Abbott mentioned as possible U.S. Senate candidate

Chris Rizo Dec. 17, 2008, 2:57pm

Greg Abbott (R)

Kay Bailey Hutchison (R)

John Cornyn (R)

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is being mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed fellow Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate, political observers told Legal Newsline.

Abbott, who served previously as a state Supreme Court justice, would be a viable candidate for Senate if Hutchinson does decide to run for governor in 2010, said Cary Roberts of the Texas Civil Justice League.

"I don't think there is any question that he wouldn't be a viable candidate, but there are probably a lot of viable candidates who have expressed interest thus far," Roberts said. "I think it will, of course, probably come down to the age old strategy of who can get the broad-based support particularly from the Republican Party."

Among Republicans interested in Hutchinson's seat are state Sen. Florence Shapiro, former Secretary of State Roger Williams and Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones. They have each formed exploratory committees. On the Democratic side, Houston Mayor Bill White and former state Comptroller John Sharp have announced their plans to run.

"With the expectation that Kay Bailey Hutchinson is going to relinquish her seat it has opened the flood gate for would-be U.S. senators," Roberts told Legal Newsline. "It's kind of a crowded field, and everyone is wondering."

Some observers say that Abbott is more interested in running for lieutenant governor should Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, decide to run for governor of the Lone Star State.

If Hutchinson decides to run for governor, it could set the stage for a bitter Republican primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry, who has been in office since 2000, and says he intends to seek a third full term.

Hutchinson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1993. Her current term expires in 2012.

If Hutchison resigns her seat, Perry would make a temporary appointment and a special election would be held either in November 2009 or May 2010, depending on the timing of her resignation.

On Wednesday, Roll Call reported that sources close to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, say the senator would like to have Abbott join him in Washington as the state's junior senator.

A Cornyn spokesman, however, was quoted by Roll Call as saying his boss is remaining neutral in the potential race to succeed Hutchinson.

"His sole focus is on keeping this seat in the Republican column and ensuring that Texas continues to have an effective, conservative voice in the Senate," spokesman Brian Walsh said.

Abbott succeeded Cornyn as Texas attorney general after Cornyn won his U.S. Senate seat in 2002.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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