The 30-day filing period for Texas gubernatorial candidates commences today, and the incumbent, Republican Rick Perry, filed his papers within minutes.
Perry, who assumed office in December of 2000 after George W. Bush left for bigger and better things, has been governor longer than anyone in Texas history. He is expected to face Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the March 2 primary, a collision of the two most highly visible Republicans in the state. Four years ago, Hutchison made noises about challenging Perry but backed off; some say she made the decision with the understanding that Perry would retire in 2010.
Asked if it's time for someone else to run the state, Perry said:
Mack Brown has been the head coach of the University of Texas for longer than I've been governor and I don't hear for anyone calling for Mack to step down.
The Dallas Morning News' Christy Hoppe reports that Hutchison will file her nominating papers on Monday. Perry has made it clear that he wouldn't be surprised if Hutchison once again decided against a gubernatorial bid, but the senator "said the urgent business of fighting the Democratic health care plan is keeping her in Washington through the week and has called Perry's attacks dishonest and his record one of cronyism, strong-arm tactics and political self-interest."
"Kay is running for governor to fight for Texas families, ensure that our state remains the greatest in the nation and break the cronyism so that our government actually works for Texans each and every day," her campaign responded.
In any event, all polls show that while Hutchison is more popular with a general election audience, Perry — who is strong with evangelicals — will defeat her in the primary. And that has given the Democrats hope. Houston Mayor Bill White, who had been preparing to seek the Senate seat that Hutchison says she will vacate sometime next year, apparently is ready to switch races and will run instead for governor ... perhaps announcing as soon as Friday.
Other Democrats expected to file include humorist Kinky Friedman, rancher Hank Gilbert, entrepreneur Farouk Shami and teacher Felix Alvarado. Tea-party activist Debra Medina is another Republican possibility.