watson a bipartisan leader and said that if he doesn’t run for governor, Democrats should recruit someone similarly “energetic, pragmatic, focused and smart; and who can fully energize Democratic supporters while also attracting a broad range of independent voters in every region of the state.”
She named no names.
In other political news Tuesday, Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky issued a statement confirming her plans to run for Texas attorney general. Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer, won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2006 but lost to Hutchison.