Rick Perry vs. the World *
Tracking the 2006 Texas gubernatorial race.
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Sunday, February 20, 2005
Travels with Hutch
While Perry is locked down in Austin dealing with school finance, KBH is travelling the state, according to Wayne Slater in the Dallas Morning News.
Looking ever more like a candidate for governor, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison embarks this week on a flurry of appearances among the GOP faithful as speculation grows that she will challenge Gov. Rick Perry.

Ms. Hutchison recently hired a new political team with national credentials, touted a hefty campaign treasury and sent signals she may run against a fellow Republican in what would be a free-wheeling and expensive party primary next spring.

Saturday, she was in Laredo, accepting the "Mr. South Texas" award given by local officials. Upcoming: a full schedule before Republican crowds in Dallas, Houston, Lufkin and the suburbs north of Austin. Ms. Hutchison and Mr. Perry will both be at the Collin County GOP dinner on Saturday at Southfork Ranch.

"She's testing the waters ... so if she chooses to run for governor, she'll have the option to do so successfully," said James Riddlesperger, a political scientist at Texas Christian University.

Both Ms. Hutchison and Mr. Perry are up for re-election in 2006, and Hutchison backers have been bullish about promoting the idea she leave Washington to try to unseat the governor.

Also considering the contest is Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Hutchison aides say she has not yet decided a course of action.

"She believes in being prepared for any election," said spokesman Dave Beckwith. "As anybody who knows her travel schedule will attest, she is always active in going around the state. What's different this time is that when she travels, people are coming up to her and urging her to run for governor."

Moving to head off a primary challenge, the Perry camp has gathered endorsements from Republican statewide officeholders and showcased a list of social-conservative supporters.

A Perry spokesman said Ms. Hutchison might just be preparing for another term in the Senate.

"It's not surprising she's hiring staff. She's got a re-election race, and she's the only one with an announced Democrat in the race," said Luis Saenz, the governor's campaign manager.


At the Fort Bend County Lincoln Day dinner a week ago in suburban Houston, both Ms. Hutchison and Mr. Perry were in attendance, along with Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, who has been building a larger statewide organization.

In a recent letter to backers, Mr. Bonilla said Ms. Hutchison has given tacit approval for him to run if the Senate job opens.

"If she decides to vacate her seat for whatever reason, I will run," Mr. Bonilla said in the letter. "I have kept Kay aware of this and she believes I'm doing the right thing in preparing."

Meanwhile, Perry operatives are poring over Ms. Hutchison's Senate record in search of votes that could be used against her with primary voters, including her more moderate position on abortion rights.

A Perry associate said Ms. Hutchison has never been seriously challenged and noted Mr. Perry is a veteran of bruising campaigns – such as the 2002 gubernatorial race in which the governor accused Democratic rival Tony Sanchez of laundering drug money through his South Texas bank. Mr. Sanchez denied any wrongdoing.

Jerry Polinard, political scientist with the University of Texas-Pan American, said Ms. Hutchison might have problems winning over conservative voters who often dominate the GOP primary.
KBH's travels reminds me of Hillary Clinton's 2000 "Listening Tour" before announcing her Senate candidacy in New York. Hillary ran a brilliant campaign.

[And before the KBH supporters email: I'm not comparing Hutchison to Clinton in any way.]

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