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Sunday, February 20, 2005
Dewhurst drops by Amarillo Globe News after rodeo
Ralph Routon in the Amarillo Globe News:
After all, it's not every day that the lieutenant governor of Texas comes sauntering into the newspaper office wearing a jet-black cowboy hat and, no kidding, real spurs.

David Dewhurst didn't dress that way just to visit the Globe-News, of course. He was here to participate in the National Cutting Horse Association World Finals, and he came downtown straight from competition at the Amarillo National Center.

As long as he was in the vicinity, Dewhurst had asked whether he could chat with the Globe-News editorial board. We didn't mind a bit. Outside of election campaigns, it's not often that our state-level elected officials come calling.

The conversation lasted more than an hour, mainly because there was a lot of ground to cover. Not just regarding the 79th Legislature's ongoing session, but all the early speculation regarding the 2006 state election.

Fortunately, Dewhurst talks and thinks at a mile-a-minute pace, so our session was as productive as it was interesting.

Dewhurst freely called the Texas Senate's public-education plan "the boldest bill I've ever seen in the Legislature," because it adds money for improving teacher salaries, raising standards and forcing even more accountability on schools and districts.

But he stopped well short of saying the Senate bill should sail to Gov. Rick Perry's desk unscathed. That's because Dewhurst is fully aware any such legislation has to be a gourmet casserole, mixing the Senate and House versions. At this point, the two groups agree on some points but differ on others, starting with how to come up with much of the needed money.

Everyone also realizes that the school-finance outcome in all likelihood will set the stage for the 2006 election season, starting with the Republican primary just 13 months from now.

When our discussion turned that way, Dewhurst acted more like a guy holding a full house in a high-stakes card game. Given how he was dressed, especially those spurs, the description seemed to fit even more.

On one hand, Dewhurst talks candidly about a timetable of going for a second term in 2006, then perhaps a run for governor in 2010, followed by a possible shot at the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Then again, what if Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison decides to join the 2006 governor race against Perry and, from all indications, State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn? That would open up an opportunity to pursue Hutchison's Senate seat - and, perhaps, radically change Dewhurst's timetable.

He says he has always told family members that his fondest ambition is someday to serve as a U.S. Senator from Texas. He also recalls pondering that option five years ago, as the state's land commissioner, after Phil Gramm's unexpected decision to leave the Senate. Dewhurst wound up running instead for lieutenant governor, but even now he insists polls at the time indicated he could have won the race that eventually went to John Cornyn.

Dewhurst didn't want to talk much about it, but the ongoing school-finance issue looks to be the crucial factor for all concerned. If the Legislature can produce an acceptable bill, preferably without resorting to a special session, that will strengthen Perry's chances of remaining governor - and might convince Hutchison to stay in the Senate a while longer.

He also knows his way around the Panhandle. He has been to Amarillo several times in the past few years, much more often than Perry, who hasn't made it here since June 2003.
Sounds like the Amarillo Globe News ed board is a little peeved that the Guv never drops by for a chat.

As the article notes -- if Dewhurst really wants to be Senator, he has a perverse incentive to drag his feet on school finance. Then KBH is more likely to run for guv, leaving Dewhurst to face Bonilla for Senate.

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