Texas Attorney Generals Race

Here is my take on the state of the Texas Attorney Generals race.

Ted Cruz is an impressive candidate and has the early lead.  He has sought and received some important Conservative grassroots activist’s endorsements.  His resume looks great.  He has a ton of money.  He is greatly benefiting from being the first and only GOP candidate in the race.  He is also benefiting from the unspoken, perceived, whether true or not, endorsement of current AG Abbott.  The Cruz campaign has been playing up the fact that he was Abbott’s lieutenant and that he is the rightful successor if and when Abbott moves on.  Abbott’s lack of public statements otherwise reinforces this perception.  Cruz is also known as a great speaker, and I am looking forward to hearing him for the first time at the Republican Club of Austin Sept. 1st meeting.

Cruz has a highly capable campaign manager, John Drogin, who has an impressive political background.  Drogin most recently was the Press Secretary for Senator Cornyn in DC and on his successful 2008 campaign.  Drogin is putting his communications back ground to good use, Cruz has a strong presence on social media sites and is staying fresh on everyone’s minds with weekly email updates.

Cruz’s main weakness is that he has not held any public office before, but in this day and age of “Throw the Bums Out” some might consider that a strength.  Although it would be hard to argue that Cruz is an “outsider” and not a part of the legal establishment here in Texas and nationwide.  Cruz has never been through a vigorous general election, not to mention a tough GOP primary.  Some of his potential primary challengers have successfully run numerous campaigns, including GOP primaries.  Another problem Cruz faces is lack of name ID outside of the legal circle.  But the other potential candidates all face this problem.  Justice Wainwright is the only potential candidate with a slight name ID advantage because he has held statewide office since 2002.

The perception that Cruz is the rightful successor of Abbott is also rubbing some people the wrong way.  Just ask Senator Hutchinson if the GOP primary voters care if you think you are entitled to an office.

On a side note I found it hilarious that near the end of the 81st legislative session Cruz with the help of Rep. Jodi Laubenburg was floating around invitations to some of the more conservative members of the Texas House and leaders of the Texas Conservative Coalition to attend a private meet and greet dinner with him.  I wonder how potential AG contender Rep. Dan Branch felt about his House colleagues meeting with his potential opponent.  Looks like Cruz knows how to get into the heads of his opponents!

That being said, I am looking forward to hearing from Cruz at the Republican Club of Austin Sept. 1st meeting.

Justice Wainwright is “strongly considering” a run for AG if Abbott resigns.  Having been the Field Director for Wainwright’s successful 2008  reelection campaign I know first hand that he can run a tough campaign.  Wainwright has held statewide office on the Texas Supreme Court since 2002.  He was the first African American elected to the Texas Supreme Court without being appointed to it first.  Current Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson holds the honor of being the first African-American to serve on the Texas Supreme Court when he as appointed by Governor Perry in 2001.  Wainwright and Jefferson’s accomplishments are discussed in a previous post, Texas Does Diversity Right.

Wainwright knows how to run a campaign and knows how to win a contested GOP primary.  He has held elected office since 1999 when he was appointed by then Governor George W. Bush to the District Court bench in Harris County.  His campaign experience stands out and he has proven time after time that he can run and win, including his 2002 GOP primary win for the Texas Supreme Court that was no walk in the park.

The big question is will Wainwright jump in.  If he decides to run for AG he has to resign from the Texas Supreme Court first.  This makes it all or nothing for Wainwright, unlike other candidates for statewide office, Wainwright can not hedge his bet and retain is current seat and run for another seat.  If Wainwright resigns from the court to run that will be the third vacancy on the court.

If Wainwright jumps in he will be facing an uphill battle against Cruz’s momentum (perceived or not), endorsements, organization and impressive fundraising lead.

Wainwright will have to battle Cruz’s team that has been in the field working hard for the past couple months and Drogin’s communications savvy.  Wainwright has previously used Karl Rove’s old consulting firm, Olsen and Shuvalov.  O & S has a good team on hand, including John Pritchett, a former campaign staffer of Wainwright’s first run for the Texas Supreme Court in 2002.  Pritchett previously was Texans for Greg Abbott’s Political Director.

However this whole discussion will be in vain if Abbott does not resign and run for another office.  I think it is safe to assume that if Abbott decides not to run for another office he will not have a serious Republican Primary challenger for his spot, if any.  It seems that everyone is waiting for Senator Hutchinson to make up her mind.  Wainwright and the other potential candidates are not going to give up their current seats and spend political capital before they know for sure the AG seat is going to open up.  Abbott is not going to declare for another seat before he knows the seat will open up, the question is what seat is he eyeing, Lt. Gov or Senate?  I personally think Lt. Gov, but we shall see.  So until the Senator makes up her mind this is all speculation.

Here is a round up of the recent speculations and rumors on who is and is not running for the Texas Attorney General if current AG Greg Abbott resigns to run for higher office.

A post from Michele Samuelson over at Blue Dot Blues

More on the presumptive race for Texas A.G.

Rumors have been bouncing around that TX Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright has been approached to run for attorney general, and that he will make a formal decision sometime in the next couple of weeks.Remember, Labor Day is considered an unofficial kick-off date for most campaigns, especially the big ones, and the A.G. race is definitely a big one. Wainwright, should he get in the A.G. race, would bring some unique credentials, being the only rumored candidate so far with any statewide ballot experience. In fact, Justice Wainwright has been on the statewide ballot five times, all successful, in his time with the TX Supreme Court.

This gives him an edge of sorts in the hunt for cash – Cruz and Branch have proven themselves capable fundraisers, but to date, neither have been terribly fantastic statewide fundraisers. This is probably because this isn’t, as I’ve said, an actual race yet. It’s just a lot of rumor and conjecture until there are announcements made in certain camps. And while yes, guys like Cruz and Branch and Wainwright have to play the game differently than the multi-million dollar candidates at the top, Dewhurst and Abbott still have to make clear what their intentions are before too much longer.

Wainwright is definitely an intriguing candidate for A.G. He’s well-respected in the Texas legal community, his endorsement list includes heavy-hitters and ordinary folks, and he’s done well on the Court. That whole statewide ballot credential will mean a lot, too, in a down-ballot race that garners less attention than the battle for the governor’s mansion. He obviously doesn’t have an A.G. site up yet, but you can read more about him at his Supreme Court reelection site.

There’s one more thing to note here. If Wainwright jumps in the A.G.’s race, that leaves yet another seat open on the TX Supreme Court. Brister’s early resignation and O’Neill’s scheduled departure left two seats in play already. Three is quite a lot, and that’s a crowded ballot that will certainly worry the remaining justices, all of whom are hyper-aware that their positions are some of the most neglected by voters. Struggling for media market share is at the top of the problems here – again, that governor’s race is the biggie, and there are a lot of things going on all over the ballot.

The rumor mill is also churning out the idea that David Dewhurst will make his decision about the U.S. Senate race within the next couple of weeks.

For better or worse, the Texas election season is well under way.

Read more…

Posted by MJSamuelson at Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Here is an interesting post from Eye On Austin with Lubbock Online.

Race for Texas Attorney General quietly shaping up

January 27, 2009 – 8:26 pm

The eyes on Texas were on Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday for two reasons. One, because he delivered his state of the state address, a speech a governor delivers every two years when the Legislature is in session, and two because political analysts were looking for issues the governor may use in his re-election campaign next year.

As anyone slightly interested in politics knows, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is expected to resign her Senate seat later this year so that she can challenge Perry in next’s year Republican Primary.

And though the Perry-Hutchison  race is shaping as the main attraction for next year, another statewide race is shaping up as well: for attorney general. The possible contest already includes some well-known names, at least in political circles.

Former Texas Solicitor Ted Cruz, a Republican who has never ran for office, has filed his candidacy papers just in case his former boss and current Attorney General Greg Abbott decides not to seek a third, four-year term. And U.S. Rep Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who once worked at the Attorney General’s office, told the Austin American-Statesman, that he may also run if Abbott decides not to run.

Abbott, a Republican who with $8.6 million in the bank has the biggest war chest of any public official in Texas, has been widely mentioned as candidate for lieutenant governor if the current office holder David Dewhurst, also a Republican, decides not to seek a third term either. Abbott is also mentioned as candidate for Hutchison’s seat if she resigns to challenge Perry.

Another Republican also mentioned as possible candidate for attorney general is state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas and among the Democrats state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and former state Rep. Steve Wolens, also of Dallas, are already mentioned.

Two recent reports from Mike Hailey’s Capitol Inside

August 11, 2009

Speculation Centers on SC Justice for AG 
and Cruz as Potential High Court Candidate

By Mike Hailey Capitol Inside Editor

There’s speculation that Texas Supreme Court Dale Wainwright might consider a race for attorney general in a move that could prompt the Republican powers that be to attempt to persuade former Solicitor General Ted Cruz to switch from the AG’s race to the battle for another high court seat that would be open in 2010.

The potential shuffle involving Wainwright and Cruz would hinge on a decision by Attorney General Greg Abbott to get in the race for lieutenant governor instead of seeking a third-term to the position that he won initially in 2002. Wainwright and Abbott are Republicans as well.

Abbott appears poised the launch a campaign for the job of state Senate president if and when Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst decides to give up the job so he can run in a special election that’s expected to be held within the next nine months to replace U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Hutchison plans to kick off her official gubernatorial campaign on Monday as she prepares to challenge Governor Rick Perry when he’s on the ballot for re-election in the GOP primary in March.

Wainwright – a former Harris County state district judge who won re-election to a six year term on the Supreme Court last year after claiming the job initially in 2002 – had been the subject of on-again, off-again rumors since early this year about a possible bid for attorney general in lieu of a campaign for a third term on the state’s highest civil court. Speculation about a possible vacancy in

Wainwright’s seat on the bench was jump-start late last week by the news that Republican Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill would not seek re-election in 2010.

In recent months, however, the spotlight on the race among Republicans for a possible vacancy in the top job at the attorney general’s office has been on Cruz and State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas. While Cruz declared his candidacy for attorney general early this year, Branch has been seriously considering a campaign for the job as the state’s top lawyer and raising money at a pace more common for statewide battles than legislative races.

Cruz, who will be seeking his first elective office after serving for several years as one of Abbott’s top assistants in the AG’s shop, has also proven to be a top-flight fundraiser who’s generated substantial support from the GOP’s conservative wing with endorsements from some of its most high-profile activists. Branch – based on the donor list he’s amassed and his voting record in the Legislature – appears to be the more popular candidate with Republicans who tend to be more moderate and loyal to the party as a result of its positions on economic issues.

While Cruz has turned out to be a formidable contender in his debut campaign, he also faces an inherent potential disadvantage of having a Latino name on the ballot in a state where Hispanic candidates have found it difficult to win contested Republican primary elections.

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Xavier Rodriguez is one of the most high-profile examples of a Hispanic who had the GOP hierarchy and establishment solidly behind him when he lost to Steven Wayne Smith with less than 47 percent of the vote seven years ago in his first election after being appointed to the high court by Perry.

Tony Garza – a former secretary of state who went on to become a Texas railroad commissioner and U.S. ambassador to Mexico under George W. Bush – was a victim of that same trend as well when he placed fourth in a four-candidate GOP primary field in the race for attorney general in 1994. The three Republicans who finished ahead of Garza in the primary battle for AG that year all had Anglo last names.

Party powers might have a hard time persuading Cruz to switch to a race for a Supreme Court seat that would be open if Wainwright decides to seek a promotion to AG unless they’d promise to do everything in their power to see that the field for the nomination was clear.

And Cruz might be inclined to resist such a move if it materializes considering that he’s already spent a significant amount of money on bumper stickers and other campaign materials that designate him as a candidate for attorney general. The son of a Cuban immigrant who opposed Fidel Castro before moving to America, Cruz has appeared to have his heart set on the attorney general’s job more than any other post that will be up for grabs in next year’s elections.

If Branch enters the attorney general’s race, he could find himself facing an African-American instead of a Hispanic in the battle for the GOP nomination if Wainwright gets in the contest and Cruz shifts his sights to the subsequent vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

Branch has served as the House Higher Education Committee chairman since his close friend Joe Straus won the speaker’s race early this year. Branch, a former campaign chairman for George W. Bush in Dallas County, is coming off his best session while winning accolades for the performance he delivered on public and higher education issues at the Capitol this year. Branch was elected to the House initially in 2002 and easily re-elected three times in a district that’s been trending steadily Democratic.

If Wainwright decides to run for attorney general, he would be attempting to take the same path to the job that Abbott and U.S. Senator John Cornyn followed when they served first as Supreme Court justices before stints as AG. Cornyn was Abbott’s predecessor, serving one term as attorney general before winning a seat in the U.S. Senate seven years ago.

After winning easily in 2002, Wainwright received the lowest percentage of votes of any Republican who won statewide last year when he defeated Democrat Sam Houston with slightly more than 51 percent of the November vote. The close nature of that race might have been due in part to his Democratic rival’s famous name.

If Wainwright entered the competition for attorney general, it would open up a second seat on the high court on the ballot in 2010. O’Neill announced last week that she will not seek re-election to the bench next year. Dallas appeals court Judge John Moseley was the first name to surface as a possible Republican candidate for the job that O’Neill is giving up when her term ends.

Republican Supreme Court Justices Scott Brister and Paul Green are up for re-election as well in 2010.

Update from Capitol Inside…

August 11, 2009

UPDATE: Cruz Campaign Insists
that He’ll Stay in Race for AG
Even if Wainwright Jumps In

Ted Cruz’s camp said late Tuesday that he plans to run for attorney general in 2010 regardless of whether Texas Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright enters the competition for AG instead of seeking re-election.

Cruz’s campaign suggested that the only potential development that would steer him out of the battle for AG would be a decision by Attorney General Greg Abbott to seek re-election instead of a promotion to lieutenant governor in next year’s elections. Cruz worked for Abbott as the state’s solicitor general before stepping down and launching a race for AG amid the expectation that his former boss will be a candidate for higher office in 2010.

Responding to speculation about the possibility of Cruz considering a race for a Supreme Court vacancy that Wainwright would create if he runs for attorney general, Cruz’s campaign consultant Jason Johnson indicated that isn’t going to happen.

“The chances of Ted Cruz seeking a spot on the Texas Supreme Court are zero to zero regardless of Justice Wainwright’s plans,” Johnson said.

Johnson contended that Cruz’s success in the fundraising department and the support that he’s picked up from grassroots conservatives makes him the favorite to win the GOP nomination in the attorney general’s race as long as Abbott’s not on the ballot for re-election.

Republican State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas has been seriously considering a bid for AG as well while Houston attorney Barbara Radnofsky in the only Democrat so far in the battle for the job that Abbott won initially in 2002.

Keep Your Powder Dry!!

Here is an email that Thomas Sartwelle of the Houston office of Beirne Maynard & Parsons sent out in July in response to Cruz’s campaign.

From: Sartwelle, Thomas P.
Sent: Thursday, July 02, 2009 1:28 PM
Subject: The Office Of Texas Attorney General And The Election

Dear Friends:

This email is being sent to you to ask you to be patient while the Republican candidates for the upcoming election sort  themselves out. The full field of conservative Republican candidates have not yet declared their candidacy. In particular, I have in mind the very important office of Texas Attorney General.

We can all agree, General Greg Abbott has served our state with integrity and honor in one of the most important statewide offices. Many news articles speculate that General Abbott may run for higher office thereby creating a great opportunity for conservatives to back a strong, intelligent, experienced, honorable, conservative leader for Attorney General.

As you probably know I have long been an ardent supporter and campaign worker for Justice Dale Wainwright going back to his service as a Harris County District Court Judge. I cannot say that Justice Wainwright aspires to serve Texas in any capacity other than on the Supreme Court, but I can say that his name has been part of the political speculation for many months.

Obviously, if Justice Wainwright were to announce his candidacy for another statewide office he would be the candidate of choice that any conservative would want to support. His credentials are, as you must know, impeccable. His experience unparallel.  His integrity second to none. And, he has won two statewide elections with overwhelming support from a broad cross section of Texans.  I know that if Justice Wainwright decides to serve this state in another capacity I will be working hard for his election just as I have since he first began serving our state as a judge.

The bottom line to this email—-keep your powder dry!! There may well be highly qualified candidates yet to announce their intentions and you surely don’t want to commit to support less than the absolute best Texas conservative.

Below is a recent article discussing some races and possible candidates. I am waiting for the picture to completely develop. I hope you will do the same.

Thanks for listening.

Tom Sartwelle

Stay tuned for more information, I would love to hear what your thoughts of the race are.

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