2008 Archives

White may share plans for future in weeks to come

Houston mayor faces uphill battle in any Texas race, strategists agree


The following is from the Nov. 30, 2008, edition of The Houston Chronicle.  Political Scientist Cal Jillson of SMU's Dedman College provided expertise for this story.

December 3, 2008

The Houston Chronicle

Houston Mayor Bill White seems to have mastered the art of deflecting questions about his political future with a few aw-shucks grins and artful denials.

But with the prospect of an Obama Cabinet position seeming more remote for the former deputy energy secretary, White is preparing to put speculation to rest with a definitive answer soon, perhaps this month, aides said.

Whatever plans he declares, a perhaps more burning question still looms large over his intentions: Can he actually win statewide office?

Among the chattering classes in Austin and Houston, and even some White lieutenants at City Hall, no one is quite sure. But they do agree on at least one thing: Whether he runs to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison next year if she resigns to run for governor, or whether he seeks the state's top job himself in 2010, White may have an uphill battle ahead.

The chances for a Democratic governor in the next election "are more bleak than any Democrat honestly wants to admit," said Mark Sanders, a Republican consultant who ran Democrat Tony Sanchez's 2004 campaign against Gov. Rick Perry. "It's not going to happen in 2010. There are just too many factors working against that."

Chief among the challenges, according to Sanders and more than a dozen strategists from both parties, is a significant GOP advantage laid bare by the Nov. 4 election results, even in a contest that saw historic statewide turnout for Democrats. Political handicappers all over the state are still parsing reams of data, but many are putting the divide at between 8 and 10 percentage points, a daunting deficit in the near term. Some have even wondered whether 2014 would be a more optimal year.

"In a positive Democratic climate with a good candidate like White, you might bring that down to the mid-single digits," said Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. "Whether you could bring it down to zero in 2010 — or in other words, win — is a tall order."

Read the full story.

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