By Aaron Blake - 11/16/09 07:32 PM EST
Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R) decision to delay her resignation has thrown
the special election for her seat in doubt and is wreaking havoc on the
plans of Texas politicians.
Many of those politicians continue to be frustrated by the saga, and some believe she won’t resign her seat after all.
all of the good Republicans out there who plan on running for my seat
next year, make no mistake: This is going to happen,” she said. “It
just isn’t going to happen until after healthcare reform and
cap-and-trade are finished. And that will be after the primary
Despite her assurances, few feel better about the
situation. Healthcare reform is the current priority in the Senate, but
the cap-and-trade bill could work its way into mid-2010. Operatives and
candidates see plenty of uncertainty ahead.
They also believe
Republicans in the Senate might ask her to stay on simply to keep the
seat firmly Republican through 2012, when her term is up.
The campaigns of those running to succeed Hutchison say privately they just can’t take her at her word.
personally have never believed she is going to resign,” said a source
close to a Democrat running for Senate. “With one caveat: She could say
after losing in March, ‘[Forget] it. I’m out of here.’ ”
campaigns are proceeding as if the election is right around the corner,
but despite Hutchison’s rumored disillusionment with Washington, they
aren’t counting on anything.
“She’s said at least a half a
dozen times, ‘I’m resigning’ during this period, and she hasn’t done
it,” said a source working on a Republican’s campaign. “Do I personally
believe she’s actually going to resign? No. But what choice do we have?”
a GOP consultant: “Everyone’s muted, but the real reaction is that
they’re pissed. But they really can’t register their dismay. She’s
playing within the rules.”
Hutchison previously indicated she would resign this year, clearing the way for a May special.
while her announcement provides some guidance for politicians facing an
early-January filing deadline for other offices, it also opens up a
whole new can of what-ifs for Senate hopefuls.
resigns between the primary and April 2, a special election could still
be held on May 8 — as many campaigns had been planning. If it occurs
April 3 or later, the next regularly scheduled election would be in
Republican Gov. Rick Perry can also legally set the
election for whenever he wants to, by declaring an emergency or
delaying the declaration of the vacancy. That makes a May special
election seem even more unlikely.
Republicans generally think
having the race in November would be better for them, because it would
feature regular turnout in a red state. Also, it likely wouldn’t be as
attractive to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), with
so many other races on the map.
But former Hutchison staffer
Matt Mackowiak suggested there could be a reason for her to hold her
seat, even if she wins the gubernatorial primary, where she faces
“Would she resign her Senate seat and have
her defeated opponent appoint her successor — especially with wide-open
road in front of her?” Mackowiak said, noting the temporary-appointment
powers of the governor. “We have to take her at her word … but it’s
impossible to know what will happen until after March 2.”
Republicans are confident the race will not be in May, and they profess
relief that they probably won’t have to deal with another isolated
special election where they could lose a seat, as they did in New
York’s 23rd district.
“For the moment, it’s a weight off our
shoulders,” said a national GOP source. “I really would be very
surprised if we did [have a May special].”
mostly say their plans are unchanged by Hutchison’s prolonged
resignation drama, but a few of them fear decisions in the next two
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Florence
Shapiro will both have to file for their current positions if they want
to make sure they are on the ballot next year.
potential appointee and likely GOP front-runner for the seat, will file
for a third term at his current post. But if the special election is
held in November, he would have to run for two offices simultaneously,
which is a legal issue Republicans are confronting.
of the two Democrats running — Houston Mayor Bill White or former state
Comptroller John Sharp — will be faced with running for another office
(White is term-limited). But there will continue to be speculation
about one of them stepping aside to run for governor, where the
Democratic field hasn’t wowed anyone.
Both say they are in for the long haul, though.
“Bill is committed to running for Senate, regardless of when this election takes place,” White spokeswoman Katy Bacon said.
gain by having a longer special election, as they haven’t raised big
money with the field so unsettled. If he decides to run, Dewhurst would
likely garner much of the establishment’s support and can self-fund
A spokesman for Michael Williams said he has faith Hutchison won’t allow a May special election to take place.
senator has always been one who understands these dates and what they
mean for the team,” said the spokesman, Corbin Casteel. “I think we’re
looking at an April 3 or later resignation.”