Abbott Encouraged to Seek Hutchison Seat

Posted December 17, 2008 at 11:49am

Updated: 2:54 p.m. Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, would like to see his former colleague on the Texas Supreme Court, state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), succeed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) should she resign her seat to run for governor in 2010. Sources have confirmed Cornyn’s interest in Abbott, with GOP insiders close to the state attorney general acknowledging on Wednesday that he is weighing a Senate bid based on entreaties for him to run that have come from top Republicans both in Washington, D.C., and in Texas. Officially, Cornyn is taking a hands-off approach. “Sen. Cornyn has a great deal of respect for Greg Abbott, as he does for all the Republican candidates, but he intends to remain studiously neutral in this race,” said Cornyn spokesman Brian Walsh. “His sole focus is on keeping this seat in the Republican column and ensuring that Texas continues to have an effective, conservative voice in the Senate.” Hutchison is expected to vacate her seat sometime next to year to concentrate on the 2010 gubernatorial race, although she has left the door open to remaining in office through the March primary and November general election campaigns. Sources say Abbott would not run for Senate if Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) decides to run. Daniel Hodges, a spokesman for Abbott, declined to directly address the Senate race. “Attorney General Abbott is a proven and effective leader who is devoted to providing real solutions to the problems facing Texans,” Hodges said. “One thing is certain: Greg Abbott will continue to focus on ways to better Texas.” The jockeying to succeed Hutchison in the Senate has increased this week, with state Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams (R) and Houston Mayor Bill White (D) officially throwing their hats into the ring. Williams is black; White is viewed by some as the kind of moderate Democrat who might be able to steal a seat in GOP-leaning Texas. Anyone serious about running for Hutchison’s seat in a special election is expected to jump into the race by the end of January, to allow enough time to raise the kind of funds needed to compete in Texas, a state with 20 media markets that have at least one television station and one newspaper. Hutchison’s seat is not up until 2012, but would open should she resign to focus on her gubernatorial bid. Should Hutchison vacate, Gov. Rick Perry (R) would be charged with appointing her replacement, with that individual then having to run in a special election — most likely in 2010 — to earn the right to serve out the remainder of the Senator’s term. Abbott succeeded Cornyn as state attorney general after Cornyn won his Senate seat in 2002. The two worked closely together when they served on the Texas Supreme Court. Abbott was appointed to the court in 1995 by then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush. If Dewhurst runs for Senate, he will be able to draw on a personal fortune of anywhere from $100 million to $200 million. Abbott does not have personal funds to tap, but he has shown an ability over the years to raise money. He has $8 million in cash on hand in his state account, although that money is not transferrable to a federal race.