During the 2014 election season, virtually every statewide office in Texas is up for grabs, because Gov. Rick Perry is stepping down. Here is a list of the big races people will be watching: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner, comptroller and railroad commissioner.
The only declared GOP gubernatorial candidate beyond Attorney General Greg Abbott is former Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken. Perry appointed him to that post years ago, yet he did not support Perry in last year’s presidential election.
Pauken has much less money than his primary competitor, who already has more than $20 million to spend. Abbott’s campaign has also been outshining Pauken’s, making a splash on the road and with media. While Abbott considered the heir apparent to Perry, insiders say the two men do not always see eye-to-eye. And Perry has yet to publicly support Abbott’s bid.
Democrats literally have no candidates for any statewide office at the time, except a dark horse for land commissioner – a former El Paso mayor. Most Democrats are waiting to see if Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth or San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will throw their hat in the race for governor first. On a side note, Castro’s twin brother, Joaquin, will be up for reelection in Congress next year, too.
While the abortion filibuster did a tremendous service for Davis’ popularity in the state, some have suggested she run for lieutenant governor instead and leave the top bid for governor to Castro. However, Matt Angle – a Davis adviser – and Harold Cook, former head of the Texas Democratic Party, have publicly said lieutenant governor would be an unwise move for Davis.
The lieutenant governor race will include some of the biggest names in Texas politics. It certainly has the most declared candidates, so far – all in the Republican Party, of course. Lt. Gov David Dewhurst might have a tough time holding the spot after losing to Ted Cruz last year for U.S. Senate and also for what many people see as poor leadership in the Texas Senate this session.
The other three candidates all have very strong campaigns, making this an extremely competitive race: Ag Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and perhaps the most conservative member of the State Senate, Dan Patrick – who just scored a major endorsement from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Then there are the federal races. In the U.S. Senate, Republican John Cornyn will run for reelection, as he has held the office since 2002. Cruz’ seat is not up until 2018.
All U.S. House seats are at stake. In the Central Texas area, those include:
- District 10 (now held by Republican Michael McCaul)
- District 17 (now held by Republican Bill Flores)
- District 21 (now held by Republican Lamar Smith)
- District 25 (now held by Republican Roger Williams)
- District 35 (now held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett)
All State House members must run for reelection next year. Regarding Central Texas races, the only seat that should be competitive is HD 50, currently held by Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin. There is a special election this coming November for someone to hold the seat until next year’s election, as he steps aside to lead Google Fiber. Whoever wins the special election would have a big leg up going into 2014.
Some State Senate seats are up for grabs across Texas, as well. Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, drew one of the short straws this session. That means the term he was elected to in 2012 expires in 2014. Each legislative session after redistricting, the 31 senators hold a lottery to determine which get a four-year terms and which get a two-year term. In between redistricting, the terms are all for four years. Watson’s seat is considered safe for any Democrat
Among the local delegation, Watson joins long-serving Democrat Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, whose district snakes north to Austin. There are also freshman Republicans Charles Schwertner of Georgetown and Donna Campbell of San Marcos in the two-year club. Veteran Republican Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay drew a four-year term.
Additionally, if and when the legislature passes the transportation funding amendment in this third special session, voters will likely have to approve it in next year’s November election. Voter approval is required to amend the Constitution, in this case diverting money from the Rainy Day Fund.