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Kay Bailey Hutchison Retiring: 4 Leading Candidates to Replace Her

Jan 13, 2011 – 3:35 PM
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Mary Phillips-Sandy Contributor

It's been several hours since Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced her retirement in 2012 -- ample time for people to begin speculating about replacements for the senior senator from Texas.

Three Republicans are considered undeclared front-runners for Hutchison's seat, and one has already announced her intention to run:

1. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst
As lieutenant governor of Texas since 2003, Dewhurst has become one of the most popular elected officials in the Lone Star State. He's also one of the state's richest politicians: Although he refuses to reveal details about his wealth, he's said to be worth up to $200 million.

2. Michael L. Williams
Williams is chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, a powerful agency that regulates the state's oil and gas industries (it stopped regulating railroads in the 1980s, but its name never changed). In 2008, when it looked like Hutchison might retire to focus on the Texas gubernatorial race, Williams stepped forward as an early candidate and won the endorsement of South Carolina's conservative senator, Jim DeMint.

3. Tom Leppert
Dallas Mayor Leppert was also rumored to be interested in Hutchison's seat in 2008. At the time he had only been mayor for a year, so abandoning his post then would have seemed abrupt -- a problem he won't face in 2012.

4. Elizabeth Ames Jones
Another Texas railroad commissioner, Jones filed papers in 2008 so she could run for Hutchison's seat as soon as it became open. Jones has already prepared her campaign website with the slogan "Texas Conservative for U.S. Senate 2012."

As for the Democrats, The Washington Post reports that Bill White, a 2010 gubernatorial nominee, and former state comptroller John Sharp could jump in the ring.

Eric Schultz, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director, told the Post that Texas "is now one of several Democratic pickup opportunities next November." It's an optimistic statement, considering that Hutchison kept the seat in the GOP column for four straight terms.

On the other hand, Hutchison's predecessor was Lloyd Bentsen, a four-term Democrat.

More Surge Desk coverage:
Kay Bailey Hutchison Career Highlights


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