Wainwright eager to find out: Does domino deliver?

A good post by Austin America-Statesman’s Ken Herman about KBH and the AG race.  When will KBH resign seems to be the million dollar question.  Although she claims she is staying in DC to fight for Texas she has recently missed numerous important votes, including the vote to defund ACORN last month.

COMMENTARY: KEN HERMAN

Wainwright eager to find out: Does domino deliver?

Ken Herman, AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Once again, it’s time to ponder everybody’s favorite political question:

“Qué pasa, Kay Bailey?”

In July, Sen. Hutchison said she’d resign by December to focus on her GOP gubernatorial primary battle against Gov. Rick Perry. Now, who knows? She says she doesn’t.

“I don’t know,” Hutchison said Tuesday on D-FW radio station WBAP. “Every day in Washington some new bad thing is coming up.”

So she plans to stay in Washington until a day when a “some new bad thing” doesn’t come up? Does the concept of eternity spring to mind?

While she mulls, many Texas politicians eagerly await her resignation plans so the down-ballot dominoes can topple. When, and if, she resigns, Perry will appoint an interim replacement to serve until a special election that’s expected to draw a long list of contenders, including current statewide officeholders.

Under most versions of the trickle-down impact, GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott winds up running for something else. And that means there may be no Republican more eager for Hutchison to get on with getting out of the Senate than Texas Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright, who is considering running for attorney general if Abbott seeks a new job.

Unlike others looking at that race, Wainwright has to be very, very careful about what he says about it. Canon 5 of the the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct — Refraining from Inappropriate Political Activity — says “A judge shall resign from judicial office upon becoming a candidate in a contested election for a non-judicial office … ”

Judges are the only elected officials in Texas who have to quit to run for something else. Everyone else is canon-free. That would include Republican Ted Cruz, who has declared for attorney general (but only if Abbott does not seek re-election) and state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who is looking at the race.

That leaves Wainwright, re-elected last year to a six-year term on the high court, dancing as close to a candidacy as possible without saying or doing anything that would force him to resign.

“I am seriously considering seeking the attorney general’s office if it’s open, that is if General Abbott vacates it,” he told me this week.

Wainwright said lots of folks have told him he should run. He said folks say he has the experience (more than 10 years in private practice, more than 10 years as a judge) that makes for a fine attorney general and the kind of ballot history (five statewide appearances) that makes for a fine candidate.

“Folks,” he said, are noting it’s a résumé other contenders can’t match. And remember, that’s not the canon-conscious judge campaigning, that’s just him reporting what folks are saying about him.

Wainwright said his potential candidacy comes up as he speaks to groups. It generally comes up during Q & A, he said.

“Have I ever brought it up on my own? I can’t say I haven’t. It’s probably come up both ways. If I don’t mention it, it’s asked,” he said.

The answer is always a version of seriously considering it. That’s what he said when it came up Sept. 21 during a meeting of the Dallas Pachyderm Club, a GOP group, according to Dallas lawyer David Anderson, the organization’s president.

Folks starting asking Wainwright about it prior to the speech, Anderson recalled.

Like other potential GOP candidates, Wainwright’s future depends on Hutchison’s next move, which still looks like it will include resignation at some point. Better sooner than later?

“I don’t presume to tell anybody what they should or shouldn’t do,” Wainwright said, honoring Hutchison as “the first domino.”

Anderson said from a “standpoint of human curiosity I’d like to know (Hutchison’s plans) sooner than later.”

I hesitate to say this during OU week, but in this case sooner does seem better.

So qué pasa, Kay Bailey? When are you stepping down? Your state wants to know. Lots of potential candidates want to know. One Supreme Court justice really, really wants to know.

And though the Perry campaign inexplicably never asks for my advice, here’s what he should do when Hutchison resigns: He should immediately appoint her to replace herself.

For Perry, it’s win-win. For Hutchison, lose-lose. If she accepts the appointment, she’s distracted from the gubernatorial race.

And in the more likely event that she turns it down, Perry can rail about how she turned her back on Texas as “some new bad thing” was coming up in Washington.

How is it that I’m not making the big political consulting bucks?

kherman@statesman. com;445-3907

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